Books, feminism

Book review: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I’m finishing my Feminist Book Fortnight posts with a review of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a great follow-up to We Should All Be Feminists and is probably going to be my go-to gift for everyone this year.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a friend, asking her how to raise her baby daughter as a feminist. This book is a version of that letter.

Reading this short book is like having a chat with your mum friends over cocktails. There’s a rush of relief when you feel like someone else not only ‘gets it’ but inspires you to make positive changes to your life.

The manifesto is more than a series of suggestions of how to raise a daughter. It’s We Should All Be Feminists, Like a Queen, Women & Power and A Room of One’s Own all rolled into one. It’s about maintaining your identity when you become a parent. It’s about asking for help. It’s about aspiring to more than marriage. It’s dressing however you want and not silencing who you are. It’s about true equality.

Reading this as a parent, so many things ring true, such as the ridiculous notion that a father ‘helps’ or ‘babysits’ and the guilt of leaving your child so that you can work. I was raised by a stay-at-home mum who did everything and so grew up with certain ideas of gender stereotypes. She cooked, cleaned, did the shopping and the school run, looked after our finances, etc. As I grew older, I helped with the shopping, food preparation and washing up but my dad and brother didn’t. Looking back, I think this was just the way it was and, as it was never challenged, nothing ever changed.

Before we had Jenson, Luke and I both worked full-time and whoever got home first would start dinner. These days, we both work part-time, Luke does all of the cooking and nursery drop-offs and I do the housework. Our son is growing up in a home where his father cooks and both parents work, something that, it still seems, few children see.

He’s raised in a world where we try to limit gender stereotypes as much as possible. If we’re out shopping and he wants a pink pony (rather than the stereotypical blue car), that’s cool. He loves the colour pink, glitter and Trolls but he also likes dinosaurs, Cars and Spider-Man. I dread the day where he feels like he can’t show an interest in something because it doesn’t conform to what someone else deems as ‘right’.

We should all be doing what we can to raise feminists, whether they’re male or female. True equality will never be achieved if we rely solely on women to question and challenge everything. We should be raising men with attitudes and ideals focused on equality so that soon there will be nothing left to challenge.

Sidenote: Don’t worry, I’m all too aware of the flipside of these arguments regarding mental health in young men, the right for men to take shared parental leave, and the perceived notion of gendered professions. But that’s something for another post.

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