knowledge can lead us to make more thoughtful decisions and open us up to various possibilities, one of them being more conscious thinking.
Ignorance is cruel. It delights in our enslavement to it and in eternal blindness. It does not allow us to move forward but it also does not allow us to retreat. It keeps us trapped and stuck. There, in the same place. Providing a place for its roots to grow and consume us to the end. This may seem a bit dramatic but only if we do not think of the absurdities we are able to say and do when we are not aware of something.
Regrettably, even in the days in which we live, ignorance continues not to be a path, exclusively followed by choice; because access to information continues to be a privilege only to some. As a consequence, we have people who live in this pit of despair and without enlightenment, with nothing to do.
With the use of the word “exclusively” in the previous paragraph, I meant that although there are people who are on the path of ignorance due to lack of choice, there are others, with the opportunities to access information but continue to be stuck because they believe in the existence of absolute truths and do not allow themselves, even for a second, to be confronted with different perspectives from the ones they defend. This, dear readers, is also ignorance.
I begin this article by emphasizing these two different paths, the one of the light and the one of the darkness, for believing that all of us already have, at certain moments of our lives been in one or the other. Also, to say that it is possible that we can get out of one to the other if we want and we can. Although, some of its effects may be harmful, “ignorance” is fortunately curable. And this encourages me and renews hope in us as human beings. Do you want me to be more practical and specific? Then follow:
It was on a particular day, I was looking for something interesting to watch on the internet. I finished watching the last chapter of a series on Netflix and decided to take a break. I needed something lighter, so I switched to youtube to find something to relax.
Based on my YouTube interaction, I always get suggestions for videos to watch…One, two… and I continued, leisurely, to pass on the suggestions that came when to my surprise, I came across the TED talk, “We should all be feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. My first impression as described above was surprise and what followed was rejection because of the title. Still, I opened the video. And you know what? I changed my mind. I continued searching for something “better” to watch.
I already knew the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie through some interviews that she granted us after the success of her book “Americanah”. I knew she was a feminist and I really enjoyed listening to her. However, I did not agree that her works gave her the right to say that we should all be feminists. “It feel as though she is deciding for others,” I thought.
The next day, the sun and the blue sky, a rare scene in certain parts of England, invited me and a friend to go out for lunch. For reasons that, I confess, I cannot explain, “We should all be feminists” was still present in my subconscious. After we finished lunch, I asked my friend to accompany me to a bookstore close to where we just had lunch.
As soon as we got there, I went directly to the shopping cart and asked the saleswoman, “Do you have anything authored by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?” She said “Sure!” – going precisely to a specific bookshelf. I followed her and thanked her. Between “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “The thing around your neck”, I found, in the left side of the upper shelf the last copy – according to the saleswoman – of “We should all be feminists”, the book. I have limitations in my superstitions but I also do not believe in such a coincidence. I went to the cashier and purchased the book. And I began the struggle against my own ignorance.
I started reading the book the same day I bought it and finished it in half an hour. Trapped from the front page, in the peculiar manner in which Adichie articulates every detail of the narrative, I entered into a process of progressive reading, which did not allow me to stop until the last page. When I finished, I looked at my friend, who was next to me and said “You have to read this!”
With this book I learned, traveled, and above all, understood, finally, what Chimamanda meant by the title “We should All Be Feminists”. Never judge a book by its cover.
Unlike a lot of “good people” I know, men and women, and who do it with pride, I never considered myself macho. Ever since I’ve known myself, like myself, I’ve always been aware that men and women are equally capable of being and doing whatever they want, even though the conversation was not part of my school curriculum or family scenario.
I never acknowledged that something was missing in my life until I got this book. Okoloma, one of Chimamanda’s best friends, mentioned in the book that many of us, boys and men, continue to live in a context of blindness to a reality that lies before us. Because we simply think that the problem is solved by acknowledging that women and men are equally capable of doing the same thing, which is a big mistake. Our mistake.
Suffering and hearing from the sufferer are completely different roles. Perhaps this is why many of us men cannot see the bigger picture. And perhaps we can never do it in the same way that women do. However, it is extremely important that we assume and acknowledge our privileged positions, granted by societies built on the basis of machismo and assume that there is a problem that needs to be solved.
With this book, Chimamanda is once again ending the myth that feminism is for women and, on the contrary, comes to say that men need to be engaged to end gender inequalities. That’s why “we all need to be feminists”. For being a cause for all of us; men and women alike.
Machismo is such an intrinsic concept to certain cultures and in the manner which we are educated as men and women, that we sometimes normalize this problem, which remains a major reason behind the injustices that many women suffer, every day, all over the world.
Inequality based on gender is real. It is unfair and it kills. We need to change visions and bring this matter to the table and as soon as possible. It’s possible. But for this we need more than consequences, to attack the roots of the problem. We need to attack education and break, once and for all, all the gender stereotypes that are introduced to us from a very early age. These stereotypes kill people, destroy dreams, and oppress souls. Of men and women. On the one hand, we have the girls who are obliged to cook because the social expectation placed on them, on the other hand, we have boys who are obliged to swallow their own tears because “a man does not cry”.
This is a book that I want my little sisters and brothers, younger cousins, nieces and nephews to read since I did not get the chance. I hope they grow up without the idea of naturalizing machismo by justifying it as being “cultural,” as people of my generation often do. The future is now. And life is now. Today I embrace this movement and cause which is and should be for us all and I predispose myself to be part of the fight. What have you done?
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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