This book is a quick 63 pages full of gems. I picked it up at just the right moment: as I am working on my own identity as a feminist mother, as I continue to work on relevant sex education and as I am on the brink of my book release about amazing girls working for their own freedom. Chimanada Ngozi Adichie published a letter to a friend about how to raise her daughter as a feminist, in in doing so schools us all on feminism and how to raise lovely little humans– daughters and sons– who actually believe women and men are equal. Buy it, read it, talk about it, re-read it, talk about it some more. It’s a book to pull off your shelf a few times a year as a gut check. Let me give you a sneak peak:
- Be a full person. Don’t define yourself only as mother. Never apologize for working. Ask for help. Expect to be helped.
- Raise your children with your partner. He is not helping or babysitting, but parenting. You will know when the child care work is shared by your lack of resentment.
- “Because you are a girl” is never a reason for anything. Ever. “The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina” (15).
- Beware of Feminism Lite where the woman is argued as equal because she has power, but that power is only behind the scenes. Why behind the scenes? “Our world is full of men and women who do not like powerful women” (24).
- Teach your child to read.
- Teach your child to question language.
- Never speak of marriage as an achievement.
- Teacher her to reject likeability. “We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable” (37).
- Be deliberate about the sense of identity you give your child. Give everyone who does not do you harm deserves dignity.
- Encourage her participation in sports! “Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive” (43). “Imagine if we had not spent so many Saturdays of our childhood and teenagehood doing our hair. What might we have learned? In what ways might we have grown? What did boys do on Saturdays?” (45).
- Teach your child to question the use of biology as reasons for social norms.
- Talk about sex and start early. Sex is a beautiful thing with real consequences. Saying no, when that feels right, is something to be proud of. Don’t link sexuality to shame. “Women must be “covered up” to protect men. I find this deeply dehumanizing because it reduces women to mere props used to manage the appetites of men” (54). “I remember a man who said a period was like shit. Well, sacred shit, I told him, because you wouldn’t be here if periods didn’t happen” (55).
- Romance will happen. Love is about give and take.
- People who are unkind are still human and deserve dignity.
- Teach your child about difference. People walk different paths, practice different religions, love in different ways, and that is ok. May your child be full of opinions that comes from a loving place.
A summary does not do the book justice. In a book that you can read in a day, even a busy day, there is so much to unpack. Adichie talks about why she kept her last name, why girls should play with helicopters and why women should not wait around for men to propose to them. This is an accessible, wry, personal and honest letter that will ignite the much needed, ongoing conversations about womanhood today.