By Oluwatoyin Adeleye
Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has spoken at the famed Chatham House Conference this week.
The ‘Americana’ writer spoke during an annual dinner organised by the Chatham House.
The feminist litereary icon spoke about the power of storytelling at the event.
Her speech was significant as the British Institution is known more for hosting Heads of States and focusing on global political affairs – an area dominated by male voices.
As is her custom, she spoke unapologetically about feminism, racism, patriarchy and power.
“I think men should read more stories by and about women,” she said at the annual Chatham House conference. “We know from studies that men read men, and women read men and women. Perhaps if men read more women’s stories, they would be more likely to see them as fully human and less likely to see them as objects that exist for the needs of men.”
Watch excerpts from her speech below:
Turning to books is often her solution to problems, Adichie said. “I think of literature as my religion, and I have learned from literature that all of us human beings are flawed,” Adichie said. “And I’ve also learned that most of us have the possibility for redemption. We can remake masculinity from the narrow cage for men into a humane, expansive idea.”
The tendency of men to put women on a pedestal, to treat them as “little gods that need to be worshipped,” is also dehumanizing, Adichie said. Because “if this is true then there is a certain level of autonomy that they can never truly have and it is important to teach boys that women have full autonomy, just as men have.”
American boys start to get “screwed up” at a young age, as young as 10, says Adichie, referencing a 1992 article by the writer Susan Orlean, titled “The American Man, age 10.” The more recent research of Niobe Way, a New York University professor of applied psychology, supports this idea, and underlines the importance of intervening early, when boys have not yet been subjected to toxic ideas of what masculinity is and isn’t.
“Most importantly, what we need to do before they turn 10 is teach boys that women are human,” Adichie said. “It can seem obvious—of course women are human—but if our world truly valued the humanity of women, then I would not be here speaking about feminism.”
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