The subject of freedom of choice for women is immense and always relevant. In my opinion, it is especially important nowadays. To explore the topic of freedom this month, I turned to books written by two female writers who were born on different continents but were connected by a desire to be free and happy. These books invariably provide important ideas for reflection and open the dialogue about the place of women in the modern world and feminism in general. In these works, one can find the explanation for the fight for women’s independence and learn how to raise our daughters happy and free to choose the future they want and deserve.
Roxane Gay “Bad Feminist”, 2014
Roxanne Gay is an American of Haitian descent. Through her own experience as a woman, writer, and professor, she discusses serious topics that are relevant for any country and any society. The book was published in the United States of America in 2014 and consists of several essays. It begins with a short introduction, in which the writer discusses feminism and its many faces, as well as why she perceives herself to be a bad feminist.
Roxane Gay’s work consists of a series of articles in which she analyzes books, TV shows, movies, magazine and newspaper articles, social media posts, and contemporary events taking place in the United States. All her essays are united by the question of whether a modern woman has the freedom of choice: what to do with her body, be thin or fat, decide if she wants to become a mother, or not have children at all.
Roxane Gay talks about what it means to be black in the US and how African Americans have been criminalized in the country over the years. The writer discusses slavery and its portrayal in Hollywood films.
Roxane Gay’s book is a treasure trove for those who want to understand the contemporary culture of the US and learn about the problems of American society and heated political debates often centered on women’s rights. The writer skillfully analyzes films and books, draws parallels between different works of art, which allows the reader to look at them from a new point of view.
Roxane Gay expresses an important idea about overweight people, saying that there is always a reason for their condition. Weight gain is often preceded by serious or tragic events that cause the person shock and pain. This can be the death of a husband or the loss of a child, divorce of parents, the absence of a father in childhood, or sexual abuse. In such situations, often only food can give a person some comfort and create the illusion of control.
“Bad feminist” also discusses sexual violence and how trivial it had become in American society. Roxane Gay gives an example of the reaction of the American media to a gang rape in Cleveland, TX, to show how backward society looks at sexual violence. While discussing this tragedy, the media did not care about the fate of the victim, an eleven-year-old girl who was repeatedly gang-raped but focused instead on the fate of 19 young men and teenagers who, due to the publicity of their crime, would not be able to graduate from school or university.
Speaking about how early sexual abuse can affect the body and psyche of a child, Roxane Gay opens up to the reader and talks about the gang rape she was a victim of at the age of 12. This event changed her life and influenced the way she saw herself. Roxane gained weight over the years because she thought that if she is “big and strong,” it would protect her from the new assault.
At the end of her book, Roxane Gay calls herself a bad feminist because she as a woman is made of contradictions. The most important thing for her is to be herself. She says it’s better to be a bad feminist than not to be a feminist at all. I am sure that you will get real intellectual pleasure from reading the “Bad Feminist” essays.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, 2016
In response to her friend Ijeawele’s question about raising her baby-daughter to be a feminist, Nigerian writer and speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a Feminist Manifesto. It consists of fifteen suggestions. Each of them is dedicated to a specific topic related to women and their place in modern society. In her manifesto, Ngozi talks about the importance of teaching children about gender equality from an early age. She believes we should not impose blue color on boys and pink color on girls, and offer girls the same toys as boys, and not just dolls and vice versa.
The writer pays a lot of attention to how to prepare girls for the future and give them more professional opportunities. Ngozi discusses the important issue of raising girls only for marriage, as is customary in Nigeria. In Nigerian society (and many others), girls are expected to know how to cook and clean the house, be polite, obedient, and gentle. They are expected to sacrifice themselves for the sake of marriage. The fate of the girls comes down to “waiting for the prince” who will ask for their hand. This is considered the height of success for a woman. At the same time, boys are brought up in a completely different way. Professional ambition is rewarded, young men are expected to strive to prove themselves and build a career. For young men, marriage is not the main achievement in life. The result is an imbalance in marriage and society as a whole. Men have a consumerist attitude towards relationships and women in general, while women sacrifice everything to be with a spouse.
Ngozi talks about the importance of words and gestures. When a man cooks, cleans the house, or looks after the children, society says that he helps his wife. It creates a belief that everything related to housework and childcare is assigned to the woman and not the man. The writer insists that women and men should share household work and care for children because they are both parents.
Ngozi invites her friend Ijeawele to encourage her daughter’s love of reading and support her interest in sports. She suggests it is important to teach the girl to ask questions and have her own opinion and show her that the world is diverse and wonderful and that diversity and inclusion are what makes it rich.
The Manifesto touches upon important issues of raising children free from prejudices and pressure from society. Upon reading it, it becomes clear that all the suggestions are suitable for raising both girls and boys because the author brings up important issues of gender equality and offers solutions to pressing problems of society. Ngozi’s work helps teach kids how to use critical thinking, be able to reflect and be empathic towards others and enter life courageously. With the support of the manifesto, parents can raise their kids as feminists, no matter the gender of the child.