Swedish Teenagers to be Given a Teaspoon of Feminism

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie author of ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ Image: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Late on Friday night I finished watching an episode from series three of The BridgeIf you haven’t watched any of this Scandinavian crime series, I wholeheartedly recommend you do. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever watched on television.

But this post is not about that. At the end of the episode I wanted to clarify a plot point from series two, and a quick internet search took me to a synopsis written for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. At the bottom of the article was a link to a more recent news-story: “Every 16-year-old in Sweden to receive copy of We Should All Be Feminists.”

This seemed to me like an amazing thing. An amazing and sensible thing. It was well past bedtime, but I read on, fascinated, following link after link.

All the thoughts written for this post came directly from rummaging around on the Guardian website, so many thanks to them for some excellent reporting.

We Should All Be Feminists was written in 2014 by award winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Her novel Half a Yellow Sun recently won a “best of the best” accolade from a prestigious UK literary prize). The essay was adapted from her award-winning TED talk, the video of which has been viewed over 2.3 million times.

I have only read an extract of the essay, but I have watched the entire TED talk. It ought to be required viewing. Adichie is precise and eloquent in her description of gender inequality and the detriment it causes to everybody. Not just women, but men as well.

Feminism is a word with many differing connotations, but in her talk, Adichie, whilst not redefining it, clarifies it into something everybody ought to be able to understand. There is nothing threatening or man-hating in it. She clearly defines the cultural benefits of a more equal society. “Feminism,” she says in her introduction to the Swedish initiative,” is about justice.”

I think all teenagers should be given opportunity to read and discuss this essay. I find it in every way laudable that a non-government operation have deemed it worth putting it into the hands of Sweden’s teenagers. Only good can come from it. If reading Adichie’s essay gives just one girl the confidence to be what she wants, rather than trying to conform to what she feels society wants her to be, the venture will have been a worthwhile enterprise.

The gender gap is, I hope, getting smaller, and by allowing our children to listen to or read the words of writers like Adichie we can close it further. If our children can view the world the way she views the world, then gender equality will become a tangible prospect.

It’s almost impossible to move in geek-world these days without rubbing up against gender issues. Whether it be Gamergate, Sad Puppies or a dearth of Black Widow toys, everyday it seems there’s something to highlight the gender gap. Closing the gap will be a gradual process; a series of small steps, or perhaps, putting out a fire with a teaspoon.

Part of the sponsorship of this project in Sweden comes from The Order of the Teaspoon. This is not an archaic coven of British tea-drinkers, but an organisation inspired by writer Amos Oz, the motto of which is “Together for diversity and tolerance”.

The idea that underpins the Order is that, whilst intolerance may be a raging fire, if enough people with enough teaspoons join together, that fire can be extinguished. Essentially, alone we are small but together we are mighty.

With the current state of the world it’s an ideology that I want to believe in. The fire of religious intolerance and fanaticism burns across the globe. The sale of high-powered assault weapons seems like an unstoppable inferno. Fighting fire with fire, rarely seems to work, but perhaps enough people with enough spoons might one day dampen the destruction.

Closing the gender gap by comparison to those above examples feels possible, especially in the hands of thinkers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Through funding this project The Order of The Teaspoon and its allies are giving teaspoons to teenagers. Maybe they can fashion them into a bridge with which they can breach the divide.

Whilst Swedish teenagers will be receiving their own copies of Adichie’s essay, it is possible to buy your own, or, if you prefer, watch the TED talk on YouTube, and do what I did; poke in and around the Guardian article. You’ll find plenty of food for thought and a teaspoon with which you might change the world.

Weapons of Mass Persuasion? Image: Mathis Lohaus
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