16 books! Our 16th book is not really a book, but a piece of literary non-fiction in the form of an essay. It is very short and I am thankful for that this month, as it's like time has buggered off on holiday and left me with a really long to do list and three small people who add five extra jobs for every one I tick off! Being a work at home mum is tough (notice I didn't say 'stay at home', which I object to; it implies that you remain in the same place all day, which is completely impossible to do when looking after small children.) It's a traditional role that is very much prescribed by gender. Of course you get work at home dad's, but they are still in the minority and is their role seen in the same way as a work a home mum? As a human race we have evolved since we lived in caves thousands of years ago, but as Adichie says in 'We should all be feminists', "our ideas of gender have not evolved very much."
Adichie explores what it means to be a feminist and the structures that exist in society today working against the equality of the sexes. '52 per cent of the world's population is female but most of the positions of power and prestige are occupied by men.' In America, the Lilly Ledbetter law means that if a man and a woman are doing the same job, the man will be paid more because he is a man. You see fewer women the higher you go and the more men you see in positions of power, the more normal it seems. 'We are all social beings. We internalize ideas from our socialization.' The sexulisation of women in adverts and magazines, the lack of female lead roles in films, the lack of strong female roles in books, the vastly outdated messages that fairy tales send our young girls and boys, all work together to send a message that women are there to serve men.
What I found really interesting about Adichie's essay was how she highlighted how damaging prescribed gender roles are on both sexes. Masculinity is also defined in a 'very narrow way'. Boys are taught to be hard and not to show any vulnerability. Suicide rates are higher amongst men. There is a lot of pressure to be the provider and Adichie argues that 'the harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is.' She goes on to argue that girls are then taught to cater to this 'fragile ego'.
We should all be feminists; no we really should all be feminists! Women are not born guilty and men are not born savage beings, who have little control over their impulses. We don't live on a world anymore where physical strength determines your ability to do most jobs. It is the duty of both men and women to fight for equality. I think it is important to say that the battle for equality has not been won. We don't just live in an historically patriarchal world; it is patriarchal. Women are still subjugated by men and the recent law change in Alabama, where women don't have control over their own bodies, is just one scary example of this.
1. Accept that inequality exists.
2. Challenge it when you see it.
3. We should all be feminists!