Never underestimate the power of a TED talk.
Or, in the case of “Americanah” and “Half a Yellow Sun” author Chimanda Ngozi Adichie, a TEDx talk. TEDx talks are independently organized, whereas TED talks take place at official TED conferences. Either way, Adichie’s 2012 talk at TEDxEuston in London has taken on a life of its own.
Recently, a coalition in Sweden announced that every 16-year-old there will receive a free copy of “We Should All Be Feminists,” Adichie’s bound-and-published essay adapted from her famous TEDx talk that blew up after Beyoncé sampled a generous portion of it on “***Flawless.” The song popularized the definition of a feminist as “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” It has been viewed on YouTube more than 2.3 million times.
“This is the book I would have wanted to get for all the guys in my class when I was 16 years old,” Clara Berglund, chairwoman of the Swedish Women’s Lobby, told Books Live. “That is why it is so important that we contribute to this project. It is a gift to all students in grades two, but also a gift to ourselves and to future generations.”
In a YouTube greeting to her new teen Swedish readers, Adichie expanded on her reasoning for being such a passionate and outspoken feminist.
“For me, feminism is about justice,” she said. “I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot or should or should not do anything because she is a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist.
“When I was 16, I don’t think I knew what the word ‘feminist’ meant. I don’t think I knew the word at all. But I was a feminist. And I hope that the 16-year-olds that will read this book in Sweden will also decide that they’re feminists. Mostly, I hope very soon that one day we will not need to be feminists. Because we will live in a world that is truly just and equal.”
The move further burnishes Sweden’s reputation as one of the most egalitarian nations in the world. Sweden, you may remember, famously offers 16 months of paid parental leave — for mothers or fathers — when a child is born. Two months are set aside just for fathers, and this year, the Swedish government planned to expand it to three.
More than 100,000 copies of “We Should All Be Feminists” will be sent to Swedish secondary schools. In an op-ed piece in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, a group that included Berglund and the chairman of the United Nations Association of Sweden, Aleksander Gabelic, explained their reasoning for the move:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us of what feminism is about. She makes us remember what it was that made us once again began to define ourselves as feminists. We want the book to be an introduction for girls and boys who never before have thought about gender inequalities. Therefore, we send today, “Everyone should be feminists” to all students in grade 2 in high school. We do it with the hope that they’ll read Adichie’s words and understand that feminism is the key that can unlock their cramped cages. Feminism makes it possible for both girls and boys to be themselves.
“So proud to be part of this,” tweeted Adichie’s publisher, Johanna Haegerstrom. “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains why feminism could make us all happier. Not just women.”