This was the perfect book at the perfect time. I loved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book We Should All Be Feminists – it was so matter of fact and to the point. It didn’t second guess itself or feel the need for justification or apology – it simply stated how things are, and in doing so cut straight to the truth of the issue. It impressed me more than anything I had read in my Women’s Studies courses (or since) and was both an excellent summary of and introduction to feminism.
So when I saw this book being discussed I immediately ordered it and waited impatiently for it to arrive. And then consumed the whole thing in a couple of sittings.
As some of you may know, I had a baby just over a year ago now (hence my long absence from the world of books and blogging). Though much of the year has been taken up by various health issues for both of us and the (often messy) business of adjusting to motherhood, there has been this niggling worry growing in the back of my mind: how will I raise my daughter to be strong and confident in a world that, in both horrific and mundanely insidious ways, tears down women, tells them they are never pretty/thin/sexy/smart/tough/etc enough, pits us against one another, makes us feel unsafe and takes advantage of our bodies and labour? How will I explain this world to her so that she will be aware of the pitfalls around her, but at the same time make her feel like the world is a place she can go out and both explore and enjoy? All the challenges and injustices I’ve experienced as a female of the species seem suddenly imbued with much more importance when I imagine my daughter facing similar situations.
As with We Should All Be Feminists, this book lays out simple points and pieces of advice that I think can apply not only to any mother of a daughter, but to any mother, full stop. Some of the advice is so simple that it may seem obvious, and yet when I thought about it, it occurred to me how often I saw these subtle gender-based behaviours in adults and children around me.
Her advice is both complex and simple, but what stuck out to me as being the foundation upon which everything else stood was the need for us to confront our own biases. She points out that until we do this, we will not be able to identify and change the ways in which we interact with our children based on gender. She says this is difficult, but necessary. I completely agree. It’s uncomfortable to question the ways I behave to try and tease out whether my behaviour is truly based on my own values and opinions or whether it is an ingrained response. It’s particularly difficult since I’m a stay-at-home-mom. It isn’t a role I ever saw myself in, nor is it one with which I am particularly comfortable. And it comes with many gender pitfalls. How do I split household tasks between myself and my husband who is working a full time job (often more than full time)? What is “fair”? What kind of example is this going to set for my daughter, and how do I ensure that she understands that I’m not a stay-at-home mom because I’m a woman, but because logistically it just worked out that way?
See? It’s already giving me a headache. Really you should just ignore this review entirely and go straight to the source – I promise you, this book has much better advice and explanations than I do. And while you’re at it, give We Should All Be Feminists a read too because it provides great context for why this book is so important and the issues it is addressing. Both are short reads – even a slow reader could read them in a sitting – and I recommend giving them to any new parents you know.
A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.
Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today. – Goodreads
Book Title: Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published By: Knopf
Released: March 7, 2017
Genre: Non-Fiction, Motherhood, Feminism
Date Read: May 30-June 4, 2017