Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was a little hesitant paying hardback book prices for this little gem, but then I learned every word was priceless.
This book sets out, in 60 pages, 15 pieces of advice on raising your daughter feminist to the mother of a baby girl. These are, in summary:
- Be a full person: Do not sacrifice all of you for motherhood. Having a career sets a good example if having a career helps to fulfill who you are.
- Do it together: If there is a father, he is capable of doing all the same things as you but breastfeeding.
- Gender roles are nonsense: Why must boys wear blue? Why must girls play with dolls? There is no such thing as tomboy, and there is no such thing as cleaning well, 'like a girl'. There is just cleaning well. Do not reinforce false categories.
- Feminism Lite is not feminism: Power should not be associated solely with men. Women cannot be feminists only as far as their husband 'allows'. "A husband is not a headmaster. A wife is not a schoolgirl."
- Make her read / Pay her to read if you have to: Huzzah!
- Teach her to question language, and question your own: "Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. For X please insert words like anger, ambition, loudness, stubbornness, coldness, ruthlessness."
- Never speak of marriage as an achievement: This is something taught to women more than men. Women are expected to change their names and go from Ms. to Mrs. as if there has been some massive transformation. Men are not.
- Choose her to reject likeability: Go for authenticity, honesty, kindness.
- Give your daughter a sense of identity: and this means doing some of the integrity- and pride-teaching that is absent from any school curriculum.
- Be deliberate about how you engage with your daughter on her activities and her appearance: Encourage sport. Encourage freedom of expression in make-up and fashion. Do no link dress with morality. Expand the narrow, mainstream definition of beauty. Love alternatives.
- Question culture's select use of biology to define social norms: There is no social norm that cannot be challenged, or changed.
- Have those sex talks early on: Give her the shame-free language to talk to you openly, and to create her own, honest boundaries.
- Romance will happen: Talk healthy about love. Reinforce marriage as a bilateral conversation, not a unilateral proposal. Do not reinforce the notion that it is the man's role, singularly, to provide.
- Do not turn the oppressed into saints: We are all human, with propensity for good and evil. We all deserve dignity nonetheless.
- Teach her about difference: Make it normal. Make it wonderful.
I recommend you buy this book and read it. Then buy a copy for all your friends.