UPDATE: Chimamanda Finally Responds To One Critic In Particular

Never in her history has she been bashed for her words, in fact Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was an epitome of beauty and brains with books, short stories and poems that made her a fans favourite.

All that went down the drain after she had question Hillary Clinton in an interview about introducing herself first as a wife than any of her renowed accomplishments.

This interview has caused such an uproar amongst even the best intellectuals on social media all disagreeing with the Nigerian author and Feminist. Now Chimamanda has finally replied on her Facebook page, but her reply seemed to be because of a specific ‘family member’ who had ordered her to ‘shut up’.

Read her reply below;

 

Dear Unnamed Person Who I Am Told Is On Social Media Saying I am Her Family and Telling Me to Shut Up:

Cynicism is ugly. It doesn’t flatter anyone. Yours doesn’t suit you at all.

I remember you vaguely; I think you were in my class in primary school. And now you claim to be my ‘family’ and you are asking me to shut up.

Did you watch the video of the conversation? Did you read a full transcript?

I am tired of Nigerians who read a headline and, without bothering to get details and context, jump on the outrage bandwagon and form lazy, shallow opinions.

I am tired of Nigerians cynically thinking of anybody in public life as a ‘brand.’ No, I am not a brand. I am a person who feels strongly about certain issues. I choose to talk honestly about them. I made the choice to talk about feminism knowing very well the kind of hostility it brings – but I think it’s important and I will continue to speak my truth and hope to bring about some change, no matter how small. Adirom agba egwu ka m data ego.

No, of course you don’t actually deserve a response, but I have some free time today. So I want to make you feel a little important because it sounds like you need it.

And I want to reflect on an absolutely lovely hour spent on stage with Hillary Clinton.

I was happy when I was told that Hillary Clinton had specifically requested to be in conversation with me at the PEN World Voices festival. I am an unapologetic fan of Ms. Clinton’s. I have been for many years.

I felt quite emotional when I met her. Having read and followed her for years, it was moving to see her: the warm, human, observant, present, thoughtful person (and looking wonderful, with her hair and makeup on point!).

She said she had read my books and I restrained myself from doing cartwheels.

“Is there anything you don’t want to talk about?” I asked backstage.

“Ask me anything,” she said.

Towards the end of our conversation, I told her how, having read her writing about her own life, I think she has a great love story with Bill Clinton. A wonderful friendship. I said I feel irritated and protective of her when people dissect her personal life, but I also confessed to having an interest myself, particularly about her public Twitter profile. (I first noticed it when I was researching a piece about her during the presidential campaign). I was upset that the first word used to describe her was ‘wife.’ Was it a choice she had made or was it something done for her campaign and, if it was a choice she had made, did she think my reaction to it was fair?

Her response was very thoughtful.

I was too excited, emotional, slightly nervous, to be on stage with this remarkable woman. Had I kept in mind how easily outrage-mongers would jump on a headline, I would have phrased my question better. I would not have made it about my being upset, because it can come across as navel-gazing.

But the truth is that we were supposed to be having a ‘conversation,’ the context of our conversation was personal and warm, I had made the decision to speak from the heart, and it would be dishonest to pretend that I had not reacted personally to so many issues around Ms. Clinton, whose life has become a kind of crucible of all the questions that affect women.

We all react personally to public figures. And I WAS upset that the Twitter bio of a woman who is the most accomplished person to run for President of the United States, would begin with ‘wife.’ And considering her personal history, it just didn’t seem to fit.

I felt that ‘wife’ was used as an attempt to placate all the men and women who will not vote for a woman unless they are able to see her FIRST in domestic terms.

Yes, it’s just Twitter. But it matters. It’s a public platform. It’s where people go to hear directly from her.

And there is context to consider.

In LIVING HISTORY, Ms.Clinton writes that the two most difficult decisions she has made in her life were staying married to Bill Clinton and running for the senate seat in New York.

Women, especially women in public life, face a lot of societal pressure about how to be, how to live, much more than men do. Women in public life are considered ‘cold’ and ‘un-relatable’ unless they define themselves in domestic terms. Women’s accomplishments are often considered incomplete unless they have also ticked the ‘marriage’ box. These things are not true of men, even though marriage can be a wonderful thing for both men and women.

Feminism is indeed about choice. But it is intellectually lazy to suggest that, since everything is about ‘choice,’ none of these choices can be interrogated. Choices are never made in a vacuum. And sometimes, for women, choices are not always real choices.

After she got married, Ms. Clinton kept her name, but she was so viciously criticized for this that she then took on her husband’s name. Was this a ‘choice?’ Would she have done so if she wasn’t being attacked and if she didn’t want to feel responsible for her husband’s potential losing of votes?

During the last presidential campaign, she was expected to account for the policies of her husband’s administration. She was labeled an enabler of sexual harassment. She was accused of cynically staying married because she wanted to benefit politically.

Much of Ms. Clinton’s public image is a caricature of a person who is untrustworthy, calculated, cold, dishonest. That caricature has its roots in her early public life when she was the First Lady of Arkansas.

Her crime was that she did not conform to the traditional role of First Lady. She had kept her name. She clearly considered herself to be her husband’s equal partner. She did not intend merely to be a Wife. She had her own dreams, her own ambition. She dared to say that she wasn’t planning on ‘staying home and baking cookies,’ which was not about denigrating stay-at-home mothers but simply about saying that that was not what she wanted to do.

A small comment about a small thing, but it was significant and revolutionary because she was consciously resisting the status quo.

But she was attacked for that. Horrendously. And those attacks were repeated so often that they stuck and they contributed to her being reduced to a caricature.

It was therefore upsetting to see her first descriptor as ‘wife.’ The question isn’t about including ‘wife’ in her Twitter bio. The question is about giving ‘wife’ a certain primacy as the first word that describes her, and it speaks to larger questions about the societal expectations placed on women.

Ms. Clinton wrote in her most recent book WHAT HAPPENED, that she ran for president because she thinks she would have been a ‘damned good president.’

She certainly would have been. And so I suggested, half-joking, that ‘Would have been a damned good president’ is a perfect Twitter bio start. And then mother and wife and grandma and Senator and hair icon etc could follow!

I completely stand by my question and by my conviction that it is a subject that matters.

I had a truly enlightening evening on that stage with Ms. Clinton, and was once again awed by her grit, her humanity, her sparkling intelligence.

After the conversation, Ms. Clinton told me, “It was like talking to a friend.” She is now my Aunty For Life.

Oh, as for YOU, Unnamed Person, saying that I am ‘family’ to you, mbakwa biko. The people I consider family don’t ‘do petty.’

Saying “shut up” to a woman who airs an opinion is so unoriginal. Try and be a bit more inventive.

Try reasoning. Try intelligent debate. Try understanding things in context before you reveal your ignorant misogyny to the world. Try reading more than a headline. Try reading a whole book. Or two. And please keep talking. Keep speaking. Don’t ever shut up.

~CNA

Blessing Abeng Writes The Best Open Letter Ever To Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Over Her Interview With Clinton

Blessing Abeng, a brand manager, has written a lovely breakdown of her opinion on feminism in an open letter on twitter to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie after the Nigerian writer questioned Hillary Clinton on her choice of Twitter bio.

Blessing, who said she mostly agrees with Chimamanda but doesn’t agree with her statement to Hillary Clinton, suggested in her letter, a different approach that can be taken to achieve the sort of gender equality where everyone is truly equal.

 

Read in captions below;

 

 

 

Chimamanda Will Lead Women To ‘Hell’ By Fredrick Nwabufo

Who made Chimamanda Adichie the supremo of feminism? Who made her the feminist papal? How did she become the feminist potentate?

By asking Hilary Clinton, former US presidential candidate, why her Twitter bio starts with “wife’, Chimamanda has not only intruded into the personal business of Clinton, but also scorned a key principle of feminism – “choice”.

Besides other leanings, feminism entails freedom of choice. A woman is at liberty to be anything she wants to be – doctor, lawyer, housewife or mother. The right to choose is principal, and this should not be prejudiced.

Setting straightjacket standards and rules, which Chimamanda’s brand of feminism promotes, will result in a second captivity – by matriarchal she-lords.

Notable feminists of the first and second waves such as Betty Friedan, author of ‘The Feminine Mystique’, emphasised the essence of “choice” in their works; that a woman can be a housewife or a career person if she chooses to. The key word here is “chooses”.

The imposition of personal foibles on the feminist struggle gives it a blemished complexion. The result of this is the ridiculing of women who choose to be mothers or housewives by their so-called “woke” peers.

As a matter of fact, Chimamanda’s brand of feminism makes a caricature of the movement’s goal – equality of gender. How? Chimamanda’s virulent feminism, by default, teaches all women are not equal – the housewife is less of a woman and in shackles, while the stiletto-wearing career woman is the archetypal vanquisher of the demonic patriarchal order.

In all, it is still “woke” if a woman chooses “wife” as her title. It is all a matter of choice. Personally, I believe “father” is an esteemed title. Nursing my six-year-old son from infancy has been the most rewarding duty for me. Yes, I am a father first.

In conclusion, Chimamanda’s feminism is already leading some women to the hell of confusion, bitterness and misandry.  Feminism should be defined by all women in different stations, according to their realities and choice, not by some self-installed matriarchal potentates.

Daddy Freeze Blasts Chimamanda For Interview With Hillary Clinton

Prominent writer and feminist Chimamanda had questioned former US First Lady Hilary Clinton on why she referred to herself as a wife on her twitter handle instead of focusing on her many accomplishments.

Chimamanda’s interview has caused a lot of uproar from both men and women all over the world with many saying she was taking Feminism to mean that women couldn’t appreciate or talk about their relationship status.

OAP Freeze expressed his displeasure at Chimamanda’s statement. He shared the photos above on his page and wrote;

Dear Chimamanda, I used to be a huge fan until I read your interview with Hillary Clinton.

Now I’m somewhere in the vesica pisces, torn between the enormous respect I had for the quality of your work and anger for what you are beginning to brandish.

Let me set the record straight, I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, so I’m not jumping in as her guardian angel. As a matter of fact, I completely disagree with most of the decisions she took while in office.

Besides this however, woman to woman, what Hillary has achieved, in my opinion, you NEVER CAN, ‘no be beans’, so you suggesting how she should be addressed is what we Yorubas call ‘Iwosi’.

Even Obama refers to himself as a dad first, husband second, so what’s your point exactly? Why can’t Hillary be addressed as wife first, if she so chooses?

Could your utterances be stemming from inadequacies you need to attend to? You might consider investigating this.

Now, let me warn you, there are no dividing forces greater than color, race, gender and tribe. These factors continue to ensure humanity remains segregated. This table you are shaking has vast consequences even you didn’t bargain for.

People have been over the last two years, urging me to preach about Jesus being black and I never have, do you know why? Because I DONT CARE ABOUT HIS COLOR, it’s irrelevant, I care about HIS MESSAGE!

In the same vein, I follow you simple because of your message, NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR GENDER OR COLOR OR TRIBE. So kindly keep the focus on the message, which in my opinion is excellent.

Don’t mar it by demarcating yourself into a ‘gender’, unless of course you are employing this as a marketing tool, which, please be warned, has its own repercussions! ~FRZ

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Confronts Hillary Clinton

Renowned writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has publicly confronted former  US First Lady and US presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton.

The Nigerian writer confronted Hilary on her Twitter bio in which she identifies herself first as a “wife”.

While interviewing Hillary Clinton at a PEN World Voices Festival lecture at the Cooper Union in Manhattan on Sunday night, Chimamanda asked the former Democratic presidential candidate why, with all her career accomplishments, she chose to be primarily identified in her Twitter bio as a “Wife.”

Chimamanda said:

In your Twitter account, the first word that describes you is ‘Wife.’ And then I think it’s ‘Mom,’ and then it’s ‘Grandmother’. And when I saw that, I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset. And then I went and I looked at your husband’s Twitter account, and the first word was not ‘husband.’

Bill Clinton’s Twitter bio leads with, “Founder, Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States.” There was no mention of his marital status, neither did he add that he’s a father.

Adichie said she wanted to know if it was Clinton’s choice to first identify in relation to her husband, and if so, why.

And Hillary Clinton replied:

When you put it like that, I’m going to change it.

Clinton’s response prompted roars from the crowd. But she had a good explanation for why she started by describing herself as a “Wife” in her Twitter bio. She said that women should be able to celebrate both their accomplishments and their relationships. She told a story about hearing the former US First Lady, late Barbara Bush speak at Wellesley in the early 1990s.

Quoting Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton said:

She said, you know, at the end of the day, it won’t matter if you got a raise, it won’t matter if you wrote a great book, if you are not also someone who values relationships.

And though Barbara Bush got a standing ovation after that speech, Hillary Clinton told Chimamanda Adichie and the PEN crowd she’s not sure Bush was right.

Clinton said:

It shouldn’t be either/or. It should be that if you are someone who is defining yourself by what you do and what you accomplish, and that is satisfying, then more power to you. That is how you should be thinking about your life, and living it. If you are someone who primarily defines your life in relationship to others, then more power to you, and live that life the way Barbara Bush lived that life, and how proud she was to do it.

But I think most of us as women in today’s world end up in the middle. Wanting to have relationships, wanting to invest in them, nurture them, but also pursuing our own interests.

Chimamanda Adichie Opens Up On Being Sexually Assaulted At 17

World recognized Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has opened up on being sexually assaulted at the age of 17 by an influential man in the media in Lagos, Nigeria.

The writer revealed this during an address at the just concluded Stockholm Forum for Gender Equality while delivering the closing keynote address. Chimamanda spoke of how she had taken a book of poems she wrote to a “big man in the media” so he could support her in making the book go public, instead, he sexually assaulted her.

She said he was friendly at first and impressed that someone her age had written a book. But the man soon came to her, slipped his hand under her shirt and bra, then squeezed her breast. She said she was so taken aback that she did nothing for seconds, then she pushed his hand away “gently”.

She said:

I was so taken aback that I did nothing for seconds. Then, I pushed his hand away, but gently, nicely, because I didn’t want to offend him.

Later that day, I broke into a rash on my chest, my neck, my face, as though my body were recoiling, as though my body were saying what my lips had not said.

I felt a deep loathing for that man and for what he did. I felt as if I didn’t matter, as if my body existed merely as a thing to be done with as he wanted. Yet, I told no one about it. And I kept talking to him, being polite, hoping he will help with my book.

 

Chimamanda Adichie And The Burden Of Representation

On January 25, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie headlined the Paris edition of the Night of Ideas, a cross-continental initiative run by the French Institute, featuring public discussions on topical issues. Adichie’s conversation with French journalist Caroline Broue was an absorbing exchange themed “power to the imagination”.

It went smoothly, except for two moments. In the first instance Broue asked: “Are there any bookstores in Nigeria?”, to the audience’s and Adichie’s bafflement. Adichie’s response: “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question”, sent the interview trending on traditional and social media.  

The second moment came during the question and answer session, when someone sought Adichie’s opinion on postcolonial theory. Her response was: “Postcolonial theory? I don’t know what it means. I think it is something that professors made up because they needed to get jobs”. This comment didn’t provoke as much  noise on as her clapback about bookstores in Nigeria.

As an academic, I am grateful for the interview which eloquently demystifies postcolonial theory, despite her disavowal of it. Given students’ intolerance for texts longer than a sizzling clapback tweet, the interview makes for an excellent introduction to this theory.

 The postcolonial spaces

If postcolonial theory is concerned with salvaging futures scarred by imperial greed, then these two exchanges illustrate the power dynamics postcolonial theorists seek to dismantle. Broue’s question – whether serious or a failed attempt at irony as Ainehi Edoro notes – was authorised by French and broadly, the Global North’s wilful ignorance about Nigeria.

The average Nigerian does not have the luxury of nursing what Adichie calls “a single story” about France. It is in their interest to know that France has bookstores.

France and the Global North retain inordinate amounts of power and resources with real implications for the average Nigerian’s life. Certainly, France has sufficient resources to host the Night of Ideas. It will be a while before we have an Africa-run Night of Ideas. Yes, we have bookstores, but we do not have enough platforms for public engagement with ideas. And postcolonial theory explains why.

Perhaps both Adichie and Broue were being humorous. But humour is rarely innocent. Humour is to aggression what a half-slip is to a transparent skirt. It lends aggression decorum. Adichie’s quip about postcolonial theory is revealing about her low regard for academics.

Yet, as Kenyan poet Shailja Patel eloquently put it, Adichie is a beneficiary of the space-clearing labour of generations of postcolonial theorists. These theorists fought the epistemic injustice of canonising certain literatures over others.

Long before she expressed her frustration at the Western World’s tendency to read African literature “as anthropology” and not art, postcolonial theorists had been fighting this tendency. These theorists contest unequal assignment of value to works of art based on the geopolitical location of artists.

“We are our grandmothers’ prayers, we are our grandfathers’ dreamings” – so goes a Sweet Honey in the Rock song. What does it mean to giggle at the wrinkles on the hands that pried open bolted doors so we could walk in and take a seat at the table?  

One thing Black women artists have taught us is the importance of acknowledging our intellectual histories and those who dreamt the futures we enjoy; and our responsibility to dream more liveable futures for those behind us.

When Adichie affirms in the interview “I think of myself as coming from a tradition,” and names her literary precursors, she overlooks the feminist and postcolonial theorists who made her possible. They are part of her lineage.

Writing as an act of theorisation

Oddly, the irony of dismissing postcolonial theory after a clapback against stereotypes cannot be lost on anyone familiar with Adichie’s fiction and essays. Those of us aligned with feminist theorist Pumla Dineo Gqola’s insistence that creative works theorise, consider Adichie’s writing to be acts of theorisation. We also hear echoes of our literary foremothers’ rejection of the tag “feminist”, when their works were decidedly feminist.

Theory comes dressed in different registers. The postcolonial theorist Frantz Fanon’s theorisation of the colonial experience, like feminist theorist Obioma Nnaemeka’s conceptualisation of nego-feminism, comes dressed in the same story-telling robes as Adichie’s fiction.

Meantime, Adichie’s novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun are forms of theorisation, if we understand stories to be involved in analytic work. To misquote Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, theories, like stories, lend us a second handle on reality.

Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus lends us an analytic handle on the familiar paradox of African nationalist icons who gave us so much, but took away so much more, because their visions of freedom were one-dimensional.

When we encounter Papa Eugene as an icon of freedom in the public sphere and a domestic tyrant in Purple Hibiscus, we begin to make sense of a Kwame Nkrumah or a Haile Selassie or a Thabo Mbeki. These are men whose pan-African dreams of freedom we enjoy today, but whose visions of freedom were narrow and harmful in other ways.

Theories, like stories, help us make sense of our worlds.

But postcolonial artists and theorists alike, face an intractable challenge: the burden of representation, which American literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr defines as “that homely notion that you represent your race, thus that your actions can betray or honor it”. 

While Gates Jr has in mind the eight remarkable Black men he profiles in Thirteen ways of looking at a Black man, his concept resonates with the literary world. Because the global literary marketplace can only celebrate a few writers of colour at a time, such writers become laden with the responsibility of representing their people.

The stakes are high. Under this pressure, there is little room for decontextualised humour. The risks of erasure of entire intellectual histories and hard-earned victories, are real. Perhaps the lesson is not that we should joke less.

If we are to dismantle the inequalities that limit the possibilities of art and ideas from the postcolonial world, the lesson is clear: we should all embrace postcolonial thought.