In her first Freedom and Learning Forum, George Mason University president Anne Holton sat down with best-selling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and discussed her book “We Should All Be Feminists,” which is this year’s Mason Reads selection.
Adichie, a Nigerian writer known for her novels such as “Americanah” and “Half of a Yellow Sun,” shares in her book “We Should All Be Feminists” her experience as an African feminist and her views on gender roles and sexuality. President Holton kicked off the chat with a question about societal expectations for women.
"To be human is to like being liked, I think that's quite natural," said Adichie. "But as girls, we are socialized to think that we need to be liked. I find that very problematic because what it does is that girls are taught very early on to change themselves to please other people."
During the panel, Adichie talked about topics such as sexual assault, raising her young daughter, and the relationship between money and masculinity. She also discussed gender expectations for both men and women and how that relates to the feminism movement.
"It's very difficult to unlearn things that we've learned from the time we were two years old,” said Adichie. “And, so, for me, feminism is a process of unlearning."
She added, "I believe very strongly that men need to be a part of the feminist conversation."
Audience questions touched on subjects such as Adichie’s self-care advice and how her ideas on gender have changed since publishing “We Should All Be Feminists” in 2014.
"The fundamental things that I believe have not changed, but I find myself rethinking certain things,”Adichie said, adding that in the past, she told men to imagine what it’s like to be a woman, which she now believes is the wrong way to approach the subject because of the limitations of our imagination. She said she now explores other ways to start the discussion around feminism.
After the discussion, students and community members lined up for a book signing and the opportunity to grab a picture with the author.
"I'm from Nigeria so I was really excited when I found out this was the book [for Mason Reads] and that they had passed it out to freshmen," said Natalia Kanos, a sophomore government and international politics major, adding that she is glad to university is discussing pressing issues.
Mason senior community health major and Honors College student Gabrielle Jackson, who also introduced Adichie to the stage, added that the book is very timely.
"I think it's great that as a university we're now trying to put [women's issues] at the forefront and making sure people of all genders and all identities are reading it and are on the same page in terms of equality, equity and helping create a new campus culture,” said Jackson.
The program was sponsored by Fall for the Book, Mason Reads, the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Office and the President’s Office.