Chimamanda Adichie is Flawless and so are You
By Marcy Driehaus
“But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?” This thought provoking lyric, though featured in Beyoncé’s new song “Flawless”, was actually spoken by our Woman of the Week, Chimamanda Adichie.
There are some parts of the world where if it weren’t for bold and outspoken individuals, feminism wouldn’t be recognized at all. The progress that has been made in regards to human rights has a lot to do with the courage of the people who choose to advocate for their cause. One woman who is known for championing a number of causes is Chimamanda Adichie. Through her activism and her vision for a world where inequality is abolished, Adichie has opened the eyes and hearts of many. During her time speaking at a TEDx event back in April, Adichie proudly stated, “Since feminism was un-African, I decided I would now call myself a happy African feminist. At some point I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself but not for men.” This quote, along with her actions and accomplishments, prove that Adichie is a sound choice for Woman of the Week.
The world gained a brilliant woman the day Chimamanda Adichie was born on September 15, 1977. Adichie grew up in Nsukka, Nigeria with her mother, father, and her five brothers and sisters. Ironically, Adichie’s family resided in the house that had previously been owned by celebrated Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe. It was almost as though Adichie’s future as an author had something to do with her home’s previous occupant’s blatant influence. Due to her father’s position as the first professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria, Adichie was exposed to advanced education throughout her childhood. This exposure could have arguably been what triggered her ambition and drive as far as her schooling went.
Adichie’s academic pursuits were plentiful and diverse. Though she studied pharmacy and medicine at the University of Nigeria, her passion, as it turned out, lied elsewhere. After assuming the position of editor for one of the university’s magazines, her life took a different turn. At 19, Adichie moved to the United States after she was granted a scholarship from Drexel University to study communication. After her two years at Drexel, she made her way to Eastern Connecticut State University where she graduated in 2001 summa cum laude (a phrase meaning “with the greatest honor”) with a degree in communication and political science. As if she could not get any more versatile in her studies, Adichie then went on to receive her MA in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. To top off her astounding number of degrees, Adichie earned her MA in African Studies from Yale University in 2008.
Over the years, it became clear that Adichie’s heart was in her writing. Some of her most acclaimed work comes in the form of novels such as Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005. In addition to those novels, Adichie has also touched people with her collection of short stories (The Thing around Your Neck) and other works of fiction. Though it’s no secret that Adichie is a successful and compelling author, this week she was rightfully brought into the public’s eye because of her outspoken advocacy in regards to feminism.
Beyoncé Knowles (our next woman of the week) gifted the world with a surprise album this past Friday, December 13. This album featured many songs with strong messages of female empowerment, a big one being “Flawless”. This song is an undeniable fan and feminist favorite for a number of reasons. The second verse of “Flawless” happens to be a compilation of excerpts derived directly from one of Adichie’s talks called “We should all be Feminists”. This talk essentially exposes female stereotypes and the standards set for women for what they really are: absolutely ridiculous. The premise of this talk focused on equality of the sexes (or lack thereof) and brought into harsh light the oppression that women all over the world are faced with every day. By Adichie’s words being interwoven into this musical masterpiece, the demand for equality reads loud and clear. With strong and confident women such as Chimamanda Adichie and Beyoncé speaking their minds about the importance of women’s rights, maybe one day the world will listen. Regardless, Adichie’s words have proven to be not only influential, but inspirational. The following collection of excerpts from “We should all be Feminists” that was featured in “Flawless” has made a definite impact on those who have listened to it.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller
We say to girls: “You can have ambition, but not too much
You should aim to be successful, but not too successful
Otherwise, you will threaten the man”
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is most important
Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are
Feminist: a person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes”
The day women are regarded as humans and given the respect they deserve rather than being treated as second class citizens is the day we no longer have to rely on powerful songs such as these simply to get a point across. Together, we (men and women alike) have the ability to abolish the standards and stereotypes that Adichie addresses. Speak up, be strong, fight for what you believe in, and always remember ladies: even if you don’t see yourself as flawless, Beyoncé and Chimamanda still do. Say it loud and proud, “We flawless, ladies tell ’em”!