Review: ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There was no day better than today to read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.”

The essay is adapted from her December 2012 TED Talk, which was given in the United Kingdom at TEDxEuston in 2012. Many people know this talk, and subsequent essay, from Beyoncé’s “***Flawless,” which features part of the talk throughout the song.

Beyonce Flawless

This is an essay that everyone, no matter their gender, must read. For one thing, it is an essay and a short essay at that (the talk is about 30 minutes). It is easy to read — very conversational, seeing as it was originally a TED Talk — and Adichie uses personal examples to help frame her points.

Adichie’s words ring powerful and true. I have so many highlighted passages throughout this essay; I refrained from highlighting every other paragraph. After I finish writing this review, I’ll be copying them all down into a journal and onto sticky notes to serve as reminders to myself. Here are a few of my favorites:

[On calling herself, at one point, a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.]

“ … what it shows is how that word feminist is so heavy with baggage, negative baggage: You hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture, you think women should always be in charge, you don’t wear makeup, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t use deodorant.”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I don’t know how many times used to shy away from using the term feminist to describe myself. I stood for what feminism was, but I couldn’t bring myself to use the term. And if I did, it was only around certain people. Now, I do use feminist to describe myself and proudly. If someone comes back at me and asks why I don’t just use the term “humanist” or “equalist,” I can use Adichie’s words to help me:

“Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general — but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. … It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.”

And one last one:

“What is the point of culture? Culture functions ultimately to ensure the preservation and continuity of a people. … Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”

So please, go read this essay. If you don’t want to buy it or your local library doesn’t have it, then go watch her TED Talk. Or both. Both is always good. If you need me, I’ll be creating a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quote board for my room.


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