By Rachel Benbrook, Regular ContributorJuly 12, 2015
The well-known feminist speaker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, recently gave an inspirational commencement speech regarding all aspects of women’s rights at Wellesley College.
Fore me, one of the most inspirational and impactful moments of her speech was when she addressed the subject of privilege. This struck a chord with me for many reasons. I believe we often only see things through our own perspectives, and we let our backgrounds determine the lenses in which we interpret situations, such as gender norms.
image via ripostemagazine.com
Chimamanda made the excellent point that men are not inherently bad or evil. Many men, especially those from certain cultural contexts, often interpret feminism and feminist issues without looking into their own sense of privilege with which they were born, simply because they were born male.
She went on to explain that each of us, both male and female, have a certain sense of privilege that can stop us from being alert to others who are different from us. In order to understand the needs of others, you must often push your own sense of privilege to the side and attempt to understand where the other individual is coming from.
Even when we evaluate the feminist movement, feminism means many different things to different people depending on when they grew up, what type of home they come from, etc.
Feminist thought must encompass all different types of feminists and must put aside privileges that may seek to limit those who are welcome at the table of modern day feminism. Chimamanda’s speech made me realize, with resounding clarity, that there is room for everyone in the modern day feminist movement.
Chimamanda also stated that gender is always about context and circumstances. The way in which we perceive gender norms also arises from our cultural context, our upbringings, etc. Gender may come into play in ways we didn’t even realize. This is why we must keep a broad and open mind when allowing others to express their views on feminism. There is room for everyone when it comes to advocating for women’s rights. What may be important to one of us may seem small to another, and this can sometimes lead to judgment that only hinders progress.
I encourage you to follow Chimamanda’s lead and put your own privileges aside when you evaluate the opinions of others. Every individual has a perspective, and we must learn to celebrate these differences in order to push the message of feminism forward and create a better society for everyone.
Did you listen to Chimamanda's speech? What did you think? Do you view feminism and gender from a specific perspective? How can we broaden our views? Tell us below!
Rachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Leeds where she studied Political Communications. She is a passionate advocate of strong friendships, caffeine, social justice, current events, travels and adventures, as well as all things peanut butter. She enjoys watching Parks and Recreation, as well as teaching English to new language learners.