Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s book Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, perfectly sums up how to go about fulfilling this task.
Adichie begins the book by explaining how a few years ago a good friend of hers asked her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. She confesses that her first thought was that she had no clue and that it was a mammoth task when in fact she has spoken about feminism and helped to baby sit her nephews and nieces. Through this she had done a lot of observing and listening. With that realisation, she then proceeded to write her friend a letter and this little uplifting, insightful manual is a version of that letter. Now a mother herself, she realises and values the importance of trying your best to raise children that value the importance of creating a fairer world for all.
This little book although short and sweet sends a powerful message that is timely particularly in this age of key figures such as Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and many more implicated for failing to create environments and a world in which women and men are equal and treated with respect. Adichie argues that these behaviours and failure to protect individuals does not stem from what children are taught in school, domestic violence and rape crises or the fact that mainly men sign legislation on issues that affect only women. For Adichie the problem begins at the birth. The advice that parents provide to their children determines how they treat and perceive others when they are adults.
Adichie’s 15 suggestions on how to raise a feminist child are invaluable, funny, compelling and encourage parents to raise their children to be strong, independent and respectful of others. Here are the suggestions:
1. Be a full person
It is important to remain a well-rounded person by nurturing yourself, your needs and your interests. If you are passionate about your job for example, it is alright to love your job as being passionate about your job is then a gift you can share with your child. Caregiving and domestic work is not singularly a woman’s job but parents should be supported in their dual duties at work and at home.
2. Working together
A father and a mother should work together. No singular role aside from biological roles such as breastfeeding should be separated. No parent deserves special gratitude for doing what they are supposed to do.
3. Gender roles
A child should not be taught that they should or should not do something because of their gender.. Conditioned gender roles such as the pink vs blue and toy differentiation are difficult to unlearn therefore it is important that children reject them from the beginning.
4. Feminism lite
Feminism lite is the idea of conditional feminism that perpetuates the idea that men are superior to women but should treat women well. It uses analogies such as “he is the head and you are the neck” and being “allowed” to excel. Some for example have expressed how Theresa May has been “allowed” to shine by her husband.
People being a bit feminist means that women in positions of power are judged more harshly than men.
5.Teach children to love books
Reading enabled children to become knowledgeable and question the world around them. If your child does not take interest in reading bribe them to read!
6. Questioning language
Language perpetuates prejudices therefore children should be taught to question their own language and the language presented to them. For example, Labels such as “misogyny” and “patriarchy” should be justified to children.
7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement
A child particularly a female child should be taught that marriage is not an achievement or something they should aspire to. In a truly just society women should not be expected to make marriage based changes that are not expected of men. What if we lived in a world in which married couples took on a completely different name?
8. Rejecting likability
Your child’s job is not to be likable but to be their full self who is aware of the equal humanity of other people and questions injustice and imbalances.
Children should be raised with an identity. If Nigerian and Igbo for example, a child should be raised to be proud of being an Igbo woman that embraced the culture and valued their culture has to offer.
A child should be surrounded with activities such as sport and interests such as makeup and with positive male and female idols that teach the child that gender roles are not static and that masculinity and femininity do not have to be rejected.
11. Questioning culture
Cultural norms and how society aligns them with biology should be questioned. Biology should not be accepted as justification any social norm.
Evolutionary biology is for example used to explain male promiscuity but not to female promiscuity even though it makes more sense for women to have several sexual partners as the larger the genetic pool, the greater the chances of bearing offspring who will thrive.
Although it will probably be awkward, children should be spoken to about sex and sexuality. Freely taking about sex means that your child will not attach it to shame.
Romance will inevitably happen. Unfortunately, with love and romance, different demands are placed on individuals based on their gender. In heterosexual relationships for example, men are expected to propose and take care of a woman. Children should be taught that in a healthy relation it is the role of whoever can provide to provide.
The oppressed are not saints. The gender discourse somehow assumes that due to inferiority women are morally better than men.
Parents should make difference normal and ordinary because difference is the reality of the way the world is. Because we are all different, one should not universalise their own standards and beliefs.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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