#AnnaReadsThis, books, essays, feminism, read it love it, the future is female

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’

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Last weekend I found myself wandering around the bookstore, as so often is the case. I was absolutely excited when I saw they had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book of essays, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

In it, Adichie writes to a friend who asks her how to raise a baby girl as a feminist. This book is Adichie’s response. It’s gentle yet sharp; succinct yet poignant; and reads as though it’s a letter from your best friend.

The main proposition of “Dear Ijeawele” is that feminism is a project that necessarily binds mothers and daughters, and that raising a daughter feminist has as much to do with what you tell yourself as what you tell her. Ms. Adichie’s first of 15 suggestions places a mother’s freedom and growth at the center of a daughter’s feminist education.

“Be a full person,” Ms. Adichie writes. “Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.” (The New York Times)

15.2

As an aunt, a once particularly conservative girl from the American Midwest, I found this book incredibly powerful. It made me face a few aspects of my own missteps and helped me reevaluate a few of my former philosophies and internalized patriarchal beliefs. And, more than anything, it helped me understand how to change my behavior in hopes of not instilling the same misbeliefs on my nieces & nephews.

Below are some of the lessons which most affected me.

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On feminism: 

“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”

“Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional fenable equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not.”

15.1

On marriage:

“Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that I marriage is not an achievement, nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement. We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start. The girls will grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage. The boys will grow up to be men who are not preoccupied with marriage. The women marry those men. The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.”

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On being “liked”: 

“We teach girls to be likeable, to be nice, to be false. And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous. Many sexual predators have capitalized on this. Many girls remain silent when abused because they want to be nice. Many girls spend too much time trying to be “nice” to people who do them harm. Many girls think of the “feelings” of those who are hurting them. This is the catastrophic consequence of likeability. We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable. So”

15.3

On “doing it all”:

Our culture celebrates the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women doing it all because it is a debate that assumes that caregiving and domestic work are singularly female domains, and idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and caregiving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.”

On standards and differences:

“Teach her never to universalize her own standards or experiences. Teach her that her standards are for her alone, and not for other people. This is the only necessary form of humility: the realization that difference is normal.”

Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.”

On love:

“Teach her that to love is not only to give but also to take. This is important because we give girls subtle cues about their lives – we teach girls that a large component of their ability to love is their ability to self-sacrifice. We do not teach this to boys. Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.”

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I really look forward to devouring Adichie’s other books in the coming months. I highly recommend this article from TIME,  if you’re new to Adichie, as well as this TED talk. And, I am especially pleased to now know what to gift everyone in my life for all upcoming occasions. 😉

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April 2017, books, copywriting inspiration, poetry, read it love it, saw it loved it, the future is female

Three things.

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Every day I’m so blown away by the incredibly talented women in my life. (I’m spoiled.) One of the most talented ladies I know is Abby Yemm, whom I met through this very blog. (I don’t tell this blog “thank you” enough. Thanks, blog! You’re one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do!) Back to Abby, she’s hilarious, wildly creative, and she writes rad stuff. Like this piece from Domino Mag, 10 Books to Buy for Their CoversI mean, need I say more beyond, “be still my heart.”

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Balloons + poetry = one of my new favorite mediums.

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IKEA consistently has some of the best ads. I love this one about a “Couple” of Sheepskin Rugs.

It turns out the anthropomorphic floor covering, who lives in an apartment complex with its significant other (also a rug) and its puppy (a $10 step stool), is on a very special mission. (AdWeek)

 

Happy April! xx

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This isn’t a veiled announcement…

… I just love Midwife Clemmie Hooper’s blog, Gas & Air, and new book “How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out.”

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I can’t remember how I found Clemmie, aka Mothers of Daughters on Instagram, but I do remember loving her feed instantly. She has four daughters, two of which are twins, and she keeps it real. (A much-needed breath of fresh air in the world of social media.)

  And how fantastic is her style? And her girls are so flippin’ gorgeous!

As the aunt of 8 little (and not-so little, anymore!) babes, and former au pair and nanny, I have been lucky to have a front row seat to motherhood, a safe distance from the ring, but close enough to have had my fair share of sweat & tears splattered on me. (Is this boxing metaphor ridiculous or what? No regrets.)

 

What I really love is how honest and raw she keeps it, all the while expressing how important motherhood is and how rewarding it can be. And, while I’m not at that stage yet, I do know that when that day comes I’ll definitely use Clemmie’s book as a guide.

I highly suggest you listen to this hilarious, insightful podcast interview with Clemmie on Scummy Mummies, as well as these other pieces, if you’re interested:

Motherland’s, “Expecting the Unexpected”

The Telegraph’s, “Meet Clemmie Hooper, the ‘Insta-midwife’ every millennial mother-to-be wants at their birth”

Alex & Alexa’s, “Family In Focus with Clemmie and Simon Hooper of Gas & Air

And, of course, her husband, Simon aka Father of Daughters, is worth a follow as well — his posts never fail to make me laugh.

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Recommended Read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I read this book, The Book Thief, when I was au pairing in Germany. We were driving from Northern Germany to Venice, Italy, and I read as we zoomed through the alps, while the children dozed in and out of sleep. I’d flip through the pages in between passing out various snacks to pacify the inevitable hunger that strikes when you are bored, and four, and on a road trip. It was the perfect book, for the perfect time in my life. It’s a remarkable story that touches on themes of life both from the time period and setting in which the book is set, WWII Europe, as well as the world today. I highly recommend it, and without giving to much away, have compiled a few of my favorite quotes below. (Tonight I’m finally watching the movie version… I’ll let you know if it lives up to the book! Fingers-crossed.)

“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.” 

“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It’s probably what I love most about writing–that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They’re the best moments in a day of writing — when an image appears that you didn’t know would be there when you started work in the morning.” 

“The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.” 

“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.” 

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.” 

“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.” 

“I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.”  

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.” 

“The point is, it didn’t really matter what the book was about. It was what it meant that was important.”  

“Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.” 

“I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” 

“She was a girl with a mountain to climb.” 

“At first, she could not talk. Perhaps it was the sudden bumpiness of love she felt for him. Or had she always loved him?” 

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter and bread with only the scent of jam spread on top of it. It was the best time of her life.” 

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Your new favorite suspense author, Gillian Flynn

First things first… she (Gillian Flynn) went to my alma mater, the University of Kansas. Second, she grew up in the same area I did. I found this out after fawning over her writing, so these revelations are in no way causing a bias in my review of her books. Only extreme pride. Excessive fangirling. And excitement that the Kansas City area is now a bit more on people’s radars, if even just the slightest bit.

Last year I first read Gone Girl. I was skeptical, as I am not much of a crime/thriller/suspense fan when it comes to my choice of reading. But… it was part of the buy-two-get-one-free deal at the bookstore I was wandering around in London. I was visiting my friends for New Year’s, a quick jaunt from Munich, and spent much of my time perusing while they were at work. I knew I needed to load up on English books, my mind having become mush in the past six months from having read so many German books. It doesn’t matter how fluent you are in a language, your active translating, 24/7, takes its toll. It’s mentally exhausting…

Anyway… I grabbed Gone Girl and two other books (you guys, I’m far too embarrassed to admit what they were. Let’s just say they were not worth toting back to the States when I moved home. And that’s saying a lot, considering books are like my children).

I began reading it on my flight back to Munich, then on the subway, then raced back to my apartment, hardly throwing off my bags, definitely not taking off my winter layers, and I sat on my couch and finished that puppy by morning.

I couldn’t not read it. I had to know. Right then. Sleep was for the weak. 

This book had taken control. I won’t delve into the details of the plot, you can find reviews of that and the like anywhere online, trust me. I just want to suggest you go out and grab a copy now. It’s phenomenally written with a remarkably hard to predict plot. (And I’m notorious for guessing the ending of movies, books, plays, you name it. I owe that ability to my years and years of watching TV, paid off!)

But here are some quotes to give you a little taste of both the writing and the plot. Consider this your appeteaser (see what I did there, heh.) and go ahead and order the chef special. Someone you know has a copy, trust me. In fact, mine’s currently making the rounds in my family. 😉 

I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.

Love makes you want to be a better man. But maybe love, real love, also gives you permission to just be the man you are.

Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But also who kinda likes my bullshit.) And yet: Don’t land me in one of those relationships where we’re always pecking at each other, disguising insults as jokes, rolling our eyes and “playfully” scrapping in front of our friends, hoping to lure them to our side of an argument they could not care less about. Those awful if only relationships: This marriage would be great if only…and you sense the if only list is a lot longer than either of them realizes.

Because you can’t be as in love as we were and not have it invade your bone marrow. Our kind of love can go into remission, but it’s always waiting to return. Like the world’s sweetest cancer

’My gosh, why are you so wonderful to me?’
He was supposed to say: ‘You deserve it. I love you.’
But he said,’Because I feel sorry for you.’
‘Why?’
‘Because every morning you have to wake up and be you.’

Ironic people always dissolve when confronted with earnestness, it’s their kryptonite.” 

Because isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn’t that the simple magic phrase?

It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.

Men always say that as the defining compliment: the Cool Girl. She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means that I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
 
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see these men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: ‘I like strong women.’ If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because ‘I like strong women’ is code for ‘I hate strong women.’)


I waited patiently – years – for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to like cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy.

 
But it never happened. Instead, women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon Cool Girl became the standard girl. Men believed she existed – she wasn’t just a dreamgirl one in a million. Every girl was supposed to be this girl, and if you weren’t, then there was something wrong with you.

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Also, Gone Girl is becoming a movie. It has a trailer and everything. It’s going to be good. I feel it in my bones. 

And Gillian Flynn did a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Flavorwire did a recap of her best answers.

Just finished the second two of her novels, both qually intriguing. Definitely recommend. Will write more on that matter later, though…

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books, brilliant reads, history of love, joy that little things bring, life lesson, nicole krauss, read it love it, recommended reading

Recommended Read: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I first read this book, The History of Love, last summer on my flight back to Munich. I finished it in the seven hour flight and was seriously bummed when I came to the last page that it was over. Nicole Krauss has a wonderful way of creating a story that makes you feel as though it’s somehow connected to your own. It’s such a beautiful piece of writing, providing endless lessons and perfect prose. I’ve seen it quoted often, for various occasions–(I love that Joanna used it on her wedding programs!).                                                

Here are a few I had underlined and dog-eared the pages in my personal copy:

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” 

[He] slipped his hand into mine, and I thought, An average of seventy-four species become extinct every day, which was one good reason but not the only one to hold someone’s hand, and the next thing that happened was we kissed each other, and I found out I knew how, and I felt happy and sad in equal parts, because I knew that I was falling in love, but it wasn’t with him.

He ran his fingers down her spine over her thin blouse, and for a moment he forgot the danger he was in, grateful for the world which purposefully puts divisions in place so that we can overcome them, feeling the joy of getting closer, even if deep down we can never forget the sadness of our insurmountable differences.

Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”  

(Then again, the oldest feeling in the world might simply have been confusion.)”  

He knew that “I love you” also means “I love you more than anyone else loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,” and also “I love you in a way that way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.” He knew that it is, by love’s definition, impossible to love two people.” 

We met each other when we were young, before we knew enough about disappointment, and once we did we found we reminded each other of it.”  

She leaned back and looked at him with something like hurt, and then he almost but didn’t say the two sentences he’d been meaning to say for years: Part of me is made of glass, and also, I love you.” 
 
When you are young, you think it’s going to be solved by love. But it never is. Being close — as close as you can get — to another person only makes clear that impassable distance between you.

So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves.” 

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact.”  

What about you? Are you happiest and saddest right now that you’ve ever been?”
“Of course I am.”
“Why?”
“Because nothing makes me happier and nothing makes me sadder than you.
” 



And if the man who once upon a time had been a boy who promised he’d never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise it wasn’t because he was stubborn or even loyal. He couldn’t help it.” 

Really, there isn’t much to say.
He was a great writer.
He fell in love.
It was his life.
”  



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Here’s what I’m reading next… what are your summer reads?


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blog love, books, brilliant reads, noted blog of Love, read it love it, recommended reading, the toast

Websites Worth Reading: The Toast.

I’ve found myself reevaluating my list of go-to daily reads. As I said in my last post, so many of my favorite websites and blogs have become less than inspirational. Of course there are still my forever reads, the sites I’ll probably always give a chance, even when the content wavers between dull and absolutely remarkable. But they’re sites that have provided me with more interesting reads than not, so I feel as though my loyalty stands with them. Occasionally dull or not. (As this blog is equally guilty of sometimes being. I’m working on changing that, though. Promise.)

The Toast is a new(ish) site that has instantly risen to the top of daily stops. It’s full of original content, and can be incredibly insightful, as well as leave you with splattered tea across your screen from laughter at the most inconvenient of moments. 

I’ve included some of my personal favorite posts below, some funny, some insightful, some absurdly hilarious. Just a sampling of the wit and intellect you’re certain to find on The Toast.

A picnic has gone horribly wrong.

You have five hundred a year. From who? Five hundred what? No one knows. No one cares. You have it. It’s yours. Every year. All five hundred of it.

You are in a garden, and you are astonished.

A woman who hates you is playing the pianoforte.

 

Let’s go out tonight okay
we don’t have to do anything big but I think we should go out
just for dinner or something
I think that would be a good idea

Go out, Again?-
I went Out to Mount Holyoke

for college
you went there for college thirteen years ago

 And now I must rest.

A Few of Fraulein Maria’s Favorite Things, As Ranked by Louisa Von Trapp

4. Bright Copper Kettles: I can’t say I’ve ever really given bright copper kettles much thought, but they sound pleasant enough. Nice and shiny, and like maybe someone could make me a nice pot of soup in it. It’s a little random, but then Fraulein Maria is often a little random-seeming, what with all her breaking into song at odd moments and those terrible clothes and whatnot.

12. Wild Geese that Fly with the Moon on their Wings: This sounds so nice. Majestic waterfowl in flight! In the moonlight! Great! But let’s take a closer look. First of all, geese are aggressive. They will bite their own grandmother to get at a moldy piece of bread and they would have knocked down wee Gretel as soon as look at her. Second, they are basically loudly honking machines for the production of foul green shit. Third, I grant you that the moon on their wings is a poetic touch. But if they are flying and you are looking at them, how the hell will you see the moon on their wings? You are below them, the moon is above, shining presumably on the tops of their wings. Can’t see it. Don’t care.

13. Silver White Winters that Melt into Springs: This manages to make mud sound poetic, but let’s be real, here’s what we’re talking about when we talk about snowmelt: Sodden lawns dotted with the dog shit and trash the snow has been covering all winter long.

The Fault In Our Stars’ Deleted Scenes

[A GIRL enters, coughing blood into a handkerchief]
GIRL: no
[A BOY enters, coughing blood into a handkerchief. An accordion plays.]
BOY: yes
they kiss

Like our Queen B, Millay used her hot party girl persona to get her voice on the airwaves, and then she used that access to broadcast her feminist subliminal messages. (Thanks to Jess Zimmerman for this metaphor.) I mean, imagine the “Single Ladies” dance happening while you read this:

I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.

Shoulda put a ring on it.

“We’re Fine Here, How Are You?” Normal Moments In Art History Where No One Is About To Get Murdered

hey guys hey come on in just come right on in i’m so glad you’re here by yourselves just the two of you 

we’re going to have such a good normal time in this cave together 

Nothing Is Wrong: Women, Mental Illness, and Medication

The stigma of privilege has a lot to do with women’s silence around meds. Affluent, educated women know that they have no right to complain about their lot in life. Indeed, to spend so much time ruminating on one’s own psyche is an indicator of ample resources and leisure. Nothing is wrong, we say. I have everything anyone could want, my problems aren’t so large, it’s not a big deal. This line of thought can be dangerous, because the person devalues their own experience. They exist as a “failed subject” in a privileged medicalized world, and should do their best if not to hide this failure, then at least not to complain about it. But if nothing is wrong, why do we need to be medicated? Am I actually crazy? 

P.S. This post I featured was from The Toast.

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