Sweden’s Required Reading: ‘We Should All Be Feminists’
You might know the words from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists from Beyoncé’s sampling of them in her tune “Flawless.” But teens in Sweden who might have missed out on Adichie’s solo appearance in the pop hit will soon read and study her words.
Every 16-year-old in Sweden will receive a translated copy of the Nigerian author’s book, the Swedish Women’s Lobby announced on Tuesday.
“This is the book I would have wanted to get for all the guys in my class when I was 16 years old,” said lobby chair Clara Berglund in the announcement. “That is why it is so important that we contribute to this project. It is a gift to all students…but also a gift to ourselves and to future generations.”
The book is based on Adichie’s 2013 TED Talk of the same name, which boasts more than 2.3 million views on YouTube. Adichie tells her personal story of identifying as a feminist and the negative connotations associated with the word.
So far, more than 100,000 copies of the book have been distributed to Swedish teens. Next year, the advocacy organization will also provide discussion questions for schools teaching Adichie’s text.
Sweden’s efforts to teach feminism come at a time when the concept is often shied away from. The U.K. Department of Education opted to remove feminism from the list of required topics in upper-level politics courses. School officials in Ohio photoshopped “feminist” off a student’s T-shirt in a class photo, fearing it was too controversial. Celebrities from Meryl Streep to Björk have waffled over identifying with the term, fearing it would isolate them.
Earlier this week actor and activist Emma Watson told the Evening Standard that she was encouraged not to use the word “feminism” during her “He for She” speech about gender equality at United Nations headquarters for fear it would alienate viewers—advice she chose not to follow.
Despite all the controversy, Adichie clearly defines a feminist as a “person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes,” rather than a bra-burning man hater. Adichie hopes that young men and women will come to the same conclusion she did after reading her book.
“When I was 16, I don’t think I knew what the word ‘feminist’ meant. I don’t think I knew the word at all. But I was a feminist,” Adichie said in a video message to the teens about to receive her book. “And I hope that the 16-year-olds that will read this book in Sweden will also decide that they’re feminists.”