As with her interview with Hillary Clinton, when I finally watched Chimamanda’s Daily Show interview with Trevor Noah, I found it very delightful. Interesting, funny even, and very, very illuminating.
Say what you will about Chimamanda Adichie, but she’s not wasteful with her opinions. And the world she aspires for us all to live in is a world that actually makes a lot of sense. And you get to see it in these interviews if you are not already triggered by this perception of her as a “troublemaker” or a “feminist who is doing too much” – or like a friend recently referred to her, “a woman who simply isn’t patient for when the world is ready to listen to express herself.”
Here are some of the really impactful opinions Chimamanda gave during the course of the 10-minute interview:
1. When She Said: There are people who have said to me: “Why do you call yourself feminist? Why don’t you just say you’re a humanist or an equalist?” But that is what feminism is. Feminism is about justice for everyone. But you have to name your problem. And the problem is that it’s women who’ve been excluded. So we need to call it what it is.
Trevor Noah followed up with an accurate interpretation of this when he said something about how people are always trying to mitigate the African American experience in a racist American society by saying “All Lives Matter”. Yes, all lives do matter, but there is a particular problem with black lives, and that problem needs a name to sharpen the focus on it.
Feminism also advocates for the same things that being an equalist or a humanist does, which is an eradication of gender expectations and an equality of the sexes, but the problem is primarily about women. And when you give the problem a name, it sharpens the focus; it disables the tendency of the problem getting lost in translation. This doesn’t invalidate the movement of the humanist or the equalist. People who say they identify as equalist should stop sounding like they are being adversarial with feminism. We all want the same thing; a feminist just seeks to draw your focus to the place that is most problematic.
2. When She Said: We have come to a stage where we can accept that people can be many things. You can be feminine and feminist. It depends on whether you want to be. I usually say to women: “Just think of your individual self. What do you like and is that thing causing you harm? Is it somehow reducing your spirit? Is it making you resentful?”
Because I think that when there’s real equality, resentment will not exist.
3. When She Said: I think gestures like holding the door shouldn’t be gendered. I think it’s a lovely thing to hold the door. But we should hold the door for everyone.
So I think the idea of holding the door for a woman because she’s a woman… I have trouble with it. I’m quite happy for people to hold the door for me, but I hope they are not doing it because of this sort of idea of chivalry. Because chivalry is really about the idea that women are weak and need protecting.
4. When She Said: People don’t know what to do with the idea of a woman who has power or who’s seeking power. And so the way to somehow temper that is to say, “Well, I’m a wife. Therefore I’m not that scary.”
5. When She Said: Men need to speak up. Men need to be onboard. Men need to not think of feminism as something that’s attacking them. They need to understand that feminism is something that’s good for everyone. Because really, when all of us are released from gender roles, we’re all better off.
Every movement needs allies, be it feminism or the LGBT movement. People like to disagree with this, but it is true. There is a tendency for the society to be more receptive to the message of an oppressed demographic if it’s coming from “one of them”. Chimamanda emphasized this when she said, “…I think sadly that we live in a world where men are more likely to listen to men.” There is no instant guardedness when a man finds himself listening to a man talk about the equality of women; there is no suspicion of a personal agenda, no “they have come again” exasperation that comes from the men when they have to listen to women talk about why they deserve to be seen as equals.
Women should be feminists.
Men should be feminists too.
Both men and women should make a collaborative force that attempts to show the world that these gender expectations that seek to subjugate women and seemingly elevate men end up doing nobody any good.