Feminism and the men in our lives

I recently read this article about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned Nigerian author. She wrote an essay about raising a feminist daughter. Personally, I hate labels because often people forget what created the label, and all the real reasons it stood for, and becomes an excuse to flaunt something under the name of said label. Feminism is one such label I’ve shied away from as much as I can. Being female and an independent minded one at that, makes it hard for me to stand up for some values I believe in without being categorized as a feminist. So imagine my surprise when I actually read this essay and was pleasantly surprised by how objectively it has been written.

Some of the salient points she made actually resonated with the teachings of my parents . I’ll summarize here a few that spoke to me. (Here is the actual article too for a more leisurely read.)

  1. Never deny yourself an attempt at something just because you’re a girl. It’s not because she can be equal or better than boys but because gender does not play a role in aptitude or attitude. I’ve carried that teaching into my adulthood.
  2. Never define yourself by marriage. Marriage is an event in your life, albeit a very impactful one but it isn’t an achievement.It is another relationship in your life.
  3. Do not choose likeability over dignity. Women are programmed to be submissive so they can be more likeable. In doing so, the woman often ends up losing some of her identity or worse, her dignity.
  4. Understand and respect difference. Just because someone doesn’t share or mimic your beliefs or experiences, does not make them wrong. They are entitled to their beliefs, like we are to ours. Again, the gender of the person does not decide right or wrong. It simply conveys the fact that we are all thinking individuals who can differ in thought and opinion. This was a hard one to swallow when I was younger because I thought I knew it all. 🙂

It made me think back to all the men in my life and what role they have played in making me the woman I am today, starting with the very first man – my dad. I’ve been lucky enough where most men in my life have been ones that raised my self-worth and made me believe I can do whatever I put my mind to. Yes, there have been those that have tried to extinguish that flame too but when has there not been a bad with a good. I’ve chosen to focus on those that brought a positive impact to my life. I wish the others well in their journey through theirs but I will not allow their negativity to cloud my path.

My friend’s 12 year old (going on 30) daughter said the other day “I don’t need a husband to take care of me. I want a husband who will be my partner and friend.” I wasn’t sure if I should applaud her for how adult she was thinking or be sad that she was already all grown up. What I did realize, is how true her statement rang. None of us today really need men in our lives to change a flat tire or to lift heavy groceries or protect us from someone. We do need that someone to come home to though who can ask how our day was and listen or provide advice when we are at our wits end. Yes, he may occasionally help us open that pesky jar but let that not go to your head, dear man in my life. 🙂

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