Posted by: katelincampbell23 | March 12, 2015

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Feminism

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist and short story writer once said;

“We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes”

For those of you who are avid fans of Beyoncé, this speech occurs before her famous song “Flawless”.  This speech sheds light on worldwide gender roles that women and men are expected to fulfill.  I thought of Adichie’s speech when I was reading the assigned Kane reading.  The reading stated that men in the sports industry (coaches and athletic directors) feel threatened by women.  Perhaps because women are just as credible, if not more credible, for these positions and the men fear for the loss of their power.  Why do you think men are fearful of women in the sports industry or “successful women” in general?

Another interesting aspect of Adichie’s speech (in the link above) is how she fights to keep the term “Feminist”.  Although there are negative connotations with the term, she explains why we (or feminists) should not call ourselves  “believers in human rights”, because gender targets women.  What do you think of her interpretation of Feminism?  Do you agree that the gender problem specifically targets women?

Lastly, from the link above, I found it interesting that Adichie shows the hardships for men.  She puts it in perspective, how small of a “cage” society places men in.  Do you think society’s expectation of men is “hard” on them? Do women have easier roles to fill, or are their roles just as hard as mens?  Do you think these roles vary from culture to culture?


  1. I think that men are fearful of women entering not only the sports industry, but really any interest, industry, or field that they have typically held any sort of power in. This is because there is a resistance to change and potential loss of power as we try to control situations and people. Therefore, when women start to challenge where men have been typically responsible, they are going to feel threatened in general, and may not even relate to the fact that it is because women are entering the field. This being said, the reaction may be heightened because women are the ones invading the field, as opposed to anyone else. It seems like a similar reaction to what was seen with the Civil Rights Movement as minorities entered into previously unexplored fields.
    The term feminism, as you said, does bring a large amount of negative connotation with it. However, if feminism is defined in a way that supports women, but also doesn’t ignore the fact that men also have their struggles in society, it indicates a balanced, ideal society that we have been discussing all semester. Maybe this type of feminism is actually what we need as a culture, nationally or globally.
    I agree that the gender problem is seen more typically as targeting women, but upon further understanding of the topic, men have struggles, prejudice, and judgment pushed upon them also. Because men are seen as more privileged and dominant throughout society, people see males as lacking gender discrimination. However, I think that the gender problem also targets men, it is just a lot less blatant. I believe that society’s expectation of men is hard on them, but not in the same ways that society is hard on women. However, I also believe that these roles vary greatly from culture to culture because of the vastly different values held within and between societies.

  2. You address a lot of really important points in this post. As to the first question, I think that some men fear powerful women because they fear what they do not know. Many men who oppose the rights and advancement of women have not been exposed to strong women in their own lives. In the past, women were expected to be submissive and thereby less threatening, because of this, many boys saw their mothers and wives as lesser. We are seeing this change within our generation because of the increasing representation of women and the normality of women’s rights among younger girls. I think that men will be less hesitant to accept strong women because it is simply more common to see women as equals.
    Secondly, the gender problem definitely unfairly targets women. Although men are also constrained by the expectations of gender in our society, they have reaped the benefits of this for many years. Women have consistently been considered the lesser of the two sexes, abiding years of powerlessness and abuse to get by as passable members of society.
    Finally, men do struggle with the expectation of “manliness” in today’s society and I do believe that they struggle to fit with many of the stereotypes. These expectations have almost definitely disproportionately affected homosexual men who do not typically fit the common idea of masculinity. I do not think that either gender has it easier than the other, and that is the biggest problem with gender roles: everyone suffers. Men struggle as much as women when it comes to meeting expectations. This is why fundamental societal change is necessary.

  3. I think she makes a great great point about how women are taught to aspire to get married while men are taught to be more ambitious. I find it so upsetting how often my female peers idolize marriage and are so willing to give up anything to find the “right guy.” As young girls, we are fed this obsession with marriage through the media, the shows we watch, the books we read, and the Pinterest boards we follow. I think marriage is a wonderful thing but women should also be encouraged to aspire a career, to pursue their interests or passions, or to change the world. I believe that our generation has the power to make things better for young girls so they do not feel so pressured to have such a one track mind. Feminism is all about women’s fundamental human right to choose the life they want to live.

  4. I think men are fearful of successful women because it adds to the competition. There’s an element of fear as human beings that someone in the world is better than you at what you’re good at and what you love. When we add women into the work force or any industry or group with men we add competition and we add an element of fear into the environment. Men are told to be strong and act like a man so by making them insecure we can shake their confidence making them go on the defensive and not be as receptive to accepting to women who are now working alongside them. As for her definition of feminism I do agree that it is someone who believes in the equality of both sexes politically, economically and socially. It is more than just women fighting for women, it is people fighting for equality on all fronts of life. Although I do disagree that gender in general targets women. We say women must be girly and like pink but we also tell boys to like blue and be men. If we continually say that we are being targeted and ignore men’s struggle with gender expectations aren’t we leaving them out of the conversation to feminism? By saying gender only targets females we leave out 50% of the population and we push them away from the cause of equality. I think society has a hard expectation of men; from a young age they are told they have to be a man, not show emotion, be the breadwinner. We as a society tell men who they have to be and we expect them to fill 10 different roles and when men don’t meet the expectations we mark them as not manly enough or not good enough. I think every role varies from culture to culture but I think no matter what men and women have to fill several different roles, not just one, and it’s hard to be 100 percent perfect in every aspect. We make sacrifices in our lives and have to choose what we want to give more attention to. Being a woman goes beyond just having the identity of woman; it is being a mother, being a wife, being a worker in your field, and more. I think women face more consequences and judgement when we can’t fulfill all of these roles.

  5. I would have to completely agree with her point about feminism. She makes the statement that to ignore the real meaning of feminism would be characterizing the movement’s ideals unimportant and and therefore to neglect their real purpose. I think that there is no point in calling a feminist a human rights activist because as Adichie states, the whole issue with gender is that women have been excluded from the conversation for most of societal history. To leave the word female out of the conversation is to basically ignore that women were ever at a disadvantage. Although society has made leaps and bounds in this regard, if women were not mentioned in the conversation, there would be no way to continue the progress that needs to be made to ensure future equality.
    In regards to your questions about men’s roles in society, I do strongly believe that they are put in a box and taught from a young age what masculinity means. This is something that society has taught both men and women because not only are men brought up to create this persona, but women are brought up to expect it. This being said, women’s roles are created and fulfilled in response to our societal perception of a male’s role. I do believe that in a way, women have easier roles to fill because people look at being a stay at home mom like it is something that a person can always fall back on even if that is not necessarily the case. However, on the flip side of the coin, women can be seen as having harder roles to fill when looking through the lens of “wanting to have it all.” If a woman is going to aspire to have both a family and a career, then her life becomes immediately more complicated. She is then expected to be both a mother and a professional while a man is only expected to fulfill his workplace role. I do think that this issue varies from culture to culture and that the only way to help our culture along is to add men to this conversation, to expect more of them by way of a family life. If it is never expected of men, then there will never be a big push or reason to make it happen.

  6. Men are fearful of women in the sports industry because they see policies that promote increased equality as an obstacle that may eventually lead to a shift in societal power. Title IX was designed to promote greater gender equality in a male dominated industry. The aforementioned shift in power was seen as controversial because it was perceived by many as a policy that would decrease the power of the patriarchy by forcing men to share their power and influence with women. There is a perceived fear that the redistribution of power in any industry will lead to the disenfranchisement of men. Such concerns fail to evaluate the possibility that, by creating a shared power, both men and women can become more empowered and grow on the ideas and perspective of the other.
    Such perceptions are not limited to the sports industry and instead prove the value of feminism for both sexes. Adichie’s conception of feminism is an important concept for all women and men to understand. As individuals fighting for feminism, we are attempting to implement policies that promote gender equality between men and women. If feminists, as a group, decided to disregard the term and adopt a platform to fight for human rights, the meaning of the movement would change altogether. As I understand it, Adichie’s goal is to maintain the original terminology for the feminist movement, both to retain the focus of the movement, and to not let the existing patriarchy take the word from those fighting to create gender equality and rebrand it as “dirty.” If women give up the term, then it will likely be perceived as a “win” for the existing social hierarchy and will likely hinder the progress of the movement for several years.
    The gender problem is not a movement that seeks to only help women and disregard men. Men face prejudice within society. While women face discrimination in the professional sphere, men are disenfranchised in child-custody cases and other situations within the domestic sphere of life. Societal expectations of men are also unrealistic and expects all males to contort themselves into a one-size-fits-all conception of masculinity. Feminism is important because it benefits both men and women. This does vary between cultures, especially in the degree of repression that men and women are subject to. Further, the goal of the feminist movement is not to say that one gender necessarily has a harder set of standards to adhere to than the other. Rather, it says that both men and women need to be have freedom in their choices, in order to allow all individuals to reach their potential, live their dreams, and create a better world for their children.

  7. As we read in a previous article, men must suffer the loss of the power they once held. I think they are afraid because they are facing this loss and feel disoriented in the wake of it. They have been raised in a world in which they are expected to be “in charge” and “top dogs,” and women asserting themselves causes them to fear that they no longer have an appropriate place in the world. Particularly in sports, they have been told this is where they can fully assert themselves and show what “real men are made of.” When women come along and threaten this place they become fearful.
    I do not agree with Adichie’s argument about feminism. I know that I identify more with humanism than I do with feminism. I think that the gender issue is not ignored in humanism, it is just as much a part of it. I think that humanism is an easier term for people to embrace and that it is actually more inclusive than feminism. While many men believe they cannot be a part of the feminist movement, they do feel like they can be a part of the humanist movement. I think it is our job as women to ensure that the fight for women’s equality is a part of the humanist movement that everyone can be involved in. I am not denying the gender problem, I am simply trying to convey that it is not the only humanistic problem that I see and that I fight for.
    Finally, I think that men have extremely hard roles to fill just like women. In every way that women are confined by having to be perfect feminine wives and mothers, every man is expected to be the perfect masculine husband and tough father. I think that they are both difficult roles to fill but I do think that in some countries, such as in the Middle East, it is harder to fill the women roles because the women are so oppressed. Although our gender stereotypes exist they are mostly subtle. In that part of the world, they are outwardly accepted and promoted.

  8. I have never really considered the issue of gender in sports, ironically enough. Although I am not very competitive in nature, being a part of all girl teams brought an edge to me when I would play tennis or cheerleading. I think because sports are typically competitive which alludes to a more dominant energy, we correlate sports with masculinity. I don’t think all men are intimidated by women being involved with sports or being successful, but when it somehow impacts what they’re trying to accomplish, they may feel threatened. Also, women, stereotypically are considered to be less strong or athletic than men naturally, and when women step onto territory that men have the advantage on, I think men feel weary of how to handle that. It’s interesting, however, to think that when men try to take on more ‘feminine’ aspect that women are known to have an advantage to, such as the cosmetic industry, I haven’t felt that same tension in retrospect.
    I do not fully think that women are the targeted through gender, although in the media, I do believe we see more of the impacts of gender discrimination than men do. I’m not sure if it’s the sexualized image of women through media that targets women more, but I think men deal with discrimination of gender more heavily in aspects of wealth and success. So to answer about feminism, I think it should focus more on both genders need for equality, but I do feel women have is more openly critical in the public versus men and regardless of the title, women should come together with men to bring any true change.
    I think men and women’s role in society is difficult because of the mere expectations both genders have! Men and women should have the chance to be who they are and fulfilling their aspirations regardless of how that correlates to the performance of their gender. I do think culturally the roles of men and women vary, but the pressure of fulfill those remain the same.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: