Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become known as a champion of feminism, and now she tackles feminist parenting.
The 39-year-old writer received a letter from Ijeawele, a reader looking for advice on how to approach motherhood and raise her newborn as a feminist.
Adichie responded to the new mother, and shared it as an essay on Facebook, last week.
“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally,” she began. From there she wrote an eloquent message with 15 suggestions for mothers looking for ways to introduce their kids to ideas about equality and empowerment for women.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reads from one of her novels during the Washington Ideas Forum (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Her first suggestion elevated working mothers.
“Be a full person,” Adichie writes. “Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that.”
Whether you’re following your passion, or working, it allows you to set an example of independence and self-fulfillment for your child.
The author also noted that sharing parenting roles between the mother and father is necessary and shouldn’t be considered “helping” or “babysitting” but a fatherly duty. And in general, parents should teach their kids that gender roles are “absolute nonsense.”
“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally.”
Teaching children to question language was another tip from Adichie. Be aware of the words you use around kids and the underlying impressions they might hold. Don’t describe a mechanic as a “lady mechanic,” for example, she’s a mechanic.
The rest of her tips went over: the dangers of “Feminism Lite,” the importance of books, how to engage with her appearance and likeability, marriage and addressing sex and romance early on.
The essay struck more people than just the mother to whom the letter was addressed.
It has been shared more than 6,500 times on Facebook and garnered hundreds of comments from readers.
Many said they didn’t necessarily agree with all of her points, but the message urged them to start adding feminist lessons into their parenting.
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Beyoncé is known for being a feminist. In a recent interview with ELLE, the 34-year-old explained what the word means for her daughter. “If a man can do it, a woman should be able to. It’s that simple,” she said.
But the singer also believes we shouldn’t just empower girls, but teach both sexes the same life lessons: “Some of the things that we teach our daughters — allowing them to express their emotions, their pain and vulnerability — we need to allow and support our men and boys to do as well.”
“It’s not a thing that you teach your kid, it’s just the way you live,” Jennifer Garner said of feminism in 2014. “I don’t think that you need to go to work and be a power-woman to be a feminist. But I want my kids to know that if working is important to me, then that’s totally valid.”
Garner is also teaching her kids that they don’t have to be confined to gender roles. “I want my girls to love math. I want them to think that being a scientist is the coolest possible job on the planet,” she told Glamour. “I want them to not be afraid to lean toward their femininity; to love carrying a baby doll around; to know how to bake. And to be able to kick a guy’s ass — that’s why they’ve been in karate since they were little!”
Garner has three kids with Ben Affleck: Violet, 10, Seraphina, 7, and Samuel, 4.
In line with his soon-to-be ex-wife’s views on feminism, Ben Affleck told Cosmopolitan in 2014: “Our daughters understand what my wife understands full well, which is it’s important to be strong, present, and powerful, and accept nothing less than a man would — in fact, ask for more. And, you know, that’s part of what I admire so much about my wife, and I know that through her example, my children will absorb that.”
We didn’t need those feminist Ryan Gosling memes to know that the Canadian actor is a feminist himself. After the birth of his first daughter Esmeralda in 2014, Gosling told Sunday Style, “I do have a little girl now and it’s important to me. These things are becoming… not more important to me, but more important in general, I think.”
The actor went on to say he has always had “very strong female characters in my life” and was never one to conform to gender roles. “Growing up, I never played sports,” he said. “I was in dance class and things like that. Also, I just grew up around a lot of girls.”
Gosling has two daughters, Esmeralda and Amada, with longtime partner Eva Mendes.
Geena Davis is a mom to three boys: Alizeh, 14, and twins Kian and Kaiis, 12. To teach her kids about feminism, the actress uses media to encourage her sons to ask questions and think about what they are watching.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, did you notice that only boys are in that scene, or doing that activity? Don’t you think that girls could do it, too?’” Davis told Working Mother. “Or, ‘Why do you think there are more boys than girls in that show. Is that fair?’”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a self-proclaimed feminist and is raising his kids – Xavier, 8, Ella-Grace, 7, and Hadrien, 2 – to be the same.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist,” he said at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in January. “Men and women should use it to describe themselves any time they want.”
Sandra Bullock has always been outspoken when it comes to sexism and inequality in Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that the 51-year-old star is a feminist. Bullock is a mom to six-year-old Louis and four-year-old Laila.
In the past, the actress has openly stated that she’s “trying to raise a good man who values and appreciates women.” She’s also shared solid advice to empower the women in her life: “What do I want to say to little girls that I know? Don’t change. Be who you are.”
While Will Smith has never blatantly stated that he is a feminist, he has openly taught his kids feminist ideals. In 2012, for instance, Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett let their then 12-year-old daughter Willow cut off all her hair to empower her.
“We let Willow cut her hair,” he said. “When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
It’s no surprise that Adele is raising her son Angelo to be a feminist. The 28-year-old previously stated outright that she is a feminist herself and that she believes “everyone should be treated the same, including race and sexuality.”
During a 2015 interview with Time, Adele also stated that she is empowering her son to be whoever he wants to be. “I can’t wait to know who his best friends are going to be, who his girlfriend or his boyfriend is going to be or what movies he likes,” she said. “Whatever my kid wants to do or be I will always support him no matter what.”
This is one Hollywood couple who isn’t afraid to speak out about feminism. In 2014, Teigen explained what it meant to her: “People have sorely messed up the definition of feminism. It isn’t saying this is wrong and this is right. It’s having the power to do whatever the fuck you want. It’s about having your own beliefs and staying true to them.”
In the past, both she and her husband have stood up against sexist shaming and defended women’s rights. Teigen even claims that Legend is “a bigger feminist” than she is. “He would always explain to me that there are so many different ways to be a strong woman,” she told The Huffington Post in 2014.
With such empowering parents like these, how could baby Luna Simone not grow up to be one herself?
In 2015, Ashton Kutcher solidified himself as one of our favourite celebrity feminists when he spoke out about how there are never any diaper change tables in men’s public washrooms.
“It is an injustice to assume it’s only a woman’s job to handle changing diapers,” he said. “I would like my daughter to experience a world where gender doesn’t dictate one’s responsibility or limit one’s opportunity.”
Kutcher and his wife Mila Kunis have a 20-month-old daughter named Wyatt Isabelle and are expecting their second child later this year.
Back in May, Amber Rose told People that raising her son, three-year-old Sebastian, to be a feminist is simple: “When my son goes to school and his friend calls a girl a hoe, I want him to be the first person to say, ‘Man, that’s not cool. You don’t talk to women like that.’ That’s very important to me.”
The 32-year-old model also told HuffPost Canada, “Being a feminist is just being for equality. That’s all being a feminist is. It’s very simple. Anything I can do, a man can do, and I shouldn’t be judged for it.”
In an interview with RadioTimes, Chris Hemsworth revealed that he’s a feminist because of his parents. “I think that my views on things, as far as respect for women and so on, came from my mom,” he said. “My dad has a very balanced and respectful view on a lot of things, too. They were huge positive influences in my life.”
The dad-of-three is now passing on his views to his children. Speaking of his latest film “The Huntsman” back in April, the actor said: “This is something I want my daughter to see – women who are in charge of their own destiny, they’re not waiting for the prince to rescue them, they can take over the world and lead armies. I think there’s not enough of it, and there should be more.”
Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky have three children: India, 4, and twins Tristan and Sasha, 2.
Christina Aguilera has a one-year-old daughter named Summer Rain and an eight-year-old son named Max. In a recent interview with ET, “The Voice” coach explained how she’s raising her kids to be feminists.
“[I’m] trying to be an example and speaking up about it,” the 35-year-old singer said. “Men have run the world for a while and this is the reason we don’t have another female coach because the odds are always kind of against us.”
Aguilera also added that she is raising her son to respect women and is all about empowering girls.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t afraid to say that he’s a feminist. In fact, the 35-year-old actually released a video in 2014 explaining his stance. “To me it just means your gender doesn’t have to define who you are,” he said. “You can be whatever you want to be, whoever you want to be regardless of your gender.”
With such positive views on feminism, we have no doubt he’ll pass them on to his baby boy, who he welcomed in 2015 with wife Tasha McCauley.
Jillian Michaels and her partner Heidi Rhoades are parents to two kids, Phoenix and Lukensia. Previously, the 42-year-old mom said that teaching her young kids feminism is “not something I’d shy away from in the future.”
While she hasn’t explained the concept to them outright, she has been setting a good example for them. “[My son] is surrounded by women,” Michaels explained. “Sometimes he wants to do the things his sister does sometimes. He wants to wear our heels if she’s wearing our heels, he wants to have a doll if she wants to have a doll. And we let him. We don’t want him to think, ‘Oh no. That’s for girls.’ We want him to appreciate that the things that are traditionally ‘feminine’ are not less than, or off limits.”