How far should your Feminism go?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

 Image result for chimamanda No. 7


For a majority of us, when it comes to Chimamanda Adichie, she can (almost) do no wrong.

She captured hearts on a global scale with her “Half of A Yellow Sun”, which although it did not delve too deeply into the actual gory details, skirted with and wove a relatable love story around the Nigerian Civil War.

For me however, it was her speeches which captivated me.

In the days leading to my Ted talk, I found myself absorbing her spoken art, eventually falling in love with her persona, and being amazed at the similarity in both of our experiences regarding sexism, of which she shared hers in her talk “We should all be Feminists”.

She accepted the Feminist crown without batting an eyelid.

Chimamanda is no stranger to controversy; from her (justified) rejection of insinuations that she had become famous solely by being featured on Beyonce’s “Flawless”, to her “Dear Ijeawele”, which was more a less an intellectual rant of sorts on what it entails to raise  a daughter, from a feminist perspective.

More recently, we applauded her response to the French reporter, who had tongue-in-cheek asked if there were bookstores in Nigeria.

As the queen of intellectual clap-backs, she responded in good stride, while flipping the table on the Reporter and pointing out how asking that question cast the Reporter in negative light.

We cheered on.

With the just concluded 2018 PEN World Voices Festival in New York however, her adulation as the world’s literary darling seemed to come under fire, when she questioned Hilary Clinton’s Twitter status of “wife, mother and grandmother”, whereas Bill Clinton did not have such similar status. According to her, the status had left her (Chimamanda) “a little bit upset”.

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Chimamanda Adichie interviewing Hilary Clinton at the 2018 PEN World Voices Festival in New York
She has been dragged from one end of the world to the other on (Nigerian) Social Media, making people question whether perhaps, she has finally “taken this Feminism thing” too far.

Which raises the bigger question: how far is Feminism ‘allowed’ to go?

For me, I would not ask the question Chimamanda asked. This is because I have come to understand that even though the struggle for gender equality is a universal one, the particular dynamics of what the struggle embodies and how it is interpreted is unique to each person.

My personal mantra has always been live and let live.

To each, their own.

To this extent, even though I have enjoyed the bachelorette life, and could not imagine investing my twenties into anything other than my career, I do not deem it my place to inquire the thought process of women who made that decision to sacrifice their twenties for their family.

Equally, I do not believe that my expression of self-emancipation is the only model possible. That I may not cook for months on end does not mean that the next person who has decided it to be a point of duty to cook for her family is less of an equality advocate than I am.

And it is to this extent that I am not able to resonate with Chimamanda’s discomfort with Mrs. Clinton’s choice to describe herself in her twitter bio by her personal relationships, rather than her career achievements.

I however do not see Chimamanda as having done anything wrong, in expressing her discomfort regarding Mrs. Clinton’s Twitter status. This is especially as Mrs. Clinton represents a huge role model to a lot of females, aiming to shatter career ceilings, including (I believe) Chimamanda.

It is only natural that her mentees, from time to time, would question some of her actions in order to validly continue to tow her footsteps.

This is largely what separates us as humans, from goats.

Chimamanda has her right to her perception of the actions of others, and question these actions as she may.

If anything, maybe this was a much-needed question, to enable women like me all over the world, who want to have it all to embrace the different parts which make up the ALL, and find a way to end the inner guilt of leaning to any part more.

To provoke discourse on how far we should go in this struggle for equality, and if there are fabrics we unknowingly project which suppress the journey to equality.

This discourse was bound to happen sometime. Time was ripe.

Who better to handle this once-in-a-lifetime teachable moment than Mrs. Clinton (who is in herself an embodiment of female achievements)? To explain whether in attaining to the heights that would firmly stamp one’s name in the stars, beside male counterparts, a woman should relegate to backstage other parts of her, which she just so wishes to also be identified with.

I will frame Mrs. Clinton’s response not just for myself, but my daughters behind me. That:

“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… if you are someone who primarily defines your life in relationship to others, then more power to you…

But I think most of us 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”

(To the last paragraph, I add “and more power to you”)

This response basically re-echoes my live-and-let-live-mantra, that you could (for example) be the best lawyer in corporate North America; yet, seek to be known first as daughter to the most amazing father who ever graced the earth.  

That your profile picture is one of a baby on your back does not derogate from your being a goddess in the surgical theatre. Or the fact that you are renowned as an Investment Banker should not equate to you lacking motherly inclinations.

These are (subconscious) boxes created by others’ perception of how each person should be compartmentalized, which does nothing for the struggle for gender equality and/or social justice.

You CAN have it all. Depending on what you consider your “ALL”.

Still pushing this… the definition of accomplishments is to a large extent subjective. So that even though for some, it may be calculated in the number of international transactions closed in a given year, to the next person, it could be in the ability of their five year old dog to finally jump through the hoop of a circus ring, after years of training.

The differences in perception of what qualifies as “accomplishments” should not inherently deny either or the other their right to that perception, or the expression thereof.

And although I know that it is on a lighter note that Mrs. Clinton hinted she would update her Twitter bio in light of Chimamanda’s comment, I do not think this is necessary.

The world already knows of Hilary’s achievements as a technocrat, as a lawmaker and as a politician. Tell us something we do not know. Or often forget.

If anything, the world probably needs to be reminded that contrary to wide opinion, it is not ice which beats in her chest. Hence: Wife, Mother, Grandmother.

It is good nevertheless, that this nest was stirred, and better still, by two women who were up to task in leading this discourse, and whom mutual respect for each other’s achievements did not turn this into a battle of egos.

For me however, it will always be live and let live. Whatever works best for you, and makes your pillows fluffier at night.

Do You.

Paz,

Meg.


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11 comments

  1. Well written... I like the Live and let live because it accommodates all

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  2. Very insightful. I absolutely agree with your live and let live mantra. Like we say in our west African creole, 'na who wear the shoe know where e dey pain am'.

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    Replies
    1. Na who wear the shoe know as e dey pinch am o!

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  3. This is good. I for one think Nigerians reaction might not even necessarily be targeted at her being upset with 'Wife', but her unrepentant advocacy for feminism.
    This is good write-up. Indeed we must live and let live, but also as you said Hilary is a leading light in terms of Women's capability to succeed, people (women) tend to pattern their lives after her, her choices are not tonne taken as just ordinary, they are symbolic, hence that little space might give Chimamanda the right to be upset at the pace setter.

    Cheerio

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  4. God bless you...nice write up, i just love this

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  5. Even as a francophone (my english knowledge is very common) I can see how well this is written!
    Thank you for this, I got enlighten and it made me reflect. Hope to see you at VGC conference in a few days..

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