Home / Featured / ‘Chimamanda Adichie’s feminism is definitely not mine.’ – Ladan Osman

‘Chimamanda Adichie’s feminism is definitely not mine.’ – Ladan Osman

Recently, writer cum feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently caused a furor with her remarks on Beyoncé Knowles and feminism. In an interview with de Volkskrant, Adichie said:

“In the first place: of course Beyoncé asked permission to use my texts, and I did give her permission. I think she’s lovely and I am convinced that she has nothing but the best intentions. In addition, Beyoncé is a celebrity of the first order and with this song, she has reached many people who would otherwise probably never have heard the word feminism, let alone gone out and buy my essay.

“But I was shocked about how many requests for an interview I received when that song was released. Literally every major newspaper in the world wanted to speak with me about Beyoncé. I felt such a resentment (laughs loudly). I thought: are books really that unimportant to you? Another thing I hated was that I read everywhere: now people finally know her, thanks to Beyoncé, or: she must be very grateful. I found that disappointing. I thought: I am a writer and I have been for some time and I refuse to perform in this charade that is now apparently expected of me: ‘Thanks to Beyoncé, my life will never be the same again.’ That’s why it didn’t speak about it much.

“Her style is not my style, but I do find it interesting that she takes a stand in political and social issues, since a few years. She portrays a woman who is in charge of her own destiny, who does her own thing, and she has girl power. I am very taken with that.

“Still, her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men. I think men are lovely, but I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men: did he hurt me, do I forgive him, did he put a ring on my finger? We women are so conditioned to relate everything to men. Put a group of women together and the conversation will eventually be about men. Put a group of men together and they will not talk about women at all, they will just talk about their own stuff. We women should spend about 20 per cent of our time on men, because it’s fun, but otherwise we should also be talking about our own stuff.”beyoncefeminist-politicafemminile

In the resulting uproar, I was opportune to come upon a Facebook post by Ladan Osman, where a resounding point was made about the writer’s remarks. Check on it below.

“There are more than a few funny things here:

“ONE, Chimamanda has no need to ‘explain herself.’

“TWO, Adichie suggesting that “books are unimportant” because “a celebrity of the first order” created a media frenzy around her work stinks of elitism and interdisciplinary insensitivity. One can read an image, and one can receive an album as a text. We’re also long past tome-worship eras. The image-makers are the idol-makers. Critics and artists have a responsibility to learn to read text, image, and performance. Beyoncé engages all three. The subtext is a question of (real) art, of valuing. This is extra confusing following Adichie’s (joking) “resentment” that this system of signs doesn’t recognize she’s been a writer for “some time.” Is it a system whose recognition is valuable or not, then? Beyhive disease is real. HBIC disease is real.

“THREE, shade often supports patriarchy. Sly insults and their plausible deniability are not good foundations for discourse. It’s a hand over the mouth to whisper or to cover a laugh. Beyoncé has taken “a stand in political and social issues, since a few years.” She has “girl power.” What is the physical and metaphorical distance between Adichie ascribing “some time” to her craft, and “a few years” to Beyoncé’s public politics? Why does something inside me cringe at this apparent praise of “girl power” in a critique of a feminism that may attack Beyoncé’s ideological maturity? When will we stop using girls to shade women? What does a girl feel when she receives this message? I remember always disliking the so-called protective “women and children.” When a girl, you are a child who will one day be a woman. In this conception, you’re double-weak. To use biology or time (girl+hood) to sneak-attack philosophical or ethical maturity seems sexist. I hope to move towards an exit of this temporal and physiological harem. (Recall Chimamanda “boyed” a [yes, problematic] writer in 2013, also framed as kind or playful)

“FOUR, Adichie’s feminism is definitely not mine (whatever that means). It’s pleasant that she postures as evolved enough to accept other feminisms. That’s a modern feminist’s key pivot in commentaries like these. I certainly understand and agree with critique on the content of many Beyoncé lyrics, associated imagery, etc. But what’s really interesting is even as Chimamanda resists Beyoncé’s focus, she uses the example of men to direct women’s conversational orientation! We should be more like them? What? If the critique is the focus, or more accurately the point of origin, how does it work to make men the model? Isn’t she doing the thing she’s attempting to undo? This is also a relational conception engendered not in a multitudinous humanity but in a reaction. Any orientation that is essentially an effect is not empowering. The shade isn’t masterful but the circuitous logic (both in Adichie’s words and this platform’s excerpts of the interview) is: disdain the values of popularity and male-centered thinking, even while using these as the bases to argue for your positioning as a worthy artist, as a feminist so evolved, you can tell women what percentage of time they should spend talking about men.

“To be clear, I don’t vibe with the so-called Beyhive, with trickle-down feminism, HBIC/drag-a-bitch feminism, status quo maligning yet upholding politics. That way says: Hey I’m hollering cuz you’re standing on my head, then bows down again over and over. That way *describes* (I mean that geometrically, too) a problem, disguises it as a kind of solution.”


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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9 comments

  1. “Put a group of men together and they will not talk about women at all, they will just talk about their own stuff. We women should spend about 20 per cent of our time on men, because it’s fun, but otherwise we should also be talking about our own stuff.”

    This isn’t true. I know a LOT of men who talk about women in the same context. I honestly think that some things are said/written for the sake of being opposite of what’s considered current. Some may not be a fan of Beyonce or what she represents, but at least she’s empowering women and not putting down the women who may view her differently. You can’t call yourself a feminist and then take indirect pot shots at another sista.

  2. Our mother said nothing but the truth, but thanks to the hyperliberal world we live in today, a human cannot be intellectually honest anymore. he funny thing is i disagree on so much with her, mainly around race issues, but on this one, i will fight for her to the death, and i don’t even call myself a feminist. firstly, all progressed ideologies evolve over time, there is leninist communism, marxist communism, staninism, the list is so long. Same thing applies to feminism. So she is allowed to say her own is different and stating that isn’t in my opinion an attack on someone else’s.

    The whole point of being an intellectual is that we make these distinctions and this is something her life’s work is much around, so of course she is going to state her point. and as for saying books mean little, of course she has every right to say that. it is her art and as an artist she can take pride in it. she wants attention for her work, not association with a celebrity that doesn’t even share her ethos completely. she has every right to assert that she was already a boss in all the circles that matters to her. if you are into books and you don’t know about her, you aren’t into books and fuck the media for not paying respect till some celebrity comes and raises awareness. that is part of everything wrong with the world today.

    Lastly, the smartest thing she did was tell women to model after men. the notion that privilege can be surrendered is one of the silliest things i’ve heard. the only way out is through. if women continue to anchor their value on a man, independence is a dream. that isn’t to say women shouldn’t marry, the point is for them to go out and do things and be cool so they don’t have to talk about men all the time. and if you have ever taken a look at any magazine stand you will see this in the diversity of magazines for genders. women don’t even have specific interests like football or cars or watches etc.

    I rest my case, and if your blood is hot, i can look into getting us a televised interview.

    I think a lot of intellectuals get called pretentious, elitist or stuck up when they assert their opinions because people project so much snobbery on them.

    • ‘Our mother’? ?????? William, stohpit abeg. And most of what she said is the truth of an elitist feminist condescending to anyone who she doesn’t believe is speaking her language on the movement.
      Feminism should not be branded! There’s feminism and then there’s the ideals of those who are getting it wrong. Chimamanda and Beyonce are pushing the right narrative. That is all that should matter. When she said we should all be feminists, I had no idea she actually meant: Pick you a brand while you’re at it.

      • Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you are being condescending. Are you saying every debate is a fight between people being condescending? Abi the woman isn’t allowed to critique an idea? Like I stated earlier, ideas branch our over time and these brakes happen. I’m getting sick of people being more or less bullied online for voicing their opinion. The woman spoke her mind and if you really think women talk about men the way men talk about women (in general), then I don’t know what planet you live on. I will ask again, why isn’t this diverse interest of women not represented in niche female media?

    • William Moore, you’ve said it all. I do not understand the entire controversy surrounding this. People are not even taking this into context; since that featuring, Adichie has commented a couple of times to interviewers who somehow wanted to look down on Beyonce’s feminism–she has told them, The fact that she calls herself a feminist is enough, we do not need to chase people away from the ‘feminist party.’ As a writer and social critic, she has to make the distinction, as you rightly said (which was what I told a friend yesterday, and I wonder why people aren’t seeing this). About her so-called “resentment”, you’ve said all there is to say. I think the problem is, we live in a highly anti-intellectual culture, one that is paradoxically also pseudo-intellectual; a world where people hunger for celebrity feuds. It’s sad.

  3. So, William Moore… The heart of your logically-challenged, hard-to-follow diatribe is that YOU are an intellectual, not the pedestrian sort, but the kind that that exists in some rarefied Milky Way.
    Apparently, you also can’t deign to call yourself a feminist because you think patriarchy a model that can’t or shouldn’t be overturned, rather a counterpart called Matriachy should be erected a la Twin Towers.
    With all these, that you think you’re in any place to school anyone on feminism tells me one thing about you:
    You and Chimamanda deserve each other.

    • Lwkmd, biko what are you talking about? Dude damn right I am an intellectual and I wear it on my sleeve like the nerd badge I wore in secondary school. Please tell me how women not making men their number one topic of conversation leads to a female dominated world? What she is suggesting is female independence and NOT female domination. The concept of mutual interdependence is a thing so please fall back with your keyboard. I don’t call myself a feminist because I believe the gendered nature of the word causes a major breakdown in communication and it has other linguistics implications like the one between Chimamanda and Beyonce as you can see. Feminists have devised terms like equity-feminist which is more or less egalitarianism to combat this issue, but please carry on assuming my intentions and showing yourself to be a true reprobate. Even Christians can’t agree on one domination or interpretation of the bible but all feminists are expected to agree? But God forbid one of them points out her issues to another. It has to be condescending. I will school anyone on anything I please, you do not have to read or accept my point of view, but I sure as hell wouldn’t take your insult which is ironically condescending so I guess if I need a threesome partner with Chimamanda for the snob sexathon I know who to call.

  4. Udegbunam Chukwudi

    The thirst for mega-relevance sha. Every man with him own distorted views of who’s an authentic feminist. Mscheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew

  5. Thank you Mandy and Chiedozie. You both aptly expressed my view on this.

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