Analysis of Ngozi Adichie’s TEDxEuston Talk

Categorical influences including gender, social class and race, dictate the quality of life. Considering that individual experiences alter, it is imperative to acknowledge the localities and social location of an individual in order to determine their needs and their respective forces of inequalities.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie focuses on the localities and social location in Africa, and specifically, Nigeria. She reveals many experiences in her life, and in her surrounding African, cultural society wherein there are problematic injustices associated with gender inequality.

In order to provide a credible argument, she uses radical, multiethnic/multiracial, social constructionist, liberal, marxist and socialist feminist theories, ideologies relating to feminist studies of men, and terms pertaining to postmodern feminist and third-wave feminism. In Ngozi Adichie’s TEDxEuston Talk, We Should All Be Feminists (2013) (00:30:15), the many feminist theories are used to emphasize the need for feminism in everyday life. Although a few gaps in her presentation will be discussed throughout the discourse of the essay, Ngozi Adichie successfully makes her argument as to why we should all be feminists


Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018, December 17.)

Heteronormativity and Lesbian Feminism

The heteronormative society has affected my life as an artist. In my studios and Art History lectures, I’m constantly reminded that the art world is very phallocentric. The Art History Canon consists of cis-gendered, heteronormative, dead, genius, white men. These are the artists that are considered great. They were the game-changers. They dominate the art world, even presently which is phenomenal considering they are dead. And I’m left in a dead-stare, wondering what my place/worth as a woman artist is. 

Nonetheless, in the journey uncovering why there were no women artists, we are learning that there were indeed women artists as far back as the Renaissance. It just so happened to be that they used their partners or father’s name, stopped their practice to see their partner succeed, or they were simply written out of documents as new editions were printed. 

Ultimately, I believe the emergence of lesbian feminism in the 1970’s allowed women to separate themselves fully from the male artist. Women artists used that period to create their own identity, and for many of them, that meant leaving their husbands and/or boyfriends “because intimacy with a man undercuts a woman’s independence” (Lorber 163). 

Although video and written documentations of emerging women artists in the 1970’s shows that they used lesbian feminism as a means to separate their role as the Other and comfortably come out of the closet, presently, women artists can use lesbian feminist politics to combat the Art History Cannon. Women can produce art that is separate from her male counterpart, without being ‘for the man’ or judged as overtly feminine. 

When women start using art to explore their own identity, a new perspective is born. Women dismantle their role as subject of the male gaze. She un-writes her story as intuitive, fragile, submissive and served only as a sexual object.

Lorber writes that “lesbian feminism praises women’s sexuality and bodies, mother-daughter love, and the culture of women (…)” (153). It is a concept that allows women artists, such as myself, an opportunity to share my own story without influences of heteronormativity. 


Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018, September 26). Re: Feminizing Equalities [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from https://mycourselink.lakeheadu.ca/d2l/home/52600.

References

Lorber, J. (2012). Gender Inequality: feminist theories and politics. (5th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Capitalism and Marxist Feminism

I’m assuming that the initial question posed (…), “how do both Marxist and Socialist feminism broaden concepts of inequality?“, is in comparison to inequalities noted by liberal feminism. Liberal feminism regards inequalities based on gender specifically, but Marxist feminism extends the influences of inequalities to include “the economic structure and the material aspects of life” (Lorber 52). In other words, class becomes a large component to feminist criticisms. Whereas, socialist feminism extends the factors of inequalities to not only include class but race as well (Lorber 75). Overall, intersectionality becomes a large component in socialist feminism.

Personally, I gravitate towards the concepts regarded by Socialist feminists. Inequalities can better be observed through the acknowledgement of not only gender, but class and racial ethnicity as well. I wonder if I experienced an example of this at work today while training a young male international student. Recently, training has included a module where a team member guides the trainee throughout the store as they ask customers about their shopping experience. I’ve done this numerous times with female trainees of different ethnicity and one white male trainee and have always been happily accepted by the customers. But today, as the new trainee approached customers, four of the customers were quick to keep distance and say no. We only needed five surveys completed. I became aware of how in a public service sector, I had a source of privilege as a white woman as compared to the racial ethnic, male trainee. 

I also want to respond to [the] question: “do you think we can destroy the gendered and racial inequalities caused by capitalism without destroying capitalism itself, or is it necessary to destroy capitalism to do so?

Ultimately, I think we can destroy the gendered and racial inequalities caused by capitalism through destroying capitalism itself if we regarded positions in power/work to be infinite. From my understanding, a capitalist society is socially constructed by the people and not the state to maximize profit, thusly positions tend to have finite power. Yet, there is the power to create jobs to dismantle present inequalities. There is the power to create jobs that allow women to be mothers, as well as breadwinners. There is the power to allow men to be homemakers as well as breadwinners. In other words, there is the power to raise humanity to equal, high status without threatening the class of another. Yet, it becomes difficult to recognize the process as well as what these positions can be.

Evelyn Nakano Glenn notes through a Marxist feminist perspective that interdependence is established between White women and racial ethnic women. White women gain their power through the subordination of racial ethnic women. Noted, “this analysis suggests that if these special forms of exploitation were to cease, White women as well as men would give up certain privileges and benefits” (Nakano Glenn 64-65). Ultimately, to me, this notion suggests that power becomes limited, similar to a pulley system; as one increases, the Other decreases to maintain the harmony within power. 

Similarly, Leslie McCall writes “those who have been concerned with gender inequality have been the most likely to recognize the strategic importance of certain kinds of ‘new’ employment arrangements that have long been the domain of women” (77). Usually, people in power tend to stay in power because they don’t want to lose that position. This means that they will feel threatened if someone were to raise to power as well. This is a concept I learned in Philosophy in Science Fiction in regard to Machiavelli, The Prince. I believe this concept ties in well with teachings in past feminist courses that power is often seen as a finite source, when in reality, it’s infinite.


Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018, September 26). Re: Feminizing Equalities [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from https://mycourselink.lakeheadu.ca/d2l/home/52600.

References

Lorber, J. (2012). Gender Inequality: feminist theories and politics. (5th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

McCall, L. (year). Essay Title. In Lorber, J. (2012). Gender Inequality: feminist theories and politics. (5th edition) (p.p. 95-102). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Feminism: For ‘F’s Sake!

In her article, “Subtle sexism entrenched in art world,” Alison Gillmor interviews Shawna Dempsey who states: “there’s a feeling that gender is over, that we’ve achieved equality, particularly in the art world where we’re supposed to be more enlightened, (…) but when you look at the statistics, when you look at the measurables, women do not have equal opportunities” (Gillmor).

The fight for equal opportunities commenced after the first world war when women were hired to fill-in positions vacated by men who left to fight overseas. Upon the soldiers’ return, women were readily fired so that men might resume their pre-war positions. Based on their needs, women fought for safety to vote and work. Women fought for personhood. Feminism circulates just as the needs of women circulate based on their position in society, and feminism is needed all the same. Presently, the needs of women in First World countries differ from the needs of women in the Third World.

As I read the article “Feminism by Any Other Name, Please?” by Katy Deepwell, I questioned my position and power as a white, young women of low-income class within a First World country. I considered the power and privilege I still obtain with low-class to fight and influence the oppressions of the patriarchy. I questioned what feminism meant to me, and which feminist perspective it is that I take on. The answers were not difficult to consider. It is imperative to consider the intersectionality of gender, race and class to understand inequalities faced by different people.

The following response will consider feminism as a movement for the equality of everyone in a white, hegemonic masculine, globalized society, although the oppression experienced by women will not be dismissed but rather highlighted through examples. The exemplified position of women in art becomes a reflected sense of feminine value within society because art presents commentaries reflective of societal beliefs. Nonetheless, women have been marginalized for centuries, and presently, oppression has extended to any individual defined as the Other.

Katy Deepwell defines feminism as “a movement by women, about women and for women in a patriarchal culture and society which has persistently devalued their contribution and rights” (Deepwell 10). During studies in introductory courses of Women’s Studies at Lakehead, I have understood that feminism, in actuality, concerns the rights and observes the injustices regarding any minority and person that does not identify with the hegemonic masculinity that is embedded in patriarchy and colonialism. In Transnational Masculinities, I studied the inequalities that men face, which feminist attempt to recognize and dismantle. Ultimately, any trait opposing the masculine becomes demeaned. Hegemonic masculinity entails the normativity of traits stereotyped to be a white, cis-gendered masculinity. Since gender is regarded as binary, the feminine becomes the opposed target. Traits regarded to be soft, delicate, sensitive, nurturing, and emotional are widely considered as undesirable. As a result, women, as well as queer men and other members of marginalized groups, are ostracized. Hegemonic masculinity becomes a model of the Self, and everyone else takes the identity of the Other. It is the Other in which Feminism seeks to aid. First wave feminism was a product of women, but present-day feminism is a movement by the Other, about the Other and for the Other in a patriarchal world.

Yet, because transnationally, globalization has influenced inequalities through the establishment of the patriarchy, power tends to be held by hegemonic masculinities. People in power tend to want to stay in power, and if others begin to rise to power in any hierarchal structure within systemic oppression, the change is viewed as a threat and the concept of the change is viewed socially as “uncool” (Deepwell 11). Feminism is targeted with preconceived, negative connotations because it seeks to dismantle the establishment of the patriarchy in order to provide equality to those oppressed by class, gender and race. Meanwhile, because the patriarchy is power, and power is viewed as finite, feminism becomes an ‘f’ word that is intolerable. The reality is that power becomes socially constructed, and thus it is infinite in nature. Society has established a structure in which power is finite. The reality of feminism is that it fights for everyone. Dismantle the patriarchy which feeds into a finite source of power, and everyone is in a position to obtain power.

That being said, although feminism fights for the equality of all marginalized, non-hegemonic masculine individuals, the struggles faced by women are not to be invalidated or dismissed. Women have been the suppressed. The inequalities concerning gender, class and race are primarily experienced by women, which is greatly exemplified in the art world. Historically, women were subjects of art, rather than being students of art. The female nude was studied by master artists, putting the female under the male gaze. Women became objectified through their form. Lauren Carroll Harris captures in an interview with Hannah Gadsby, wherein Gadsby states “being an object, being objectified, [creates] a toxic culture, because we don’t have the same cultural influence as men do. They’ve written the story, they have the power” (Carroll Harris). With the statement, Gadsby regards the role women play in Art, which is very little. Similarly, the role women play as power is very little within society.

In conclusion, feminism becomes the means to bridge localities and global communities. It becomes the means to demolish the patriarchy. It becomes the means to understand the needs of the oppressed, and it becomes the voice of those who face inequalities of class, gender and race. All-in-all, feminism may have been for the women, based on years of belittlement documented through art, but presently, feminism is a tool of liberation for everyone.


Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018,September 17).

Footnotes

1 To read more on power and leadership, consider reading Machiavelli’s The Prince or notes derived from Philosophy in Science Fiction at Lakehead University.