chimamanda“I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. World of happier men and happier women who are true to themselves.  And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently and must also raise our sons differently…”

“When I was in primary school in Nsukka… my teacher said at the beginning of term that she would give the class test and whoever got the highest school would be the class monitor.  Class monitor was a big deal. If you were class monitor, you would write down the names of noise-makers each day, which was heady enough power on its own, but my teacher would also give you a cane to hold in your hand while you walked around and patrolled the class for noisemakers.  Of course, you were not allowed to actually use the cane. But it was an exciting prospect for the nine-year-old me. I very much wanted to be the class monitor. I got the highest score on the test.

Then, to my surprise, my teacher said the monitor had to be a boy. She had forgotten to make that clear earlier; she assumed it was obvious. A boy had the second-highest score on the test. And he would be monitor.

What was even more interesting is that this boy was a sweet, gentle soul who have no interest in patrolling the class with a stick. While I was full of ambition to do so.

But I was female and he was male and he became the class monitor.

I have never forgotten that incident.

If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal.   If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations.”

“My great grandmother, from stories I’ve heard, was a feminist. She ran away from the house of the man she did not want to marry and married the man of her choice.  She refused, protested, spoke up whenever she felt she was being deprived of land and access because she was female. She did not know that word feminist. But it doesn’t mean she wasn’t one. More of us should reclaim that word. The best feminist I know is my brother Kene, who is also a kind, good looking and very masculine young man. My own definition of 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.”

For the full talk see:  http://tinyurl.com/Adichie-extract

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) Extracts from the book: