Saturday, March 18, 2017

It's A Needed Read

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book everyone should read, whether or not you embrace feminism.

I was raised in a conservative and very religious household and I learned to physically respect women - don't hit, don't harass - but I was taught that they have their place in the world. All the fiction books I read featured strong male characters. I only read biographies of males and actually had feelings of disgust at the suggestion of reading a book about - let alone written by - a woman. The first book that I ever (knowingly) read by a woman was The Thornbirds, and that was a horrible work of fiction to get me to read if the idea was to gain my respect for women writers, but that was not the idea of the person who suggested it. It was not until I had read a few books by Carl Sagan that I took seriously, and acted on, the idea that I should question everything that I believed. And I do mean everything. Through that practice, I found there to be no good reason to deny women the same opportunities, compensations, legal protection or privilege granted to men. In the then male dominated field of science and math, I met women who could run circles around men doing the same work. In one of the graduate math classes I took, there was a woman who asked questions that I didn't even understand. I vividly recall thinking upon witnessing it, "Never underestimate a woman. Never!" Like a hundred other beliefs that I left behind, the idea that a woman either could not or should not do something she wanted and was able to do evaporated and was replaced by the knowledge that a woman could, and should be encouraged to, make the most of her abilities just like any man. While I have spent much effort as a science and math teacher practicing that belief, I still have work to do as a male in this culture. It takes a lifetime to unindoctrinate yourself.

As the author clearly points out, culture is the main problem. While the United States has come a long way in making improvements, women still don't have cultural, economic or political power equal to that of men. Worse yet is the problem worldwide - particularly in third world countries and those dominated by religious fundamentalists.

The author makes many good points, but there is one that I disagree with. She says,

We are not apes.
Well, we humans are apes and to ignore the common evolution that we have with chimps and bonobos as well as the rest of the mammals and the behavioral tendencies we have in common with them is a mistake. Like all undesirable proclivities we have as mammals and apes due to evolution, we must lean to overcome them.

I was disappointed by the author's not mentioning the sore lack of equality of educational opportunities for women worldwide. In my estimation, it is one of the biggest - if not the biggest - problem to be addressed by feminism. Without excellent education, self-determinism - even in a politically and religiously friendly culture - is exceedingly difficult.

Thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for writing this short work. I hope that there are many more like it.

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