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We should all be feminists

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    So I would like to start by telling you
    about one of my greatest friends,
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    Okoloma Maduewesi.
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    Okoloma lived on my street
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    and looked after me like a big brother.
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    If I liked a boy,
    I would ask Okoloma's opinion.
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    Okoloma died in the notorious
    Sosoliso plane crash
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    in Nigeria in December of 2005.
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    Almost exactly seven years ago.
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    Okoloma was a person I could argue with,
    laugh with and truly talk to.
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    He was also the first person
    to call me a feminist.
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    I was about fourteen,
    we were at his house, arguing.
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    Both of us bristling
    with half bit knowledge
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    from books that we had read.
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    I don't remember what this
    particular argument was about,
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    but I remember
    that as I argued and argued,
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    Okoloma looked at me and said,
    "You know, you're a feminist."
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    It was not a compliment.
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    (Laughter)
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    I could tell from his tone,
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    the same tone that you would use
    to say something like,
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    "You're a supporter of terrorism."
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    (Laughter)
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    I did not know exactly
    what this word "feminist" meant,
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    and I did not want Okoloma
    to know that I did not know.
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    So I brushed it aside,
    and I continued to argue.
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    And the first thing
    I planned to do when I got home
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    was to look up the word
    "feminist" in the dictionary.
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    Now fast forward to some years later,
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    I wrote a novel about a man
    who among other things beats his wife
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    and whose story doesn't end very well.
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    While I was promoting
    the novel in Nigeria,
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    a journalist, a nice, well-meaning man,
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    told me he wanted to advise me.
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    And for the Nigerians here,
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    I'm sure we're all familiar
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    with how quick our people are
    to give unsolicited advice.
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    He told me that people were saying
    that my novel was feminist
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    and his advice to me --
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    and he was shaking his head
    sadly as he spoke --
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    was that I should never
    call myself a feminist
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    because feminists
    are women who are unhappy
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    because they cannot find husbands.
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    (Laughter)
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    So I decided to call myself
    "a happy feminist."
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    Then an academic, a Nigerian woman told me
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    that feminism was not our culture
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    and that feminism wasn't African,
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    and that I was calling myself a feminist
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    because I had been corrupted
    by "Western books."
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    Which amused me,
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    because a lot of my early readings
    were decidedly unfeminist.
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    I think I must have read every single
    Mills & Boon romance published
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    before I was sixteen.
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    And each time I tried to read those books
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    called "the feminist classics,"
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    I'd get bored, and I really
    struggled to finish them.
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    But anyway, since feminism was un-African,
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    I decided that I would now call myself
    "a happy African feminist."
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    At some point I was a happy African
    feminist who does not hate men
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    and who likes lip gloss
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    and who wears high heels
    for herself but not for men.
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    (Laughter)
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    Of course a lot of this
    was tongue-in-cheek,
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    but that word feminist is so heavy
    with baggage, negative baggage.
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    You hate men, you hate bras,
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    you hate African culture,
    that sort of thing.
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    Now here's a story from my childhood.
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    When I was in primary school,
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    my teacher said at the beginning of term
    that she would give the class a test
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    and whoever got the highest score
    would be the class monitor.
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    Now, class monitor was a big deal.
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    If you were a class monitor,
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    you got to write down
    the names of noisemakers --
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    (Laughter)
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    which was having enough power of its own.
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    But my teacher would also give you
    a cane to hold in your hand
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    while you walk around
    and patrol the class for noisemakers.
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    Now, of course you were not
    actually allowed to use the cane.
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    But it was an exciting prospect
    for the nine-year-old me.
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    I very much wanted
    to be the class monitor.
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    And I got the highest score on the test.
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    Then, to my surprise, my teacher said
    that the monitor had to be a boy.
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    She had forgotten
    to make that clear earlier
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    because she assumed it was ... obvious.
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    (Laughter)
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    A boy had the second highest
    score on the test,
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    and he would be monitor.
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    Now, what was even more
    interesting about this
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    is that the boy was a sweet, gentle soul
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    who had no interest
    in patrolling the class with the cane,
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    while I was full of ambition to do so.
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    But I was female and he was male,
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    and so he became the class monitor.
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    And I've never forgotten that incident.
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    I often make the mistake of thinking
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    that something that is obvious to me
    is just as obvious to everyone else.
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    Now, take my dear friend Louis
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    for example.
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    Louis is a brilliant, progressive man,
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    and we would have conversations
    and he would tell me,
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    "I don't know what you mean by things
    being different or harder for women.
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    Maybe in the past, but not now."
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    And I didn't understand how Louis
    could not see what seems so self-evident.
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    Then one evening, in Lagos,
    Louis and I went out with friends.
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    And for people here
    who are not familiar with Lagos,
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    there's that wonderful Lagos' fixture,
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    the sprinkling of energetic men
    who hang around outside establishments
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    and very dramatically
    "help" you park your car.
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    I was impressed
    with the particular theatrics
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    of the man who found us
    a parking spot that evening.
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    And so as we were leaving,
    I decided to leave him a tip.
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    I opened my bag,
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    put my hand inside my bag,
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    brought out my money
    that I had earned from doing my work,
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    and I gave it to the man.
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    And he, this man who was
    very grateful and very happy,
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    took the money from me,
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    looked across at Louis
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    and said, "Thank you, sir!"
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    (Laughter)
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    Louis looked at me, surprised,
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    and asked, "Why is he thanking me?
    I didn't give him the money."
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    Then I saw realization
    dawn on Louis' face.
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    The man believed that whatever money I had
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    had ultimately come from Louis.
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    Because Louis is a man.
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    Men and women are different.
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    We have different hormones,
    we have different sexual organs,
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    we have different biological abilities.
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    Women can have babies, men can't.
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    At least not yet.
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    (Laughter)
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    Men have testosterone and are
    in general physically stronger than women.
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    There's slightly more women
    than men in the world,
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    about 52 percent of the world's
    population is female.
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    But most of the positions of power
    and prestige are occupied by men.
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    The late Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate,
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    Wangari Maathai,
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    put it simply and well when she said:
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    "The higher you go,
    the fewer women there are."
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    In the recent US elections we kept hearing
    of the Lilly Ledbetter law,
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    and if we go beyond the nicely
    alliterative name of that law,
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    it was really about a man and a woman
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    doing the same job,
    being equally qualified,
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    and the man being paid more
    because he's a man.
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    So in the literal way, men rule the world,
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    and this made sense a thousand years ago
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    because human beings lived then in a world
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    in which physical strength was
    the most important attribute for survival.
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    The physically stronger person
    was more likely to lead,
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    and men, in general,
    are physically stronger.
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    Of course there are many exceptions.
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    (Laughter)
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    But today we live
    in a vastly different world.
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    The person more likely to lead
    is not the physically stronger person;
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    it is the more creative person,
    the more intelligent person,
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    the more innovative person,
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    and there are no hormones
    for those attributes.
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    A man is as likely as a woman
    to be intelligent,
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    to be creative, to be innovative.
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    We have evolved;
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    but it seems to me that our ideas
    of gender had not evolved.
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    Some weeks ago, I walked into a lobby
    of one of the best Nigerian hotels.
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    I thought about naming the hotel,
    but I thought I probably shouldn't.
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    And a guard at the entrance stopped me
    and asked me annoying questions,
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    because their automatic assumption is
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    that a Nigerian female walking
    into a hotel alone is a sex worker.
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    And by the way,
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    why do these hotels
    focus on the ostensible supply
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    rather than the demand for sex workers?
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    In Lagos I cannot go alone
    into many "reputable" bars and clubs.
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    They just don't let you in
    if you're a woman alone,
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    you have to be accompanied by a man.
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    Each time I walk into
    a Nigerian restaurant with a man,
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    the waiter greets the man and ignores me.
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    The waiters are products --
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    (Laughter)
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    At this some women
    felt like, "Yes! I thought that!"
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    The waiters are products of a society
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    that has taught them that men
    are more important than women.
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    And I know that waiters
    don't intend any harm.
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    But it's one thing to know intellectually
    and quite another to feel it emotionally.
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    Each time they ignore me,
    I feel invisible.
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    I feel upset.
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    I want to tell them
    that I am just as human as the man,
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    that I'm just as worthy of acknowledgment.
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    These are little things,
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    but sometimes it's the little things
    that sting the most.
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    And not long ago, I wrote an article
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    about what it means
    to be young and female in Lagos,
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    and the printers told me,
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    "It was so angry."
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    Of course it was angry!
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    (Laughter)
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    I am angry.
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    Gender as it functions today
    is a grave injustice.
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    We should all be angry.
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    Anger has a long history
    of bringing about positive change;
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    but, in addition to being angry,
    I'm also hopeful.
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    Because I believe deeply
    in the ability of human beings
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    to make and remake
    themselves for the better.
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    Gender matters everywhere in the world,
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    but I want to focus on Nigeria
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    and on Africa in general,
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    because it is where I know,
    and because it is where my heart is.
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    And I would like today to ask
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    that we begin to dream about
    and plan for a different world,
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    a fairer world,
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    a world of happier men and happier women
    who are truer to themselves.
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    And this is how to start:
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    we must raise our daughters differently.
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    We must also raise our sons differently.
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    We do a great disservice to boys
    on how we raise them;
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    we stifle the humanity of boys.
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    We define masculinity
    in a very narrow way,
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    masculinity becomes this hard, small cage
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    and we put boys inside the cage.
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    We teach boys to be afraid of fear.
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    We teach boys to be afraid
    of weakness, of vulnerability.
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    We teach them to mask their true selves,
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    because they have to be,
    in Nigerian speak, "hard man!"
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    In secondary school, a boy and a girl,
    both of them teenagers,
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    both of them with the same amount
    of pocket money, would go out
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    and then the boy
    would be expected always to pay,
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    to prove his masculinity.
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    And yet we wonder why boys are more likely
    to steal money from their parents.
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    What if both boys and girls were raised
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    not to link masculinity with money?
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    What if the attitude
    was not "the boy has to pay"
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    but rather "whoever has more should pay?"
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    Now, of course because
    of that historical advantage,
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    it is mostly men who will have more today,
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    but if we start
    raising children differently,
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    then in fifty years, in a hundred years,
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    boys will no longer have the pressure
    of having to prove this masculinity.
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    But by far the worst thing we do to males,
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    by making them feel
    that they have to be hard,
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    is that we leave them
    with very fragile egos.
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    The more "hard man"
    the man feels compelled to be,
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    the weaker his ego is.
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    And then we do a much greater
    disservice to girls
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    because we raise them
    to cater to the fragile egos of men.
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    We teach girls to shrink themselves,
    to make themselves smaller,
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    we say to girls,
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    "You can have ambition, but not too much."
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    (Laughter)
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    "You should aim to be successful,
    but not too successful,
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    otherwise you would threaten the man."
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    If you are the breadwinner
    in your relationship with a man,
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    you have to pretend that you're not,
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    especially in public,
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    otherwise you will emasculate him.
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    But what if we question
    the premise itself?
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    Why should a woman's success
    be a threat to a man?
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    What if we decide
    to simply dispose of that word,
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    and I don't think there's an English word
    I dislike more than "emasculation."
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    A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me
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    if I was worried that men
    would be intimidated by me.
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    I was not worried at all.
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    In fact, it had not occurred
    to me to be worried
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    because a man who would
    be intimidated by me
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    is exactly the kind of man
    I would have no interest in.
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    (Laughter)
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    (Applause)
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    But still I was really struck by this.
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    Because I'm female,
    I'm expected to aspire to marriage;
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    I'm expected to make my life choices
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    always keeping in mind
    that marriage is the most important.
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    A marriage can be a good thing;
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    it can be a source of joy
    and love and mutual support.
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    But why do we teach girls
    to aspire to marriage
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    and we don't teach boys the same?
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    I know a woman
    who decided to sell her house
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    because she didn't want
    to intimidate a man who might marry her.
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    I know an unmarried woman in Nigeria
    who, when she goes to conferences,
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    wears a wedding ring
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    because according to her,
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    she wants the other participants
    in the conference to "give her respect."
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    I know young women
    who are under so much pressure
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    from family, from friends,
    even from work to get married,
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    and they're pushed
    to make terrible choices.
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    A woman at a certain age who is unmarried,
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    our society teaches her
    to see it as a deep, personal failure.
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    And a man at a certain age
    who is unmarried,
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    we just think he hasn't come around
    to making his pick.
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    (Laughter)
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    It's easy for us to say,
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    "Oh, but women can
    just say no to all of this."
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    But the reality is more difficult
    and more complex.
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    We're all social beings.
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    We internalize ideas
    from our socialization.
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    Even the language we use
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    in talking about marriage
    and relationships illustrates this.
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    The language of marriage
    is often the language of ownership
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    rather than the language of partnership.
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    We use the word "respect"
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    to mean something a woman shows a man
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    but often not something
    a man shows a woman.
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    Both men and women in Nigeria will say --
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    this is an expression
    I'm very amused by --
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    "I did it for peace in my marriage."
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    Now, when men say it,
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    it is usually about something
    that they should not be doing anyway.
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    (Laughter)
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    Sometimes they say it to their friends,
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    it's something to say to their friends
    in a kind of fondly exasperated way,
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    you know, something that ultimately
    proves how masculine they are,
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    how needed, how loved.
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    "Oh, my wife said
    I can't go to the club every night,
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    so for peace in my marriage,
    I do it only on weekends."
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    (Laughter)
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    Now, when a woman says,
    "I did it for peace in my marriage,"
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    she's usually talking
    about giving up a job,
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    a dream,
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    a career.
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    We teach females that in relationships,
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    compromise is what women do.
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    We raise girls to see
    each other as competitors --
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    not for jobs or for accomplishments,
    which I think can be a good thing,
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    but for attention of men.
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    We teach girls that they
    cannot be sexual beings
  • 15:59 - 16:00
    in the way that boys are.
  • 16:00 - 16:04
    If we have sons, we don't mind
    knowing about our sons' girlfriends.
  • 16:04 - 16:07
    But our daughters' boyfriends? God forbid.
  • 16:07 - 16:08
    (Laughter)
  • 16:08 - 16:10
    But of course when the time is right,
  • 16:10 - 16:14
    we expect those girls to bring back
    the perfect man to be their husbands.
  • 16:14 - 16:18
    We police girls,
    we praise girls for virginity,
  • 16:18 - 16:20
    but we don't praise boys for virginity,
  • 16:20 - 16:24
    and it's always made me wonder how exactly
    this is supposed to work out because ...
  • 16:24 - 16:26
    (Laughter)
  • 16:26 - 16:29
    (Applause)
  • 16:34 - 16:37
    I mean, the loss of virginity
    is usually a process that involves ...
  • 16:39 - 16:43
    Recently a young woman
    was gang raped in a university in Nigeria,
  • 16:43 - 16:45
    I think some of us know about that.
  • 16:45 - 16:48
    And the response of many young Nigerians,
    both male and female,
  • 16:48 - 16:50
    was something along the lines of this:
  • 16:50 - 16:53
    "Yes, rape is wrong.
  • 16:53 - 16:56
    But what is a girl doing
    in a room with four boys?"
  • 16:57 - 17:01
    Now, if we can forget
    the horrible inhumanity of that response,
  • 17:02 - 17:06
    these Nigerians have been raised
    to think of women as inherently guilty,
  • 17:07 - 17:10
    and they have been raised
    to expect so little of men
  • 17:10 - 17:14
    that the idea of men as savage beings
    without any control
  • 17:14 - 17:15
    is somehow acceptable.
  • 17:17 - 17:19
    We teach girls shame.
  • 17:19 - 17:21
    "Close your legs." "Cover yourself."
  • 17:21 - 17:24
    We make them feel
    as though by being born female
  • 17:24 - 17:26
    they're already guilty of something.
  • 17:26 - 17:28
    And so, girls grow up to be women
  • 17:28 - 17:30
    who cannot see they have desire.
  • 17:30 - 17:33
    They grow up to be women
    who silence themselves.
  • 17:35 - 17:38
    They grow up to be women
    who cannot say what they truly think,
  • 17:39 - 17:40
    and they grow up --
  • 17:40 - 17:42
    and this is the worst thing
    we did to girls --
  • 17:42 - 17:46
    they grow up to be women
    who have turned pretense into an art form.
  • 17:46 - 17:50
    (Applause)
  • 17:52 - 17:56
    I know a woman who hates domestic work,
  • 17:56 - 17:57
    she just hates it,
  • 17:57 - 17:59
    but she pretends that she likes it,
  • 18:00 - 18:04
    because she's been taught
    that to be "good wife material"
  • 18:04 - 18:07
    she has to be --
    to use that Nigerian word --
  • 18:07 - 18:08
    very "homely."
  • 18:09 - 18:11
    And then she got married,
  • 18:11 - 18:15
    and after a while her husband's family
    began to complain that she had changed.
  • 18:15 - 18:16
    (Laughter)
  • 18:16 - 18:18
    Actually, she had not changed,
  • 18:18 - 18:20
    she just got tired of pretending.
  • 18:21 - 18:24
    The problem with gender,
  • 18:24 - 18:26
    is that it prescribes how we should be
  • 18:26 - 18:28
    rather than recognizing how we are.
  • 18:29 - 18:32
    Now imagine how much happier we would be,
  • 18:32 - 18:35
    how much freer to be
    our true individual selves,
  • 18:35 - 18:38
    if we didn't have the weight
    of gender expectations.
  • 18:39 - 18:44
    Boys and girls are
    undeniably different biologically,
  • 18:44 - 18:47
    but socialization
    exaggerates the differences
  • 18:47 - 18:50
    and then it becomes
    a self-fulfilling process.
  • 18:50 - 18:52
    Now, take cooking for example.
  • 18:52 - 18:56
    Today women in general are more likely
    to do the housework than men,
  • 18:56 - 18:57
    the cooking and cleaning.
  • 18:57 - 18:59
    But why is that?
  • 18:59 - 19:02
    Is it because women
    are born with a cooking gene?
  • 19:02 - 19:03
    (Laughter)
  • 19:03 - 19:07
    Or because over years they have been
    socialized to see cooking as their role?
  • 19:07 - 19:11
    Actually, I was going to say that maybe
    women are born with a cooking gene,
  • 19:11 - 19:14
    until I remember that the majority
    of the famous cooks in the world,
  • 19:14 - 19:17
    whom we give the fancy title of "chefs,"
  • 19:17 - 19:18
    are men.
  • 19:19 - 19:21
    I used to look up to my grandmother
  • 19:21 - 19:23
    who was a brilliant, brilliant woman,
  • 19:23 - 19:24
    and wonder how she would have been
  • 19:25 - 19:28
    if she had the same opportunities
    as men when she was growing up.
  • 19:29 - 19:32
    Now today, there are
    many more opportunities for women
  • 19:32 - 19:34
    than there were
    during my grandmother's time
  • 19:34 - 19:36
    because of changes in policy,
    changes in law,
  • 19:36 - 19:38
    all of which are very important.
  • 19:38 - 19:43
    But what matters even more
    is our attitude, our mindset,
  • 19:43 - 19:46
    what we believe
    and what we value about gender.
  • 19:46 - 19:48
    What if in raising children
  • 19:48 - 19:51
    we focus on ability instead of gender?
  • 19:52 - 19:56
    What if in raising children
    we focus on interest instead of gender?
  • 19:57 - 19:59
    I know a family
    who have a son and a daughter,
  • 19:59 - 20:01
    both of whom are brilliant at school,
  • 20:01 - 20:03
    who are wonderful, lovely children.
  • 20:03 - 20:06
    When the boy is hungry,
    the parents say to the girl,
  • 20:06 - 20:08
    "Go and cook Indomie noodles
    for your brother."
  • 20:08 - 20:09
    (Laughter)
  • 20:09 - 20:13
    Now, the daughter doesn't
    particularly like to cook Indomie noodles,
  • 20:13 - 20:15
    but she's a girl, and so she has to.
  • 20:15 - 20:17
    Now, what if the parents,
  • 20:17 - 20:19
    from the beginning,
  • 20:19 - 20:23
    taught both the boy and the girl
    to cook Indomie?
  • 20:24 - 20:27
    Cooking, by the way,
    is a very useful skill for boys to have.
  • 20:27 - 20:32
    I've never thought it made sense
    to leave such a crucial thing,
  • 20:32 - 20:34
    the ability to nourish oneself --
  • 20:34 - 20:35
    (Laughter)
  • 20:35 - 20:37
    in the hands of others.
  • 20:37 - 20:39
    (Applause)
  • 20:42 - 20:46
    I know a woman who has the same degree
    and the same job as her husband.
  • 20:46 - 20:49
    When they get back from work,
    she does most of the housework,
  • 20:49 - 20:51
    which I think is true for many marriages.
  • 20:51 - 20:52
    But what struck me about them
  • 20:53 - 20:55
    was that whenever her husband
    changed the baby's diaper,
  • 20:56 - 20:58
    she said "thank you" to him.
  • 20:59 - 21:03
    Now, what if she saw this
    as perfectly normal and natural
  • 21:03 - 21:07
    that he should, in fact,
    care for his child?
  • 21:07 - 21:09
    (Laughter)
  • 21:10 - 21:13
    I'm trying to unlearn
    many of the lessons of gender
  • 21:13 - 21:15
    that I internalized when I was growing up.
  • 21:16 - 21:21
    But I sometimes still feel very vulnerable
    in the face of gender expectations.
  • 21:21 - 21:24
    The first time I taught
    a writing class in graduate school,
  • 21:24 - 21:26
    I was worried.
  • 21:26 - 21:28
    I wasn't worried
    about the material I would teach
  • 21:28 - 21:29
    because I was well-prepared,
  • 21:29 - 21:32
    and I was going to teach
    what I enjoy teaching.
  • 21:32 - 21:34
    Instead, I was worried about what to wear.
  • 21:35 - 21:36
    I wanted to be taken seriously.
  • 21:37 - 21:39
    I knew that because I was female
  • 21:39 - 21:42
    I will automatically
    have to prove my worth.
  • 21:43 - 21:45
    And I was worried
    that if I looked too feminine,
  • 21:46 - 21:47
    I would not be taken seriously.
  • 21:47 - 21:52
    I really wanted to wear
    my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt,
  • 21:52 - 21:53
    but I decided not to.
  • 21:54 - 21:56
    Instead, I wore a very serious,
  • 21:56 - 21:58
    very manly and very ugly suit.
  • 21:59 - 22:00
    (Laughter)
  • 22:00 - 22:03
    Because the sad truth is
    that when it comes to appearance
  • 22:03 - 22:05
    we start off with men
    as the standard, as the norm.
  • 22:06 - 22:08
    If a man is getting ready
    for a business meeting,
  • 22:08 - 22:10
    he doesn't worry
    about looking too masculine
  • 22:10 - 22:13
    and therefore not being taken for granted.
  • 22:13 - 22:15
    If a woman has to get ready
    for business meeting,
  • 22:16 - 22:18
    she has to worry
    about looking too feminine
  • 22:18 - 22:23
    and what it says and whether or not
    she will be taken seriously.
  • 22:24 - 22:26
    I wish I had not worn
    that ugly suit that day.
  • 22:27 - 22:31
    I've actually banished it
    from my closet, by the way.
  • 22:31 - 22:36
    Had I then the confidence
    that I have now to be myself,
  • 22:36 - 22:38
    my students would have benefited
    even more from my teaching,
  • 22:39 - 22:41
    because I would have been more comfortable
  • 22:41 - 22:43
    and more fully and more truly myself.
  • 22:44 - 22:48
    I have chosen to no longer
    be apologetic for my femaleness
  • 22:48 - 22:49
    and for my femininity.
  • 22:50 - 22:53
    (Applause)
  • 22:56 - 22:59
    And I want to be respected
    in all of my femaleness
  • 22:59 - 23:00
    because I deserve to be.
  • 23:01 - 23:04
    Gender is not an easy
    conversation to have.
  • 23:05 - 23:07
    For both men and women,
  • 23:07 - 23:11
    to bring up gender is sometimes
    to encounter almost immediate resistance.
  • 23:11 - 23:14
    I can imagine some people here
    are actually thinking,
  • 23:14 - 23:16
    "Women too do sef."
  • 23:18 - 23:20
    Some of the men here might be thinking,
  • 23:20 - 23:21
    "OK, all of this is interesting,
  • 23:21 - 23:23
    but I don't think like that."
  • 23:24 - 23:26
    And that is part of the problem.
  • 23:26 - 23:29
    That many men do not
    actively think about gender
  • 23:29 - 23:31
    or notice gender
  • 23:31 - 23:33
    is part of the problem of gender.
  • 23:33 - 23:35
    That many men, say, like my friend Louis,
  • 23:35 - 23:37
    that everything is fine now.
  • 23:38 - 23:41
    And that many men do nothing to change it.
  • 23:41 - 23:44
    If you are a man and you walk
    into a restaurant with a woman
  • 23:44 - 23:46
    and the waiter greets only you,
  • 23:46 - 23:49
    does it occur to you to ask the waiter,
  • 23:49 - 23:50
    "Why haven't you greeted her?"
  • 23:53 - 23:55
    Because gender can be --
  • 23:55 - 23:57
    (Laughter)
  • 24:05 - 24:09
    Actually, we may repose
    part of a longer version of this talk.
  • 24:09 - 24:13
    So, because gender can be
    a very uncomfortable conversation to have,
  • 24:13 - 24:16
    there are very easy ways to close it,
    to close the conversation.
  • 24:16 - 24:20
    So some people will bring up
    evolutionary biology and apes,
  • 24:20 - 24:24
    how, you know, female apes
    bow down to male apes
  • 24:24 - 24:25
    and that sort of thing.
  • 24:26 - 24:28
    But the point is we're not apes.
  • 24:28 - 24:29
    (Laughter)
  • 24:29 - 24:33
    (Applause)
  • 24:34 - 24:39
    Apes also live on trees
    and have earthworms for breakfast,
  • 24:39 - 24:40
    and we don't.
  • 24:41 - 24:45
    Some people will say,
    "Well, poor men also have a hard time."
  • 24:46 - 24:47
    And this is true.
  • 24:48 - 24:49
    But that is not what this --
  • 24:49 - 24:50
    (Laughter)
  • 24:50 - 24:53
    But this is not
    what this conversation is about.
  • 24:54 - 24:58
    Gender and class
    are different forms of oppression.
  • 24:58 - 25:02
    I actually learned quite a bit
    about systems of oppression
  • 25:02 - 25:04
    and how they can be blind to one another
  • 25:04 - 25:06
    by talking to black men.
  • 25:07 - 25:10
    I was once talking
    to a black man about gender
  • 25:11 - 25:12
    and he said to me,
  • 25:12 - 25:15
    "Why do you have to say
    'my experience as a woman'?
  • 25:15 - 25:17
    Why can't it be
  • 25:17 - 25:19
    'your experience as a human being'?"
  • 25:20 - 25:21
    Now, this was the same man
  • 25:21 - 25:24
    who would often talk
    about his experience as a black man.
  • 25:27 - 25:29
    Gender matters.
  • 25:29 - 25:31
    Men and women
    experience the world differently.
  • 25:31 - 25:34
    Gender colors the way
    we experience the world.
  • 25:34 - 25:35
    But we can change that.
  • 25:37 - 25:38
    Some people will say,
  • 25:38 - 25:41
    "Oh, but women have the real power,
  • 25:41 - 25:43
    bottom power."
  • 25:43 - 25:46
    And for non-Nigerians,
    bottom power is an expression
  • 25:46 - 25:48
    which I suppose means
    something like a woman
  • 25:48 - 25:50
    who uses her sexuality
    to get favors from men.
  • 25:51 - 25:54
    But bottom power is not power at all.
  • 25:56 - 25:59
    Bottom power means that a woman
  • 25:59 - 26:02
    simply has a good root to tap into,
    from time to time --
  • 26:02 - 26:04
    somebody else's power.
  • 26:05 - 26:06
    And then, of course, we have to wonder
  • 26:07 - 26:09
    what happens when
    that somebody else is in a bad mood,
  • 26:09 - 26:11
    or sick
  • 26:11 - 26:12
    or impotent.
  • 26:12 - 26:16
    (Laughter)
  • 26:16 - 26:22
    Some people will say that a woman
    being subordinate to a man is our culture.
  • 26:23 - 26:25
    But culture is constantly changing.
  • 26:25 - 26:29
    I have beautiful twin nieces
    who are fifteen and live in Lagos.
  • 26:29 - 26:31
    If they had been born a hundred years ago
  • 26:32 - 26:34
    they would have been
    taken away and killed.
  • 26:34 - 26:37
    Because it was our culture,
    it was our culture to kill twins.
  • 26:39 - 26:41
    So what is the point of culture?
  • 26:41 - 26:43
    I mean there's the decorative,
  • 26:43 - 26:45
    the dancing ...
  • 26:45 - 26:49
    but also, culture really is about
    preservation and continuity of a people.
  • 26:49 - 26:51
    In my family,
  • 26:51 - 26:54
    I am the child who is most interested
    in the story of who we are,
  • 26:54 - 26:55
    in our traditions,
  • 26:55 - 26:57
    in the knowledge about ancestral lands.
  • 26:57 - 27:00
    My brothers are not as interested as I am.
  • 27:00 - 27:01
    But I cannot participate,
  • 27:02 - 27:04
    I cannot go to umunna meetings,
  • 27:04 - 27:06
    I cannot have a say.
  • 27:06 - 27:07
    Because I'm female.
  • 27:08 - 27:10
    Culture does not make people,
  • 27:10 - 27:12
    people make culture.
  • 27:13 - 27:15
    So if it is in fact true --
  • 27:15 - 27:18
    (Applause)
  • 27:18 - 27:20
    So if it is in fact true
  • 27:20 - 27:23
    that the full humanity of women
    is not our culture,
  • 27:23 - 27:25
    then we must make it our culture.
  • 27:26 - 27:32
    I think very often of my dear friend,
    Okoloma Maduewesi.
  • 27:32 - 27:36
    May he and all the others
    who passed away in that Sosoliso crash
  • 27:36 - 27:37
    continue to rest in peace.
  • 27:38 - 27:41
    He will always be remembered
    by those of us who loved him.
  • 27:43 - 27:47
    And he was right that day many years ago
    when he called me a feminist.
  • 27:47 - 27:49
    I am a feminist.
  • 27:49 - 27:52
    And when I looked up the word
    in the dictionary that day,
  • 27:52 - 27:53
    this is what it said:
  • 27:53 - 27:57
    "Feminist: a person
    who believes in the social, political
  • 27:57 - 28:00
    and economic equality of the sexes."
  • 28:01 - 28:03
    My great grandmother,
    from the stories I've heard,
  • 28:03 - 28:05
    was a feminist.
  • 28:05 - 28:08
    She ran away from the house of the man
    she did not want to marry
  • 28:08 - 28:11
    and ended up marrying
    the man of her choice.
  • 28:11 - 28:14
    She refused, she protested, she spoke up
  • 28:14 - 28:19
    whenever she felt she was being deprived
    of access, of land, that sort of thing.
  • 28:19 - 28:23
    My great grandmother
    did not know that word "feminist,"
  • 28:23 - 28:25
    but it doesn't mean that she wasn't one.
  • 28:26 - 28:28
    More of us should reclaim that word.
  • 28:30 - 28:32
    My own definition of feminist is:
  • 28:33 - 28:36
    "A feminist is a man or a woman
  • 28:36 - 28:37
    who says --
  • 28:37 - 28:41
    (Laughter)
  • 28:41 - 28:44
    (Applause)
  • 28:47 - 28:50
    A feminist is a man or a woman who says,
  • 28:50 - 28:53
    "Yes, there's a problem
    with gender as it is today,
  • 28:53 - 28:54
    and we must fix it.
  • 28:55 - 28:56
    We must do better."
  • 28:58 - 29:00
    The best feminist I know
  • 29:00 - 29:01
    is my brother Kene.
  • 29:03 - 29:07
    He's also a kind,
    good-looking, lovely man,
  • 29:07 - 29:09
    and he's very masculine.
  • 29:09 - 29:11
    Thank you.
  • 29:11 - 29:15
    (Applause)
Title:
We should all be feminists
Speaker:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Description:

We teach girls that they can have ambition, but not too much ... to be successful, but not too successful, or they'll threaten men, says author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this classic talk that started a worldwide conversation about feminism, Adichie asks that we begin to dream about and plan for a different, fairer world -- of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
29:28

English subtitles

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