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Chimamanda isn’t the enemy


Chimamanda isn’t the enemy

by Harri Obi

“The top three trending topics in Nigeria are Chimamanda Adichie, Dino Melaye and Pablo Adedeji; what do these people have in common?”

The responses to this tweet were what introduced me to the nationwide social media outrage against revered writer, Chimamanda Adichie, and as expected, most were sexist as they were vile.

Overtime, Chimamanda’s confrontational brand of feminism has made her public enemy number one and has indirectly turned many into masked anti-feminists who aren’t even conscious of the role they’re playing. Her ‘pointless question’ to Hilary Clinton, provided the perfect opportunity they had been waiting for, to lambast her.

In a face to face interview with former US first lady, senator and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Adichie had said that she was a bit upset when she saw that Hilary’s Twitter bio started with ‘wife’ but her husband’s bio, didn’t start with ‘husband’. She wanted to know if it was Hilary’s choice to first identify in relation with her husband and if so, why?

The second part of the question which is even more relevant to understand the origin of her irritation, was generally ignored by the raving mob. “Chimamanda is carrying her feminist police too far”, “instead of her to focus on writing books, she’s disgracing us”, “I thought feminism was about choice, so why is she desperately seeking for attention?” and other questions deeply rooted in a bedrock of misogyny, but adopting a disguise, masks of mild derision and painted faces of deep concern.

All of a sudden, we’ve realized feminism is about choice but attack the women who want to exercise their liberty to choose not to adopt their husband’s last name, not to get married but focus on career instead, or not to do domestic chores, by branding them as either lazy or radical feminists. The outrage was so unforgiving that Chimamanda even had to give a detailed reply.

READ: READ Chimamanda’s robust response to critics of her interview with Clinton

But that isn’t the only focus of this piece. Chimamanda spearheading a personal war for women against the patriarchal culture they inhabit isn’t new, so the  outrage is obviously not going to slow her down. But the puzzle I’ve been trying to solve is: Why are we getting angry over a question which is very relevant in a feminism conversation context? Where was our outrage when just a few weeks ago, a member of the House of Representatives, Muhammed Kazaure on International Women’s day, warned against giving women more political opportunities because they would ‘mess’ up the country? Where was our anger when the watered down version of the Gender and Equality bill was thrown out on ‘religious’ and ‘anti-African’ grounds? Can we keep up this rage, until Leah Sharibu and the other Chibok girls are released? Can we keep up this temper until women stop constituting two-thirds of all poor Nigerian adults, and until they stop making less than half of what men earn in a year? Can we keep up this wrath until the average female college graduate stops earning less than her male colleagues?

Nigerian women face one of the worst gender-based pay gap in the world and 70% of working women are still stuck in traditional ‘female’ jobs as secretaries, front desk officers/receptionists, sales clerks, and typists. Nigeria currently has no female state governor and only 6 female senators, out of 109 and 15 female members of the House of Representative out of 309 – and the number is shrinking.

In most states, it is still generally legal for husbands to rape their wives, and there is currently only one comprehensive rape and sexual assault referral center in the entire nation, I can go on. Where is your anger now?

READ: 34% of Nigerian women believe men are justified in beating wives – NBS survey

The bogus disgust directed at Chimamanda’s very valid question clearly shows we’re missing the entire point of her campaign, which is; for women to be free to define themselves instead of having their identity defined for them, time and again by their culture and their men. That was the premise of her question. So let’s refocus our anger on the issues that truly matter.

– Harri Obi is a TV Host, Content Producer and Events Compere, known for co-hosting the Africana Literati TV Show which airs on Africa Magic and South Africa’s Mindset TV. He was also the official host of the 2017 Future Awards Africa Red Carpet. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @Harri_Obi.

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