Chimamanda Adichie on Feminism

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus. 1743, oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, bestselling author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, printed her December 2012 Ted Talk in a novelet entitled We Should All Be Feminists. In a defining paragraph, she answers the sensitive question, ‘Why use the label feminist at all, especially since it has become so controversial? Why not humanist? Or human rights advocate?’

Some people ask, ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”

Adichie provides a textbook definition for feminism:

Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. 

And then her own:

…a feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’ All of us, women and men, must do better.


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We Should All Be Feminists. 2012. Anchor Books, 2014.

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