"Gender is not an easy conversation to have," Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in her iconic 2014 book We Should All Be Feminists, based on a TEDx talk of the same name. "Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender, or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable."
But these "problems of gender" are exactly what every 16-year-old in Sweden will get the opportunity to confront, thanks to this very book. The organization the Swedish Women's Lobby, in partnership with others, has pledged to distribute We Should All Be Feminists — which was released in Swedish on Tuesday — to all "second grade high school students" in their country, it announced on its website Wednesday. Its hope, the statement said, is that the book "will work as a stepping stone for a discussion about gender equality and feminism."
"When I was 16, I don't think I knew what the word feminist meant," Adichie said in a recent video. "But I was a feminist. And I hope the 16-year-olds who read this book in Sweden will also decide that they're feminists."
While Sweden is often lauded for its feminist policies and mentality, it's still a racially homogenous nation. No population statistics based on race exist in Sweden, but the Encyclopedia of Afro European Studies estimates that only 1.8% of the national population are Afro-Swedes. Exposure to a Nigerian woman's perspective, and the more diverse, intersectional understanding of feminism her book presents, is undeniably meaningful for a group of predominantly white teens. It's an especially crucial perspective given the country's recent, fraught history with race.
In 2014, for example, the government attempted to remove mentions of race from Swedish law because "the concept of race is a social construct that carries a negative connotation and is likely to lead to prejudice," according to Al Jazeera. But, as Kitwamba Sabuni, a spokesman for the National Afro-Swedish Association, pointed out to the Local at the time, "Race may be a social construct, but that doesn't mean it's not a reality. For us, this is just trying to take away the possibility to even talk about it."
Additionally, Adichie presents feminism as part of a broader endeavor to achieve human rights, with a focus on the "specific and particular problem of gender," her book reads. That both female and male students in this grade will have exposure to these concepts, therefore, is crucial.
"We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them," Adichie writes in the book. "We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage."
If their young, activist counterparts across the world are any indication, Swedish teens are likely more than ready to take this information and run with it. And Adichie hopes they do, because her ultimate hope, she told teens in a video message, is "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."
Watch Adichie's video message below: