Laura Leni

It was September 2016 when we all saw this sentence on a white t-shirt during the Dior runway show for the 70thanniversary of the fashion house. But not everyone knows that this sentence is not an invention of the creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri: in fact, it has a long history behind. It was the title of the speech pronounced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie during TEDxEuston in December 2012. It initiated a worldwide conversation on feminism and was published as a book in 2014. 

Born and raised in Nigeria, she has experienced sexism since she was a child. She decided to speak about feminism even if she knew it was not a popular subject in her country because she hoped to start a necessary conversation. From the beginning, she focuses on the word “feminist” and about the idea of feminism itself, both limited by stereotypes.

What she underlines is that there are slightly more women than men in the world (52% of world’s population is female) but most of the positions of power and prestige are occupied by men. In some countries, it still seems impossible that a woman can be independent, book a hotel room, pay something by herself, drive her own car, have her own bank account, decide not to be married or not to have children. And the worst thing is that these stereotypes are also rooted in women who are raised to believe that the most important thing in life is being likable and worry about what boys think of them. In many cultures, it is still considered normal that a woman gives up a job, a career goal, a dream in order to find a “compromise” in her marriage.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says that gender inequality is a grave injustice and we should all be angry because “anger has a long history of bringing positive change”. We should all fight for a fairer world: a world of happier women and men who are true to themselves and this can happen only if parents start to raise their children differently. In fact, the problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are: both women and men would be happier and free without gender expectations. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains why it is crucial to use the word “feminist”. A lot of people asked her: “Why you have to define yourself feminist? Why not just say you believe in human rights?”. The answer is that using only the expression “human rights” is too vague to describe the gender problem because it is not about human rights, but specifically about women: for centuries the world has been divided in two groups and one of them has been excluded and oppressed.