Sweden will distribute a copy of best-selling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s feminist manifesto ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ to every 16-year-old student in the country.
The Swedish Women’s Lobby, a politically independent women’s organisation, has joined with a number of associate organisations including the UN association of Sweden to distribute the book to all students in the Swedish second grade as a “gift”.
“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,’” writes Adichie in the essay. “All of us, women and men, must do better.”
“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,” Adichie continues. “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.”
The Nigerian novelist is also critical of modern masculinity, calling it a “hard, small cage” that forces men to hide emotion. “We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability,” she writes. “We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak – a hard man.”
“For me, feminism is about justice,” she said. “I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot or should or should not do anything because she is a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist.
“When I was 16, I don’t think I knew what the word ‘feminist’ meant. I don’t think I knew the word at all. But I was a feminist. And I hope that the 16-year-olds that will read this book in Sweden will also decide that they’re feminists. Mostly, I hope very soon that one day we will not need to be feminists. Because we will live in a world that is truly just and equal.”
The move further burnishes Sweden’s reputation as one of the most egalitarian nations in the world. Sweden, you may remember, famously offers 16 months of paid parental leave — for mothers or fathers — when a child is born. Two months are set aside just for fathers, and this year, the Swedish government planned to expand it to three.
More than 100,000 copies of “We Should All Be Feminists” will be sent to Swedish secondary schools. In an op-ed piece in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, a group that included Berglund and the chairman of the United Nations Association of Sweden, Aleksander Gabelic, explained their reasoning for the move:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us of what feminism is about. She makes us remember what it was that made us once again began to define ourselves as feminists. We want the book to be an introduction for girls and boys who never before have thought about gender inequalities. Therefore, we send today, “Everyone should be feminists” to all students in grade 2 in high school. We do it with the hope that they’ll read Adichie’s words and understand that feminism is the key that can unlock their cramped cages. Feminism makes it possible for both girls and boys to be themselves.
“So proud to be part of this,” tweeted Adichie’s publisher, Johanna Haegerstrom. “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains why feminism could make us all happier. Not just women.”