WISCAR’s annual conference illuminated the power of inclusion
…had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as keynote speaker
It was the 2022 edition of WISCAR’s annual leadership and mentoring conference, and a beautiful way to wrap-up 2022 on a bright note, with the global icon and award-winning Nigerian writer and women’s rights advocate, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as keynote speaker.
Chimamanda was grateful and so emotional. There was a display of cultural brilliance by a woman whose performance brought her close to tears “I feel like it is almost unfair to have sprung this on me because I am trying so hard not to cry. This wonderful woman and her beautiful Igbo performance made me think about my parents, and how happy and proud they would have been to be here” she said.
Apparently, the convener, Amina Oyagbola had told Chimamanda that she had asked her father who was ill not to come but seeing Amina’s parents meant a lot to her. “When I saw Mrs. O’s parents come in, I was very moved, and I remember thinking, when she had said that she had asked her father not to come as he wasn’t feeling too well, made me think about my father, but also made me think about how we need our fathers. Especially women.” She stated.
Chimamanda acknowledged that she wouldn’t have been the person that she is today if she hadn’t been raised by magnificent parents. Both of them. For her, particularly when you are a girl in the world, because the world is still very male-dominated, she says there is a particular kind of confidence you get from having a loving father, having a present father, having a father who is there to applaud you, applauding the big things but also the small things, having a father who listens to you.
She therefore asked Nigerian men “Do you know where your children’s socks are kept?”. She said there were a number of wives present who were probably thinking, “that man at home doesn’t know where their socks are kept.” The reason Chimamanda said she actually used that example which actually came from a friend of hers who was complaining about her husband, was because the woman’s husband is very feminist in public and talks about the kind of things people talk about on gender matters, gender equality, but she said at home, he doesn’t know where the children’s socks are, he doesn’t know where anything is. “If you have a husband at home, please find out if he knows where the children socks are kept, and if he doesn’t then that’s a problem.” Adichie said.
In appreciation of WISCAR, she said “I would love to just really say thank you to WISCAR, to Mrs. O who is now my new big sister, and really to everyone who is really part of WISCAR. The effort that was made to make sure that I came is something I deeply appreciate.”
Asked by Amina Oyagbola what message Chimamanda could deliver to uplift the many girls in Nigeria who feel the opposite, that they have been failed by the people into whose care God entrusted them which includes their parents, their communities, the government, society at large, and she responded “I think what I would say to young women today is, you have to keep pushing, and I believe so much in trying, I really believe in trying. Yes, we know there are obstacles to your path because you were born female, but that is true for everywhere in the world, it might manifest itself differently, but it’s true for everywhere in the world. I think that we should acknowledge that but try despite that. Of course, you are going to fail, but when you fail you get up.”
Some insightful comments from the panelists included that of Hawwah Gambo, a journalist and political aspirant who said, “Jacinda Arden is changing the scope, the understanding, the wake, and the definition of leadership as we know it, and I feel I have what Jacinda Arden has, maybe I can be the Jacinda Arden that my people are looking for.”
She said this believing and adding that if we would sit back and do nothing while our children inherit what we are going through, then our education would have been for nothing.
“The way women build networks in their workplaces has to differ from men because I think the conversations between women are more intimate and more truthful, and I think that they require a much deeper foundation.” Adia Sowho, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN stated.
Furthermore, she said “I tend to have a broad reach within my network, but then there is a select set of people with whom I have very deep relationships, so that you can get into the intimate and sometimes difficult realities of the environment that you are in, because men and women face different challenges in the office, and you have to be able to create safe spaces for those conversations.”
Tosin Oshinowo, Principal Architect, cmDesign Atelier also had her views to share. According to her “Women need to become a little bit less conscious that they are women and see themselves as people. It is so important as a woman to know that you have to push a bit harder.”
“We need to create more opportunities for women to see the possibilities, just seeing someone else who is in a similar situation as you, or looks like you, and what they have achieved means that it is possible.”
For Chukwuemeka Onyimadu, National Economist, UN Women, Nigeria,
“UN Women is working with CSOs and other gender cohorts to see how we can redress that perception around the equal opportunity bill- but to be fair, what the bill seeks to achieve is to ensure that women have equal opportunities and that speaks largely to the theme of WISCAR’s annual conference, how do we ensure that women have equal opportunities?”
CHIMAMANDA’S CHAT WITH AMINA OYAGBOLA
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1977. She grew up on the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where her father was a professor, and her mother was the first female registrar.
She studied Medicine for a year at Nsukka and then left for the US at the age of 19 to continue her education on a different path.
She graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in Communication and Political Science.
She has a master’s degree in African Studies from Yale University, and a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University. She was awarded a Hodder fellowship at Princeton University for the 2005-2006 academic year, and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University for the 2011-2012 academic year. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the “genius grant.”
She has received honorary doctorate degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University, Johns Hopkins University, Haverford College, Williams College, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University, Amherst College, Bowdoin College, SOAS University of London, American University, Georgetown University, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, Northwestern University, and University of Pennsylvania.
Adichie’s work has been translated into over thirty languages.
Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), won the Orange Prize. Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. A story from her collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, was awarded the O Henry Prize.
She has delivered two landmark TED talks. Her 2009 TED Talk ‘The Danger of A Single Story’ and her 2012 TEDx Euston talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ which started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.
‘Dear Ijeawele’, or ‘A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ was published in March 2017.
Her most recent work, ‘Notes On Grief’, an essay about losing her father, was published in 2021.
She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. In 2017, Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. She is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Chimamanda Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria, where she leads an annual creative writing workshop.
What were your names at birth?
I would try and keep it very short, let me tell you the shorter version of the story. The only reason I’m now talking about this publicly, which I did not want to do for a long time, was because I wanted the name to become organic, and then I would talk about it. Now, all over Igbo land, I’m told also in River state, among the Kalabari people, there are children being called Chimamanda, and many of them did not know that I invented that name.
So, my name was Amanda in secondary school, and I thought it was a very cool name, so I was Amanda Ngozi Adichie. In primary school, I was mostly Ngozi, in secondary school I was mostly Amanda. And then when I went to the US, I remember one of my first classes, and there were a number of Americans who had the same name, and just hearing that name said in an American accent – Ameenndaa, I just thought…what? So, when they called me, I’m not even joking, I did not know that they were talking to me. And that’s when I started thinking errrr…no, this is not right, it’s not working for me. I was writing and was trying to get published, when I finally got an agent who was going to start sending my manuscript out to publishers, I said to myself, if I start publishing with this name, I would be stuck with it. I thought, what can I do?
On my license, my name was Amanda Adichie. It’s not just that I didn’t want the name Amanda, I didn’t want an English name at all. I like Ngozi, but every Igbo woman was called Ngozi. I remember thinking to myself, what can I do to turn Amanda into an Igbo name so I don’t have to go and change my license, passport, and all of that, so I can publish with an Igbo name. That was the only time in my life that I felt like I had a revelation, and I’m not a person who usually talks about things like revelations, but I remember I was lying in bed in my brother’s house in Enugu, in a very tiny room, on a very tiny bed, thinking about this, and it came to me. The name came to me, CHIMAMANDA! It was perfect because it had Amanda and it actually made sense because in Igbo, it means ‘my God will not fail me.’ I remember just leaping off the bed in this state of ecstatic discovery and going to my laptop and sending an email to the agent to say please, change the name on the manuscript before you send it out. It’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
I do think it was a gift. In some ways, I feel as though God, the universe, used me to introduce another name to the culture.
We asked some women and men what they thought about Chimamanda Adichie, and the answer was along the lines of “Someone we admire greatly, but we don’t like all that feminism stuff.” For the benefit of those who don’t know, please explain ‘that feminism stuff.’
Yes, I hear a version of this all the time. “We are very proud of you, well done, but don’t be talking about feminism.” But I won’t stop talking about it. What’s really interesting for me actually is that I never set out to be this feminist, I really never did. All I wanted to do was write, and I hoped to be read. My biggest dream was to be read. I just wanted people to read my books.
As a little girl, I was a feminist, I didn’t know what it meant, but I was the little girl who would ask questions like; “How come I can’t go out with my brothers when we go to the village for Christmas to see the big masquerade?” And “…because you are a girl” was the response and I used to think it did not make sense, I am as interested as they are, I have eyes like they do, so why can’t I? I was a very observant child, so I knew there were many things that excluded people just because they were born female. It never made sense to me. Clearly, I was a feminist, but I did not know that word. I remember the first time a friend of mine called me a feminist, we were arguing, I cannot remember what the details were, but I remember I was making the case that you can’t just say somebody cannot be governor or president because that person is a woman, and he looked at me and said, “You are a feminist” and it was clearly supposed to be an insult. I looked up the word, and I was like yes! That’s what I am. It is a word that has been so often misunderstood, and I think it’s so easy to make a caricature of it, to say feminists want to kill men, feminists said you should not marry, but it is not, it’s really for me about justice, it’s about equality, it’s about recognising that every human being deserves equal opportunity. So, we should not exclude people from things that they ordinarily might do well at or are interested in because they are female. I think men have had quotas for centuries.
I think that the problem is, men in general are stronger than women, they are physically stronger than women and women’s bodies are designed to play reproductive roles. I think those are the two fundamental reasons why there is inequality in the world. So, the way we evolve as human beings, women because of their reproductive roles, men because of their physical strength meant that men could in fact exclude women from many things. For me, it’s a question now of, this is no longer a time in the stage of our human evolution where physical strength is the most important thing. It no longer makes sense to exclude women. When I talk about feminism and when I call myself a feminist, it is because I believe that people should have equal opportunities and we should recognise the ways in which we are different because, I’m not saying that we are same. Of course, we are not, but that idea that somehow, because you are a girl, you are a woman and therefore you cannot? I just really push against it.
As a WISCAR, a woman in a successful career, how did you navigate the inescapable challenges and obstacles you were confronted with along the way? What tips do you have for young gender justice advocates, or how would you advise them to respond when they are challenged about gender equality and women’s empowerment versus empowerment for both women and men?
For so long, I have had that tag the young writer, so sometimes when people say that I wonder what the 25-year-old writers think about this. They are like- how is this old woman taking our label, right? I’m happy to take it but we should ask what the 25-year-olds think.
I have my mother to thank, my mother was so youthful and so gorgeous when she was like 70, people would be like, so you are 70?! -Of course, she enjoyed that- So she would say ‘Yes, I turned 70 last year’, because she knew that they would tell her you don’t look 70. One of the things that was important to me and that I would also like to be important to them is what I call doing your homework. By that I mean: It’s important that you think about failure that when you fail at something, you’ve tried everything possible. Sometimes, I think it’s too easy when we give up, we say oh I have been trying for a job, I sent three applications, they did not take me. You say they do not want to, no, send 45.
When I started out, my first publication was in Nigeria. When I was 15, I wrote a very bad poem, and I sent it to Prime People Magazine, Prime People did not publish poems, but there was a Prime People Magazine lying around in my house and I looked at the address, and I sent off the poem. I wrote a letter, I wrote – Dear editor, I am a 15-year-old poet, enclosed, please find two fantastic poems. The following week it was published in Prime People. I think that poor editor must have said “Who is this small girl with this kind of audacity?” I also published a play when I was seventeen. I went to the US to go to university, and I started doing the homework, I wanted to find out how publishing worked in the US. I went to the library, and I read everything I could find about publishing. That was actually when I started writing short stories. Until then, what I thought of writing novels, was just about long-form fiction, but in the US, I read that if you want to get a novel published, you should try and get a short story published first. So, I started writing short stories and sending them out, and they got rejected. The first rejection, I thought “ahh! these people can’t be serious; they can’t see how wonderful this story is?” Of course, the story wasn’t wonderful, and it is one of the lessons that I learnt which is, when you fail at something, you should think that either that place was not the right fit for you, or that you haven’t done your best, because there is always that possibility. I remember finally refusing to submit that story anymore because I actually thought it was not a good story, and I started writing what I felt true to me, and I was really shocked to finally get an agent because I got so many rejections. The rejections were often based on my identity rather than on the quality of the writing, and they would often be quite honest about it. How publishing works is, you get an agent, and then the agent gets you a publisher, that’s generally how it works with mainstream publishing, and getting an agent is very difficult. So, I sent the manuscript out to so many agents, all of these rejections came in. It was very difficult because this was 1998, 1999, so it was sort of not really the email or internet, it was pre when email became mainstream. So, you would send out your manuscript and you would include an envelope addressed to yourself. Each time I went to the mailbox and saw my own handwriting, my heart would be beating because I thought to myself, is it a yes, or no? Then I would open it- it would be a no. Somebody said to me, I really like the writing, but I can’t sell you to a publisher because you are not like anybody else writing. You are writing about an African country, and you’ve put in some African words in the book, it is just going to be impossible. Nobody will publish it. It was difficult to take, and when I started my one day of feeling sorry for yourself, the next day, I got up and sent out more. I really just wanted to write; it was a passion. I feel it is a vocation and even then, I was willing to work for it. I would feel bad for myself, the next day, I would look up more agents, send out more things and finally, one woman said yes. A woman. I remember, she actually said to me ‘I will take a chance.’
We have actually kind of lost touch because, maybe about ten years ago, I left her for another agent, so I think she is very upset with me. I’m so grateful to her, she is still the agent for my first novel, and anything I earn on that novel she gets the commission, but in some ways, I had outgrown her agency and I moved on. We were in touch for such a long time, and she was lovely, she was a black woman who was also starting out, so in some ways, she could afford to take a chance on me. She said to me “I want you to write your dream publishers, write the top three people you would love to publish you” then she said, “We are not going to get them, but I just want to know who you are dreaming about.” I am a dreamer, so I wrote the top three publishers in the country, and we got number two.
Often, they say women are not politically savvy, whatever their pursuit, their career goals may be. Can you comment on the concept of identity as it relates to women feeling included and being able to contribute to the development of their society?
I feel my identity is different depending on where I am. When I started out, I was much more a writer in the UK, in the US I was an African writer and there was a difference. Obviously, I much prefer just being seen as a writer, it changed quite a bit but when I started out, that’s how it was.
In terms of being a woman. I have always known, I think in some ways because I was that little child who was watching, I remember this woman, I won’t mention her name, but a professor in Nsukka, she was one of the few women professors and I remember thinking about the way people talked about her. They would say she is very arrogant, and I would think actually, she is exactly like many of the men professors, but nobody calls those men arrogant. As a child, I could see these things. Or how women were expected to be very accommodating of so much. For instance, the woman whose husband was beating her, and I had relatives who said, “Well, she has to manage.” Because I started out that observant about gender, when I became successful, whenever I say that word, I do not know what to do with my face, I mean, should I say it smiling? should I look sober? Anyway, I could recognise it. Often, it is subtle and that’s the problem because then, it is harder to get people who don’t get it to understand. It’s the kind of lowering of expectations when it comes to you. I had a male editor completely rewrite a piece I wrote, he had actually commissioned me to write this piece, I wrote it, and he rewrote it. He didn’t edit it, he rewrote it, he sent it back to me and I looked at it, the first thing I said was “…but this not my piece, he made a mistake” and then I realized it actually had my name on it, and he rewrote it. I was furious because I understood he wouldn’t have done that for a man. And at the time, I was starting out, it was still after ‘Purple Hibiscus’ before ‘Half of a yellow sun’ and this magazine was very prestigious, but I just thought to myself, “No! This is nonsense” so, I wrote him what I would call not-overtly-affectionate email. I said “No! This is unprofessional, this is unacceptable, why have you done this?” and he goes “Oh! I’m sorry, I just thought it would sound better.” You want me to write something, this is how I write, you do not rewrite my piece, I said “No! I’m pulling it, do not publish me.” I don’t think he expected that kind of pushback because the next thing that happens is, he sends flowers to my apartment. I don’t want flower. My father had a stubborn streak and I inherited that. But it’s one of those things I think is gendered. There is a kind of casual disrespect that one gets as a successful woman. One gets it from men and women. I had to deal with that, in fact, I deal with that all the time. Recognising it helps, depending on my mood and the time of the month. There are times when I’m like “Oh! it’s happening, this person is just silly, and there are other times when I challenge it. I would often say to them, “Would you do this to a male writer?” and they would say “Yes of course” I would say “No!” and I would tell them why. Often, I would challenge it, but it keeps happening from men and women.
Achieving the success you have, requires focus, determination, hard work, resilience, and sacrifices almost on a daily basis. Looking back, what would you do differently if you could press the reset button?
I was a science student in secondary school because when you are intelligent, and they are telling you, you have to be in the science class and all of that. I took JAMB and started studying medicine because that is what I was supposed to do, but it was never what my heart wanted, never was. I am trying now in my old age to let go of the idea of regret and instead to think of it as experience. In other words, there are things I did not do well, did not do properly, but I learnt from it. Had I not had these experiences, would I have had what the young people call growth? I think I should have argued when the teacher in secondary school said “Adichie got the best result in JSS of course she’s going to be in science class.” I just sat there and accepted it, maybe I should have said, “Excuse me, I don’t want to be in science class.” But again, being in science class in some ways may be being a good thing because, there is a kind of broad range of knowledge that it opens you up to, so I know basic chemistry and physics. I do not like them at all.
I have regrets, there are things I think I could have done better, not just in terms of my career but also socially, or even in terms of relationships and friends and people. I think fame makes you paranoid, and I think there are times in my life when I give into that paranoia and so created distance from people that now I look back, and I think I really shouldn’t have. You know, this life is short, but it makes you paranoid and it makes it difficult to trust people because you find that for many people, you are not a person, you are an opportunity, and it is very alienating. I think one should act on that for many people, but I think there are certain people I acted on that with that I shouldn’t have, and I regret that.
What role has mentorship and sponsorship played in your career if any, what role have you played too as a mentor and sponsor to others?
Maybe the one thing I can talk about is my writing workshop that I started doing about twelve years ago, and I started it because I wanted to create a space for people, the kind of space that I did not have when I started out. I was writing on my own, I didn’t have any friends who are writers. I had a very supportive family but it’s different, all my siblings are very serious scientists, including Doctor, Pharmacist, Engineer and Computer Scientist. I was the strange one, so they allowed me write. My mother would often have her secretary type the things that I wrote. They encouraged my writing, but it was always understood that it was strange. In some ways, I wished I had had a kind of writing community. I remember when ‘Purple Hibiscus’ was published and a bank here in Lagos said they wanted to have a reception for me to celebrate me, and I thought that was lovely, but I said, “Instead of celebrating me, would you give me money so I could do a workshop for writers?” So, that was how it started. It is the number one writing workshop in this continent and I’m also very proud to say that I am actively disrupting American writing programmes and how am I doing that? By getting Nigerians in there. I’m writing a lot of recommendation letters, but it works, all of the top writing programmes in the US I think has at least one person who attended my workshop. There is so much talent in this country, it really is incredible. I find that I learn as I teach, I enjoy it, it is also an opportunity to learn from people you are teaching. I have learnt about Nigeria; I have learnt about experiences outside of mine by teaching people. In ten years, I have watched Africa change, it is mostly Nigerians but often we have two or three people from other African countries. When I started the workshop, it was with my dear friend who died a few years ago. He was one of the best minds this continent has ever produced, and he died way too young. I remember telling him, come and teach this workshop with me because we were very different, our approaches to writing are very different, and I want these young writers to see that there are different ways of doing things. I said to him, “We need to call it Pan African but my dear, 85 percent Nigerian and then others” and he couldn’t argue.
It hasn’t happened since Covid but it is going to come back in 2023. Everybody in Nigeria doesn’t write like me, they might have read only me, but it is important they see there is a broad range. I want to help make that happen. I have to say I’m very proud of the workshop and the people who have attended. By the way, the person who is my Nigerian publisher now, who is also my friend, is Ehosa. Ehosa was actually at the very first workshop that I had, he was the, you know, one of those students very ‘efiko’ ‘I-too-know’, he knew all the answers, he was very bright, and he was at the first workshop and now, he is my publisher. It’s kind of this interesting circle.
You wrote a book ‘Dear Ijeawele; a feminist manifesto in 15 suggestions’ Can you give us some insights on the current socialisation or as author Miguel Ruiz terms it, ‘domestication’ especially of women, that you write about in your novels, which may be detrimental to them leading fuller lives and sharing their gifts with society?
My friend had said “I have had a daughter; how do I raise her as a feminist?” and I said, “I don’t know.” And she said, “You are giving ted talk about feminism, you can’t tell me how to raise my daughter as a feminist?” I then started thinking about it. So, I wrote that in an email and then later revised it and published it. It also made me think about what I really believe feminism is. In terms of identity, I had many, and I find that identity shifts depending on where I am. When I get on a flight and I land in Washington Dallas, I become a black woman, when I get on a flight and land in Lagos, I don’t think of blackness or race, because I just don’t, instead, I become a woman. That’s where you might have a taxi driver say something inappropriate, and you know it is gendered, or I’m taking a walk in my estate here in Lagos and one small boy is following me, because I do fast walking, and he’s saying wrong words, but when I do these walks with my brother or my husband, those boys slink away. It is so infuriating because people say forget him, he is just a small boy, but no, it is about your human dignity, it is about somebody who thinks that they can be so insulting because you happen to be female.
When I’m here, I am woman, I am Igbo, those are really important to me. I think most people know my culture is important to me. I was raised in a university campus, very book-focused, very academic, but also very deeply rooted in who we were. My father wanted us to know who we were. I think it has been very good for me because I have this very keen sense of who I am and because of that, I am comfortable in the world. I can go anywhere and be comfortable because I know where I come from.
The theme of 2022 WISCAR conference ‘For the Nation: The Power of Inclusion’. The title infers that there is untapped power available for our nation to use. Do you agree that this is the case? How do we enable our own society, from community level to the corridors of power, to recognise the importance of including women and other under-represented groups more holistically in our discourse, strategy, planning and implementation?
Maybe I would just quote that man who said incentives, maybe that is what we need to do, we need to give them money so they would hire women, no, I’m kidding.
I mean, I see what he is saying. Often, we can’t depend on making the argument that it is a good thing to do. There is so much that has been normalised. Change is often difficult for people. In general, as human beings, we think that if something has been done over and over, then automatically it is the right way to do it, it’s really not. Someone said they think it starts with parents, and I think I agree, very much, but it’s also not just parents its also social institutions, schools for example – until my daughter started going to school, she didn’t think of toy as boy toy or girl toy because at home, toys were toys, she had everything and we encouraged her to play with everything. She starts going to preschool, then she comes back and tells me that’s for boys, so she has learnt that. I remember my nieces who went to secondary school in Lagos, and I was looking at their social studies text and it still had – Father is the head of the family, mother is the supportive role of the family, father is the breadwinner, and I’m thinking, who still teaches children that? Often, you are teaching children that in school and their own realities don’t even reflect that because sometimes, mothers are the breadwinners. School teaches children not just academics, but there are cultural things we also need to push back on. And of course, there is religion, religion is so big and I have been talking about wanting to craft a christian feminism because I don’t think you can challenge gender roles on our continent without religion. People dismiss a lot of things using religion. I can’t tell you how many people have quoted things to me like -submit to your husband- and then I say to them, give me the rest of it, what does the rest say? or when they say- how can you say you are equal? you were made from a rib- do you even understand what Jewish mythologists are? When I was twelve, I remember I read the bible, the whole thing, so I want to go back and re read, but now with other books to help me understand things so that I can craft the case for God being feminist because God is feminist, God believes in equality, there is no way that if you believe in a loving God, no way that that loving God will decide that some of God’s loving creation are somehow lesser than another. It completely destroys the notion of a loving God. I really want to think and talk about that. It really would help in this project of inclusion.
What is your call to action to Nigerian girls, women, and the men who support them as human beings, with equal value to men, and right to the same opportunities to participate fully in the affairs?
There is a lot of work to be done. I’m very interested not just in girls and how we raise girls but also how we raise boys. I think it is so important to talk about that. There is so much that is being done for girls that should be done, but i would love to hear more about what is being done for boys, in the way that we start to reshape masculinity, that there are wonderful things about masculinity, but when we start saying to boys that masculinity means aggression, means having a fragile ego, that’s not what it means. Masculinity can mean expressing emotion, believing in fairness, not thinking that domestic work is something that people who have vaginas do automatically. I remember the day that I thought about this line and I came up with it, I was so proud of myself. I was talking to some young women, and I said to them, listen, the knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina, cooking is learned, everybody can learn to cook. So, this idea that when you are a woman you don’t cook then somehow you feel morally down, no, you can learn, the man too can learn.
I think we should start quite early talking to boys about how to think of women’s bodies because we can’t constantly focus on telling women to try and avoid being raped, we also need to tell the boys, don’t do it, and I really think that it would help. Right now, we are telling men what not to do, we are not telling men what to do and I think it can be a confusing place for men and boys to be in. The world is changing, somehow, I can see how it can feel to men and boys as though they have been forgotten. I’m not saying my friend Mr. Lardner is in any way right about them going extinct, but I think the conversation should include men and boys, we can’t just focus on the victims without doing anything with the perpetrators.