A Rhetorical Analysis of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Speech “We Should All Be Feminists”

This paper undertakes a minutely-detailed analysis of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talks speech entitled “We Should All Be Feminists.” It attempts to establish Adichie’s speech as qualified, worthy of appreciation, and most importantly as the guidance of change.

Who is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian feminist who was born on 15th September 1977. She is the winner of won several awards for her writing, most precious being National Books Critics Circle Award for fiction category.

Adichie is the author of several books like Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, A Private Experience, We Should All Be Feminists, etc.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Speech “We Should All Be Feminists”

In fact, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does not straightforwardly attack the man. Instead, she asks women to rise and go beyond patriarchy. She shares her experiences of being an African feminist, and her views on gender construction and sexuality. Adichie says that the problem with gender is that it shapes who we are.

The speech originally aims to inspire women, especially young aspiring women, to develop and preserve their autonomy and independence. She, very tactfully, raises the social issues wherever gender discriminations take place. She is self-motivated to bring about drastic changes in society, through her works, so that women can live as a respectable life as men do. This paper follows the rhetorical strategies in order to authenticate and verify Adichie’s speech as reasonable and worthy of consideration.

As an educated female it is not unnatural that she has chosen to fight for the end of gender-based discrimination. She is ethically-motivated to raise her voice. There is widespread discrimination on the basis of gender. For example, she recalls an incident when someone said,

“feminists are those girls who are unhappy because they do not find men to marry.”

She laughs at this. Likewise, when she went to a Nigerian hotel alone, the guard suspected her of being a prostitute. It is because a woman is supposed to accompany a man and people consider a woman walking alone a prostitute. As a matter of fact, she does not sound very harsh, rather she talks very strategically. She does not cry over the incidence when her brother got the thanks though she paid the bill at a hotel.

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Furthermore, she argues that we use the word “respect” to mean something that woman shows to a man, but not as something that man shows to a woman. And she says marriage is a bond of ownership, not so much of partnership. It is true that once you marry, the man possesses the woman and feels both pride and desolation on her basis. Hence, she is committed to changing these notions of patriarchy.

Logically, she believes and it is true, that there should be no discrimination just because we are biologically-structured differently. The most important thing she demands of the society is respect for women for what they do. Actually, she demands respect to people for their deeds, not for their gender. A woman also can control the class, as well as men, do, but once she became first and still could not become the class monitor because she was a girl. If they were not to choose a female student as a class-monitor, why would they let girls participate in the competition in the first place?

Again, she does not reprimand men but just reveals the truth. Even in the twenty-first century, women are not considered to be economically as vibrant as men. Being suspected of prostitution as she entered a hotel alone, she was badly affected. Why is it that only men are supposed to have money? Not all women are confined to the four walls, and Adichie is working too hard to bring all women at the level of men, for there should be no discrimination at all on the basis of our biological structure.

She is neutrally emotional because patriarchy teaches her to be passive and she challenges the very notion. She brings forward the fact that we teach girls shame whereas boys are acceptable if they are uncontrollable. The society makes them feel as though being born as female they are already guilty of something. In some parts of the world, daughters get the treatment as if they are some kind of culprits in the family. Even in the context of some Asian communities, some families do not accept a girl child. They still blindly follow the conservative assumption that in order to go to heaven after death, they need at least a son.

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However, if they do not have a daughter, that is quite a matter of pride for them. Adichie further explains

“we praise girls for virginity. But we don’t praise boys for virginity.”

When girls grow up to be women they are taught to silence themselves and they cannot fulfill their desires whereas boys victimize girls for their satisfaction.

Adichie is an inspiration for not only girls and women in the world but also for boys who respect women and girls. Adichie brings an issue of a couple who have equal income from outside, but when they come home, most of the works are done by the woman and every time the husband changes diapers to their baby, she thanks him. Is not that the baby of the husband too? A husband and a wife actually have equal right and responsibility when it comes to taking care of a child and bringing them up. She asserts that the woman had to take it as natural and normal. In a graduate lecture, she was well prepared with the materials. So, she was not worried about what to teach, she rather was worried about what to wear. She further argues:

“the sad truth is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with the man as the standard, as the norm.”

She has been very conscious of her gender and as a female, she knows how difficult it is for women to deal with gender-based discrimination from the society they live in. For that reason, she speaks against such issues when everybody is silent.

Adichie has spoken among a bunch of educated people who can transform the world in terms of gender-based issues, but only if they acknowledge her speech. Her speech is very simple in words so that everybody can understand what she has to say. She speaks very simply not because she does not know to speak with complex words, but it is because she has mastered using simple language. It is partly natural and partly unnatural for her to speak with such confidence. Yet, we can say only this: she has done a great thing by speaking out and inspiring other girls and women to speak too.

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