Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and feminist has just published a 15 step guide in the form of a letter, on how to raise a feminist child. The 9,000-word Facebook post was addressed to Ijeawele, a friend who has birthed a daughter named Chizalum Adaora.
Chimamanda is a power house in the fight for women rights. Her TEDxEuston talk turned book We Should All Be Feminists was featured in Beyonce’s Flawless, and served as inspiration for new Dior designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
It is a particularly difficult time to identify as female. In Nigeria, there is a president who believes his wife belongs in the kitchen. In America, the republican candidate, Donald Trump brags about his predatory behavior and views towards women. While the world seems to be regressing, Chimamanda’s message reminds women everywhere that they are full complete human beings, whole and capable of standing on their own. Not as daughters or mothers or sisters but as human beings.
“I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.” reads Chimamanda’s letter.
Chimamanda’s message reminds women everywhere that they are full complete human beings. whole and capable of standing on their own. Not as daughters or mothers or sisters but as human beings.
Here’s an abridged version of the suggestions Chimamanda shared with her friend on raising a feminist child.
1. Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that.
2. Do it together. Remember in primary school we learnt that a verb was a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother. Chudi (the child’s father) should do everything that biology allows – which is everything but breastfeeding.
3. Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something “because you are a girl.”
4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of women, or you do not.
5. Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example. If she sees you reading, she will understand that reading is valuable. If she were not to go to school, and merely just read books, she would arguably become more knowledgeable than a conventionally educated child.
6. Teach her to question language. Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, our assumptions. But to teach her that, you will have to question your own language.
7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that marriage is not an achievement nor is it what she should aspire to.
Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something “because you are a girl.”
8. Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.
9. Give Chizalum a sense of identity. It matters. Be deliberate about it. Let her grow up to think of herself as, among other things, a proud Igbo Woman.
10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance.
Encourage her participation in sports. Teach her to be physically active. Take walks with her. Swim. Run. Play tennis. Football. Table tennis. All kinds of sports. Any kind of sports. I think this is important not only because of the obvious health benefits but because it can help with all the body-image insecurities that the world thrusts on girls.
11. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons’ for social norms.
12. Talk to her about sex and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward but it is necessary.
13. Romance will happen so be on board.
14. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. Saintliness is not a pre-requisite for dignity. People who are unkind and dishonest are still human, and still deserve dignity.
15. Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.
Read: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie features in Vogue’s ‘Closet Diaries’
Isn’t this everything we wish our mothers had told us or done for us while growing up?