Feminism and Femininity

I am teaching myself how to cook. Growing up, my mother didn’t cook, so I never learned.

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s childhood friend wrote to her, asking how to raise a feminist daughter. Adichie responded with a long, beautiful letter; Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017) is that letter. She writes, “If we stopped conditioning women to see marriage as a prize, then we would have fewer debates about a wife needing to cook in order to earn that prize.”

I’ve identified as a feminist for as long as I can remember. My mother always worked, and my parents shared the emotional and physical labor of raising me. I went to a girls’ school that encouraged us to “Dream, Dare, Do.” I don’t often shave my legs, and I am comfortable with the political message inherently attached to that. Still, I consume episodes of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress at an unhealthy rate. I look at the women on screen and envision myself standing on that pedestal and wearing the white, poofy dress and sparkly engagement ring, crying tears of joy.

I do not want to think too deeply about why I decided that now is a good time to take up cooking. I’m afraid that the answer will make me sad. I try to remind myself of Adichie’s words: “Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are.”

I love Adichie not because she is a revolutionary, but because she is gives power to all of the womanly voices in my head. Adichie’s words are as true as they are contested, as commonplace as they are exceptional, as simple as they are poetic. In this way, hell, she just might be a revolutionary.

I am an independent girl, trying to find my way towards womanhood. I fight for the rights of women everywhere, and I go to sleep each night alone and mostly content. As I tie the apron around my waist and turn up the volume on Giada DeLaurentiis’s cooking show, I think of Adichie and her advice-bearing words, full of warmth and love, to her dear friend. –Linne Halpern

Linne Halpern '18 is an English and American Studies double major at Wesleyan University. She is co-founder and editor of Reverberations. 

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Published by Knopf
80 p.