I’ve been waiting to read Ms. Adichie for a long time and I was not disappointed with getting a taste here. It should also not be a secret that I’m a father to a strong-willed daughter, so I’m always looking for insights. Thanks to both maturity and my wife’s tireless work to open my eyes, I’m also a card carrying feminist and thankfully most of what Adichie brings up here wasn’t a shocker for me.
This is not to say that her letter to a childhood friend, Ijeawele, did not have anything new that made me think harder about my future interactions with my daughter. Raising a child is a challenge and Adichie doesn’t mince words or sugarcoat those difficulties, in fact raising a girl in society often brings with it plenty of problems. Our culture in the USA and Adichie’s Nigeria, carry plenty of baggage consisting of patriarchy, hyper-conservationism, and toxic masculinity. Our girls will always have an uphill battle, but I especially appreciated how Adichie goes out of her way to remind her friend, and us by extension, that women are still tasked with giving everyone their respect and dignity. Feminism is about equality, and that is that for Adichie.
Some things that I did take away, that I had not really given much thought before, was that of last names and chivalry. My wife and I discussed at length about her changing her last name, since her family name meant a lot to her. At the end of the day, she ended up changing it for me, since it meant a lot to me. After reading this section from Adichie, I’m not convinced I would be so firm in my reasoning now. As to the chivalry point, there is a line that goes “chivalry is characterized by women’s weakness.” That’s a rough paraphrase, but another thought that is going to stay with me for a long time. I haven’t been a fan of chivalry for a long time, but this comment only blows this up more for me on understanding the ramifications of it.
Adichie’s writing is smart, funny in places, and extremely insightful. This was my first real dip into her writing and it will not be my last.