These days, not a month passes without some controversy stirred up by something Ms Chimamanda Adichie has said.
Why is this?
Initially, I was quick to jump into conversations that opened up because of views she had expressed. These conversations were always learning opportunities and I find it amazing how differently people see the same thing
With social media, we all have platforms and social circles where we talk about things and air our opinions.
And even though I am not a feminist, I agree with certain things she has expressed and I do get the need for equality. I have also disagreed with other things. That is ok. She is very clear that she is sharing her perspective on things, her views, her thoughts. Like my friend Adaeze wrote, she mostly starts speaking by saying ‘I think…’. We are all entitled to think things through and express our thoughts.
I have had to step back in the last few days to tell myself a salient truth.
People have problems with how Ms Adichie thinks. Nigerians to be precise.
The energy that pools around the things she says is not one of intellectual curiosity of even a normal debate. It is one that is vitriolic and negative. There is anger at her audacity. And this is not just from men but from women as well.
Why is this so?
When examining this, my first thought was people were jealous of her climb. I mean, she is an international A list celebrated writer. She has shared space with very important people who respect and admire her. She is a successful speaker who is highly sought after. It is easy to count the many reasons why people would be jealous. While there are people that feel she is undeserving of her success and question her expertise to handle certain topics she has spoken about, I don’t think that the controversy she stirs is as a result of jealous people.
Nigerians are usually very proud of Nigerians on the world stage. We love John Boyega, Jidenna, Seal, Oluchi and many more Nigerians that have stood out internationally. So what is wrong in this situation?
It is not like anything she says is an automatic law that Nigerians most obey. She certainly does not speak for most Nigerian women. So why are people irked? Feminism may be growing in Nigeria but not at an alarming pace.
She is intelligent, eloquent, beautiful and unapologetically Igbo-Nigerian. She celebrates Nigerian fashion on podiums around the world. She should be a revered Nigerian treasure and not constantly bashed on social media.
What are people so angry about?
I am just guessing here so nothing concrete. I have two things that I believe are responsible for the over emotional reactions to Ms Adichie.
We know about the audacity of Obama but can we talk about the audacity of Ms Adichie? The first thing is simply her audacity.
She is unapologetically a woman presented in a manner that is unlike most prominent Nigerian women. I dare say I have not seen a woman with so much presence that owns her space without uncertainty.
Chimamanda full ground.
Usually, successful women in Nigeria still make efforts to be acceptable and for lack of a better way of putting things, be womanly. They may be confident but they downplay their successes by either attributing them vaguely to God or their fathers or husbands. They understand our society enough to play to the gallery.
Yes, I am a very important and rich woman but I still wash my husband’s boxers.
Yes, I am very successful but I make sure I handle all things that have to do with the kitchen myself.
Yes I am very influential but I make sure I am a good praying woman.
Yes I am at the zenith of my career but I curtsy when I greet my husband and his friends.
Yes, I have conquered the world that belongs to men but I make them feel ok by not rubbing it in their faces so that they are comfortable.
Ms Adichie is unashamedly a person who refuses to fit into the mould that has been cast for women from the beginning of time. She is unafraid to question the order of things and actively pursue a world where being a woman is not a disadvantage.
Feminism is not new and so this is not a strange thing. But a prominent Nigerian Feminist using her global platform to promote feminism and challenge life as Nigerians know it is new. So there is a huge resentment at her audacity.
The second reason why there is resentment is because she is actually influential.
I never realised how much till I moved in certain circles with younger women and men. I personally fell in love with her when I read Purple Hibiscus. I loved that book so much that I bought every book she put out after that. I hadn’t even listened to the Ted X ‘We should all be Feminists’ talk before I was in the circle of people who love her. They had. They had watched her interviews and read everything that she had to say. And it resonated with them.
For these women, they had found someone to model after. In the stifling patriarchal Nigerian life, she opened a window of fresh hope. Ms Chimamanda Adichie struck a chord with young women and they are actively stirring conversations and rejecting patriarchy aggressively. I imagine that this is scary for men who see nothing wrong and want women to stay put. They suddenly see themselves bouncing babies while stirring pots of stew. As ridiculous as it seems, it is truth.
So, Ms Adichie has struck a chord that is reverberating and this is why there is resistance. Even from women who are comfortable because they have not only accepted where they are but have told themselves it was a choice they made.
I did say in the beginning that Feminism is growing in Nigeria albeit slowly and Ms Adichie is a major factor in this growth.
If I was 15 years younger, I would probably be in the thick of this movement. There are reasons why I choose not to wear the label of feminism (I won’t talk about that right now) and yes everyone says it means the equality (equal pay, equal consideration and respect etc) but it gets lost in translation (to me).
Despite this, I want to say that I am all for this table that Ms Chimamanda Adichie is shaking.