Discussion Time: Feminist Writing, Labels, and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Let’s tackle more serious topics on here. 

I just reread We Should All Be Feminist by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and felt prompted to write this post. If you haven’t read this yet, I strongly suggest you do it. If you’re not in the mood to read it, check out the Ted Talk it was based upon.

Recently, the theme of feminism has been sort of popping up in conversations with my friends. I realized whenever it surfaces in our conversations, everybody gets uncomfortable. They roll their eyes, they sigh and they try to change the topic. Both male and female. Because it is a difficult topic. It’s always a point of strained, wary discussion. Especially with my male friends. Now, I am not one to shy away from the term feminist, but nowadays it has such negative connotations and stereotypes latched to it, that I find myself having trouble with labeling myself as a feminist. And I am one, there’s no doubt about it. It’s just that nowadays, labels have such a definitive and strong emotions and meanings attached to them, that it’s become an issue to be called something that for me, has a very positive meaning to it. And so it has been difficult to argue about feminist issues with my friends recently.

However, rereading Adichie’s speech, I am once again reminded of the need to reclaim the label as something positive, as something that instigates change and brings up important issues. Reclaiming the label feminist as not something scary, or angry, but as something hopeful and inspiring and educational. This is was Adichie does. Her speech is smart, and concise and it’s hopeful. It’s not angry or preachy, but it’s firm and has merit to it. If you’re struggling with coming to terms with the label, you should definitely check this out. And gets yourself ammo for the next discussion on feminism.

This spurred my thinking on feminist writing, and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite writing on feminism and some of my favorite female characters and what not.

First of all, Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit. I have mentioned this previously on here, but just in passing. This is a collection of feminist essays and I read it awhile back, but always find myself gravitating towards it again. This essay collection lacks a definitive theme or a string of meaning that ties the essays together, but I believe that the essays as their own thing, and not a collection per say, are brilliant. There are some of them that I did not like as much, but some of them really struck home with me. The title essay, Men Explain Things To Me was brilliant. Solnit is very different to Adichie. She’s angry and bitter in her writing, non forgiving even, but sometimes you do feel angry when it comes to these things. There’s also an essay in here called In Praise of the Threat: What Marriage Equality Really Means and it’s about what marriage equality has done for feminism, how it improved and affected women’s rights and it’s my favorite feminist writing to this day. Solnit is also more academic in her writing, which I can also appreciate. There’s an essay on Virginia Woolf in here and I really loved it. I would also highly recommend you read Solnit’s essay (which isn’t in this collection) called Men Explain Lolita To Me , which is as brilliant as the title suggests.

Another fairly recent read for me is Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. This is a short story collection, all about women. And they are flawed and difficult and struggling and beautiful. I personally enjoying seeing the darker side of women. I like seeing the gross and difficult aspects of them, something that I think is often ignored and sort of frowned upon. We associate women with pureness and innocence and it’s just not true. So anything that shows women as what they are, meaning human beings who are flawed and who fuck up is something I really enjoy. You can check more of my thoughts on Difficult Women here .

Another writer I love, who I feel those amazing things, without ever preaching feminism is Gillian Flynn. I absolutely adore all of her books, all thrillers, but I specifically adore the way she writes about women. Her female characters are awful. Truly bad, at times disgusting human beings. But she shatters the idea of women as these pure and fragile things and I adore it. My favorite of her novels is Gone Girl because Amy Elliot-Dunne encompasses and embodies the ideas I am talking about. She is brilliant and she is terrifying and I love her. Here’s a quote which showcases why I think Flynn is brilliant:

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

This is why I adore Flynn. She is so amazing. I have a review up for Sharp Objects if you want to see more of my thoughts on what Flynn does outside this feminist narrative.

Again, I’ve mentioned my love for the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. What I haven’t mentioned is that I love the female heroine of the books, Vin. I heard someone say that they don’t like her, that she feels as though she was written by a man, and I never felt this. What I like about Vin is that she is a strong character. She grows and she develops, but she is this fierce warrior. However, she really likes dresses. She likes dressing up, and she likes pretty clothes and she really struggles with all of this. And I found that to be really realistic. Girls often have trouble with coming to terms with the fact that they like makeup, or pink or just girly stuff (which is another thing Ngozie Adichie talks about) and I really liked that aspect of Vin. It was refreshing.

Another one I’d like to mention, as I’ve done many times on this blog, is We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Eva Khatchadourian, our main character, struggles a lot with motherhood, torn between not being excited about it and knowing that she should be, that it’s expected from her. She is constantly torn between feeling guilty about it and not feeling anything about motherhood at all. She is a poster girl for feminism, for issues women deal with a lot today, without really being the poster girl for feminism. It comes naturally and Shriver doesn’t intend her character to be that, but she becomes that nonetheless. I read an interview in which Shriver said she doesn’t like being called a feminist, and while I was disappointed when I first read that, I definitely understand it more now. I understand what she was trying to say. So definitely check this one out and you can find more of my thoughts on this issue and the book itself here .

Lastly, if you’re into poetry, if you’re really well versed in it (which I am not) definitely check out Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews. This poetry collection flips our society on its head and it explores the futileness and uselessness of gender. A lot of things went over my head in that one, since I don’t really get poetry, but I found it beautiful and inspiring despite of that. If you want to see more of my thoughts on it, you can do so here (it’s also my first post on this blog!)

So I really hope you enjoyed this post because I definitely enjoyed writing it, and please be free to leave me any sort of thing in the comments: tell me your thoughts on feminism, your thoughts on females in literature, your favorite female characters… Anything really! I would LOVE to discuss this with any of you!


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11 thoughts on “Discussion Time: Feminist Writing, Labels, and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Yes, this is such a great discussion! Feminism is nowadays totally frowned upon, and I’d say it’s more from men than anything, which is ironic, because it proves why feminism is needed. Every group fighting for social justice is always painted in some negative light, even if what they’re doing is right b/c of a few bad apples, which drives me crazy.

    Totally agree with Gillian Flynn and Roxanne Gay! I read Bad Feminist, which was good, but haven’t read Difficult Women. I really need to read more Feminist non-fic (and just non-fic in general).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been meaning to read We Should All Be Feminists for the longest time but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I think discussing feminism in relation to literature and texts is so important… if not in literature, where else? Great discussion!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My thoughts exactly, literature has so many things to offer and open up when it comes to feminism! And definitely check out We Should All Be Feminists, it will take you half an hour tops to read it (or listen to it) and it’s so great! Thank you so so much!

      Liked by 2 people

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