Posted by: Hannah Hill | March 28, 2018

Why we should all be Feminists

I recently watched a very interesting TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The title of the TED talk is “We should all be feminists” , which to me originally seemed like a very ordinary post about the concepts of feminism. I love learning concepts regarding feminism but sometimes feel that the same concepts are repeated time and time again, so I get very excited when hearing a new perspective. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is truly motivational in the way she speaks from her experiences inspired by Nigerian history and gave me many new perspectives. One interesting perspective that she brought up is the main way to change how gender is presented around the world is by changing the way we raise our sons and daughters. She says that we do a great disservice to boys on how we raise them, by defining masculinity in such a very narrow way. We make masculinity this hard small cage of which we put boys into, any time they try and break out of the “masculinity cage” they are looked down upon. Men are not praised for being vulnerable and and are often afraid of weakness. Girls on the other hand are taught to shrink themselves and as we have mentioned many times in class, they are told to have ambition but not too much. Girls are constantly taught that they should be successful but not too much because they could threaten the man. Why should a woman’s Success be a threat to a man?

Girls should be raised believing that they can become anything they want to be, encouraging them to be as successful as possible. In order for this concept to be fixed women need to continue encouraging other women and not view each other as competition. Chimamanda also brought up the interesting point that women are often viewed as competition but not always in regard to a job or big accomplishment but rather a competitor in gaining a man’s attention. She talked about whether or not it was through media or in person, women are constantly objectified. Even though women are constantly objectified, we teach them that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. The example that Chimamanda used is how if we have sons, we don’t mind not knowing about our sons’ girlfriends but the conversation is very different when daughters have boyfriends. Girls are often taught from a very young age that they have expectations in regards to how men think of them.

The overall point that Chimanada is trying to make is that we need to stop telling boys and girls that they have different expectations in life but rather let them become the people they desire to be without the constant pressures of society. This kind of change cannot be accomplished alone, which is why we all have to work together to empower one another to be who we want to be. This is why Chimamanda titled the article “we should all be feminists” because she wants to change the definition and negative connotation of feminism. She says that feminism should be recognizing that there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it. This could be a feminist man or woman, anyone can fight for a change. These changes could be settle like correcting people when they demonstrate gender discrimination or bigger depending on the situation at hand. The key message being, we all have the power to make a difference.

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Responses

  1. I’m always looking for cool videos to watch, and this one has just been added to my list! I think it’s always interesting to hear from people who have experienced different cultures. So often, Americans have a very American-centric view of the world, while that is far from true. While the United States is an influential country, the world is much bigger than our fifty states. I compared the Hofstede cultural values of Nigeria and the United States, and I found some interesting things. Culture informs our framework for thinking; whether we know it or not, we see the world through a series of socialized lenses. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born into a culture that stresses respecting elders (high power distance) and emphasizing the group’s needs over the needs of the individual (low individualism). On the other hand, the United States has medium power distance, meaning that we respect elders but are free to question them when necessary. We also have very high individualism, which places more value on the individual than the group. While Nigeria and the United States vary in these areas, they have similar scores for masculinity. This means that society has set gender roles which have medium strength. These are expected to a certain degree, but men and women share some characteristics. This relates to what Ngozi Adichie said about how we raise boys. In a masculine culture, boys are raised to be strong and unemotional. If we lived in a feminine culture, boys would be raised to express their emotions as necessary.

    As for your point about men being afraid of female success, I think it relates back to the Heifetz article that we read. Men are afraid of change, and losing the power that they are used to holding. While many would say that it’s important to have women represented in politics and the media, that also means there are less slots for men to fill. Women are aware of this two, and they will sometimes remove themselves from a job race so the position can go to someone else. I think that there are benefits to deferring to others: if you know empirically that someone will do a better job than you, then you should have the humility and respect for your organization to support the more qualified candidate. But gender is not the only marker of competence. A candidate who is male and unqualified should not be chosen over a qualified female.

    I think the paradox of female sexuality is really interesting. Women’s bodies are pictured literally everywhere, used to sell anything. A woman is not allowed to walk around in a bra, where the same amount of nudity would be plastered on a billboard to sell a hamburger or something ridiculous like that. Also, I read this really compelling argument about Kim Kardashian of all people. She has posted some sexual images of herself, and was shamed by the media. But at the same time, her sex tape was leaked. So, as a society we’re going to shame a woman for choosing to present images of herself while at the same time obsessing over images that she did not choose to release to the public.

    Tempered radicalism seems to be a good place to start with changing the meaning of feminism. It starts with one person calling him/herself a feminist and starting a conversation with someone else. It means noting the unfairness in society, and deciding not to pass down the same rules. It doesn’t have to be drastic action to make a difference in someone’s life.

  2. Id like to touch on how boys are raised and the idea of not being able to be vulnerable. I agree they are stereotypes and it is quite prevalent in most guys, but I do believe it does come down to parenting and what kind of role models kids have. When I was growing up I had a lot of amazing role models who taught what it means to be a true man. Not the fake stuff that we stereotype men to be. They taught to be vulnerable, stand up for your values, to look out for one another. I believe that from these experiences, it all comes down to who your role models are and to be a good role model yourself. I think that it is valuable to be learning these topics of women and leadership to become a good role model or leader for the next generation. That is a way of how we can cut down on the amount of bad stereotypes and individuals acting on them.

  3. I think Adichie has a really unique perspective on gender roles and expectations. My honors seminar this semester is all about youth violence and we spend a significant amount of time in class discussing hegemonic masculinity and how it can lead to adolescent boys perpetrating acts of violence, including bullying and school shootings. We also discuss how this affects girls and how girls react with similar violence when they feel they lack power. The vast majority of the problems we discuss in this honors seminar relate back to damaging gender stereotypes. These stereotypes do not allow individuals to be themselves and in the rare cases where people push back against them, they are often punished for it. The violence that accompanies gender stereotypes just illustrates how pervasive and damaging gender expectations can be.

    Adichie’s ideas of feminism correlate well with the ideas of tempered radicalism that we have been discussing for the last few class periods because there is no easy “one stop shop” solution for a problem like detrimental gender stereotypes. Tempered radicalism would allow for a slow, but steady, challenge to these damaging expectations. it will take a few generations to completely eradicate the stereotypes that we are dealing with now, but the more that ideas like Adichie’s are shared and encouraged, the faster and more effective that change will be.

  4. I agree that we need to change the way we raise our children to create a better world. The problem is that changing the whole population is impossible and so people will still grow up and believe in certain stereotypes. I also feel like this is a cop-out for adults who can just say “well it’s too late for me, so I don’t have to change my behavior” and I don’t think that’s right either. In order to change society we all have to change the way we behave towards others and this may include how we choose to raise our children but also our behavior in our jobs on a daily basis. Personally, I don’t want children so I see my legacy as what I achieve. I want to go into the work force and perform tempered radicalism and try to change things for the men and women who come after me whether they are children now or my same age.

    The stereotypes for both genders are equally harmful when teaching children how they should behave and how to treat others when they don’t fit into this boxes. We have to change the way we teach boys and girls how they should act but also change how the world perceives them so they are not criticized by adults for behaving outside their gender norms.

  5. I think that it is a great point that we should raise children to be whoever they desire to be from birth, rather than raising them in a box and then expecting them to adjust to the demands or expectations of society later in life. I also think that the phrase “it takes a village” is very important to this discussion as well. It does not do much good for a child if their parents are the only ones encouraging them to be their true selves while everyone else around them (peers, other adults, media, culture) is still trying to make them conform to the standards that society has set for them. I do think that the first step is for a child’s parents to raise them to be free individuals, but I also think that society as a whole needs to be on the same page in order to truly make a difference and to actually get to a place where men and women are viewed as equals and don’t have to subscribe to prescribed gender roles/characteristics.

  6. I really like this topic it brings up a lot of concerns with society today that are being fought against. One huge example that comes to mind are the dress code systems in school and how they really need to be changed. This is because the reasoning behind a lot of what is forbidden is seen as to not “distract the boys.” Many young girls are sent home due to their outfit being “inappropriate” and distracting for the learning environment of others. Although some outfits could really be inappropriate some young girls are sent home to change outfits that were not actually that inappropriate. These reasons are quite ridiculous in my mind because it’s making girls dress in order to make sure boys won’t objectify the and be distracted while these girls are taken away from their education to go home and change. Instead, boys and girls should be taught to be themselves and to respect each other no matter what they are wearing. When boys and girls are told to live up to these expectations but also keep in mind these regulations about living up to them a lot can happen. They are criticized for not living up to their gender roles, whether that be women being soft and quiet or men being assertive and direct. We are human beings and in some aspect have all the same emotions and women can be assertive and direct while men can be soft and shy and be connected to their emotions. However, this ideal must be taught and discussed because otherwise no change will be made. I believe it has slowly been happening with many people speaking up about these issues such as the dress code and men showing their emotions, especially with social media platforms, many voices can be heard and shared to help people learn and teach others about changing these gender stereotypes. We as a society can perform the tempered radicalism tactics to help push these ideals forward and continue to help people realize women’s potential and men’s ability to connect with their emotions without feeling any repercussions would happen to them.

    Further on the topic of women’s bodies, many women are objectified whether they are walking down the street, being catcalled (my friend got catcalled today after the gym on he way home…), through marketing ads and products and more. However, the same does happen to men at times but it is more often seen to happen to women. One thing that does help is the influence that the media has on people but many people values and ideas come form the home and school and if these ideals of breaking stereotypes and expectations is taught their it might help with these gender roles and making a difference.

  7. I totally agree with you! I’m always wondering what people mean by feminism. I remember one PLP speaker was asked if she is a feminist, and she responded by saying that she doesn’t know what that means. Feminism is getting such a bad reputation that people don’t want to associate themselves with it. However, feminism is simply equality for both genders. I do think feminism has received a bad name from people who call themselves feminists and act like women are better than men. This is definitely not true! Both genders should be able to live the lives they are meant to live. Men should be able to do things that may be considered “girly” and vice versa. The main difference between men and women is physical. Most of the time, men are superior in athletics. This is why there are separate teams for men and women. However, this doesn’t mean that men are better than women. They are just made differently. Telling women that they have to be a certain way is not equality. It is only hindering them, which does no good for anyone. We can help change this by not judging men or women for what they do. This is a form of tempered radicalism, making small changes in your lifestyle to slowly produce bigger changes. Men and women are equal. Let’s show this in our actions.

  8. As we discussed very early on, feminism has its own perceived “bad” connotations. Maybe it is because the actions of a few, like so many other movements, have ruined it for the majority. Or rather it is the voice of the majority that cannot not silence the radicalistic view of the few. Both very interesting points. It all links back to stereotypes and the way people perceive others. Ultimately, it is the way we learn to think, and the schemas that have been passed down early in their childhood. Whether it is by the role models or the environment that affect the way people segregate and normalize others, we are doing a disservice to the next generation. As a young kid, being told that I couldn’t do certain things by adults or my peers because it was considered too “feminine” has locked me in a male-gender society with certain expectations. I think educating parents and helping the culture understand what gender roles are and how to avoid stereotyping would help. However, I do not think that will solve all the problems. If by having the ability to help another child from being bullied based on them being more fluid in their gender roles what society has told them, why have we not changed it? I just do not think that it is that simple of an answer, because I am sure if it was a matter of stereotyping we would have already made progress. If this is the definition of being a feminist is teaching people to avoid stereotyping then I hope everyone becomes a feminist.

  9. I really resonate with this post. I have often thought about the double standard between men and women when it comes to the sexualization of genders. I have often found it unfair how men are applauded for having many sexual partners, or engaging in sex whereas a woman is automatically seen as impure, when in reality it is the exact same behavior. Women are seen as less desirable by men if they partake in the same behaviors that men do, and it is almost a social responsibility for a female to be attractive to a male rather than for two people to come together as equals and decide to be together. This societal stigma puts undo pressure onto females and young girls. It becomes increasingly more difficult when women are objectified in films and media and habitually disrespected, because it enforces the ideal of an impossible balance to strike between innocence and promiscuity that men are not expected to maintain.

  10. When people think of feminism, they think of this hardcore movement that is stigmatized to give women all this power, and I think, like this article addresses, that it is important to bring feminism back to its dictionary definition. Feminism is about equality of the sexes. It is not about taking all the power from horrid men to give to power-hungry women, but it is creating a balance between the sexes. The aim of feminism at its core is to provide progress for both genders- not just women. In this way, men won’t be expected to be the model of masculinity because that isn’t fair as well. It is often overlooked, but men should be allowed to show emotions and vulnerability without being attacked and seen as a women. It is a powerful act to share emotions. On the flip side, women should be allowed to have power and ambition to be successful without be reprimanded or shamed by society. If a women is successful, it doesn’t take away from the success of men. Feminism is about a greater distribution of power for greater perspectives- it is not stealing power away, so men should not be threatened. Men are afraid of this change because they don’t want to have to bear some of the burdens women have had to face- they enjoy their privilege, but they do not realize the benefits that they will receive as well.

    These biases are not fixable by policy because they are buried in the subconscious of all, which is why I really enjoy the idea of encouragement to women. Don’t limit it to just females, however. Encourage everyone to be powerful and emotional and rational and ambition and themselves because that it is how one creates an unstoppable diverse society. Like the article said, let this change start with the raising of your sons and daughters. Stop the biases before they are born to create an environment of equality where all can succeed. Don’t give different expectations- let them understand that everyone is the same and everyone can do what they set out to do.

  11. I really like the point of this discussion, wherein boys and girls must be raised differently than they are today if the restrictions surrounding gender are ever going to change. The example you mentioned where there is a definitive difference between sons getting a girlfriend and daughters getting a boyfriend is so prominent and destructive today. Many fathers and older brothers joke about scaring a young girl’s boyfriend; just the other day, I saw a tweet where a father was standing in between his daughter and her (male) date, and the father had a gun discreetly pointing at the young man’s genitals. While I understand that this picture – and many others – are only intended to be a joke, it perpetuates the notion that girls need protection and boys need to do the protecting, a gender stereotype that is damaging for both men and women. If we change the mindsets of our youth away from these norms and customs, they will have the capability of transforming the restrictions and limitations of gender in society.


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