We are huge book lovers here at Practical Woman. We have shelves full of beauties. Matilda is our heroine:
“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”
Our founder Kara has just finished a fantastic book that she wholeheartedly recommends – Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We’ll let Kara explain why…
Let me start by saying what an absolutely gorgeous little book it is with a stunning cover. You might recognise the author’s name as she also wrote Americanah and the brilliantly persuasive and eloquent We Should All Be Feminists.
I recommend that you read the whole book, however, I’d like to draw your attention to some key bits I found delicious and wonderfully powerful:
Firstly, a section from the book that relates so closely with the ideas behind Practical Woman:
“Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against out rue desires, our needs, our happiness…Instead of letting her internalize the idea of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try to fix physical things when they break. We are quick to assume girls can’t do many things. Let her try.”
Chimamanda then speaks about beauty and sex so eloquently and passionately:
“I think of how a packet of Smarties was kept in front of me as a reward if I sat through having my hair done. And for what? Imagine if we had not spent so many Saturday’s of our childhood and teenagehood doing our hair. What might we have learned? In what ways might we have grown? What did boys do on Saturday’s?”
“Chizalum will notice very early on – because children are perceptive – what kind of beauty the mainstream world values. She will see it in magazines and films and television. She will see that whiteness is valued. She will notice that the hair texture that is valued is straight or swingy, and hair that is valued falls down rather than stands up. She will encounter these values whether you like it or not. So make sure that you create alternatives for her to see. Let her know that slim white women are beautiful, and non-slim, non-white women are beautiful. Let her know that there are many individiuals and many cultures that do not find the narrow mainstream definition of beauty attractive.”
“Talk to her about sex, and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward but it is necessary. Remember that seminar… we listened to vague semi-threats about how ‘talking to boys’ would end up with us being pregnant and disgraced? I remember that hall and that seminar as a place filled with shame. Ugly shame… don’t pretend that sex is merely a controlled act of reproduction… sex can be a beautiful thing.”
“Tell her that her body belongs to her and her alone, that she should never feel the need to say yes to something she feels pressured to do. Teach her that saying no when no feels right is something to be proud of.”
I strongly recommend you read Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions and buy it for all the mothers you know. It is an essential read.
Have you read it? Let us know your thoughts.