Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently spoke with The Guardian UK and she touched on topics such as feminism, racism, how pregnancy affects women’s growth, the #MeToo movement and women and the culture of likeability. She also explained why she's not on Twitter.
Speaking on the #MeToo movement, the Purple Hibiscus author said:
I feel optimistic. But cautiously optimistic. It’s either the beginning of a revolution, or it is going to be a fad. We just don’t know … I do see in women a sense that ‘We’re done, this is it ... No.’ and it gives me hope.
The award-winning writer spoke about her fight against sexism. She had written in Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions that she is angrier about sexism than she is about racism.
Explaining what she means by this, Ms. Adichie said:
I don’t think sexism is worse than racism, it’s impossible even to compare. It’s that I feel lonely in my fight against sexism, in a way that I don’t feel in my fight against racism. My friends, my family, they get racism, they get it. The people I’m close to who are not black get it. But I find that with sexism you are constantly having to explain, justify, convince, make a case for.
In spite of how lonely she feels in her fight, Chimamanda is reassured by the positive feedback she gets from women all over the world. Her TED Talk titled We Should All Be Feminists and her letter to Ijeawele, The Feminist Manifesto, have inspired a lot of women, and even men, all over the world. This, she says, makes her happy.
To get letters from women, saying ‘you make me feel stronger’ that means a lot to me. It’s a woman in Denmark, it’s an email from a woman in Korea, it’s the woman in Ghana. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
In Adichie's Feminist Manifesto, one of her suggestions on how to raise a feminist daughter is to encourage girls to "reject likability". Ms. Adichie said that Hillary Clinton and "all the harping on about whether or not she is ‘likable’," is the perfect example of how she had to persuade friends that sexism was at work.
Expounding on women and the culture of likeability, she said:
Oh my God, all that time wasted [by women wanting to be liked]. It is still very upsetting to me. I don’t care how much societies tell themselves that they are progressive, the kind of criticism that Clinton gets from the very progressive left, I think is terrible. People now say to her ‘shut up and go away’ – that whole idea of silencing women. I kind of like what’s happening to her now, it feels as though that ‘fuck it’ I wish she had said before, she seems to be saying now.
There are so many women for whom pregnancy is the thing that pushed them down, and we need to account for that. We need to have a clause in every job that a woman who gets pregnant gets her job back in exactly the same way. It’s wrong!
On gender and gender roles, she is of the opinion that gender is a social construction.
I don’t think I’m more inherently likely to do domestic work, or childcare ... It doesn’t come pre-programmed in your vagina, right?
Chimamanda Adichie has a Facebook and Instagram account, but she's not on Twitter, and there's a simple reason for that.
"There’s an ugliness about it," Chimamanda said, referring to the microblogging website, Twitter.
Last year, the Americanah author sparked controversy when she said in an interview on Channel 4 that the experiences of trans women are distinct from those of women born female. A lot of people were incensed by this and called her out for "creating a hierarchy" and implying that "trans women were ‘less than’," But Chimamanda says that wasn't her message. "I was not ... I don’t think that way."
She says she was "genuinely surprised" by the outcry, "because I thought I was saying something that was obvious". She remains defiant on the importance of acknowledging difference.
The vileness that trans women face is because they are trans women – there are things trans women go through that women who are born female will never have to go through … If we are going pretend that everything is the same, how do we address that?
She compares the wish to be inclusive with colour blindness, saying, "blackness and whiteness are different."
Yes, we are all of the human race but there are differences and those differences affect our experiences, our opportunities. There’s something about it that I find inherently dishonest.
Ms. Adichie said she was accused of "killing trans women with her words" and, she says, there were calls to burn her books. She was particularly hurt by the online response from some of her former students on her creative writing workshop in Lagos
I was told, ‘you’re being shamed’. When somebody is shaming you, you also have to feel ashamed. I just didn’t. I was upset. I was disappointed
She feels her "tribe", those "generally of the left, who believe in equal rights for everyone", let her down.
"I thought surely they know me and what I stand for," she said.
Looking back, she thinks her "major sin" was that she "didn’t abide by the language orthodoxy".