The quasi-activism of chi baby Adichie.
Some time ago, not too long, I was arguing, no having a discussion with a colleague. Nigerians tend to argue a lot. I am having to consciously remind myself that two people can have a discussion, have opposing viewpoints, and yet not have it degenerate into an argument. So for the record, it was not an argument. It was a discussion with both of u presenting contrary viewpoints.
So what was the topic of our non-argument, you might ask?
We were having a nice little office discussion when somehow the topic of the discussion drifted around to activists and activism. And in the case where we were mentioning activists and activism, next thing you know, the name that drops from her lips is Chimamanda nyen nyen nyen…
I didn’t even let her finish. I cut her off sharply.
Note, sharply, not rudely. She was surprised that I disagreed so strongly with her about Chimamanda’s being an activist, but I am here to tell you, what I told her, the various reasons why she is not one.
Firstly, Chi babe is not even having a finger on the pulse of the society. She is a writer, I admit, and a pretty good one. She is not Nigeria’s best, though, that title does not exist. In Nigeria, her home country, if we can still call it that, she has a rabid following among the youth, or rather, among a certain section of the youth, who can not bear to see her criticized, or accept that she did something out of line.
Her feminism, ironically, for which she is most revered, is something that, pardon the expression, has gotten into her head, and is not exactly endearing her to a lot of people. I recall, sometime in the past, where a facebook acquaintance (I do not use the term friend so casually, pardon me) made a post criticizing something Chimamanda was said to have done, which was to go to her village, where the elders were having a meeting, and ask to be given kolanut to break.
In my opinion, it was a dual travesty, firstly for showing up uninvited to a meeting of the elders, which could perhaps be overlooked because our people say that a child who has washed her hands well can eat with the elders, and Chimamanda’s hands are nothing if not well washed (she has a small child now), but you see that bit about asking to be given the kolanut to break…
That was deliberately disrespectful and really puts a big question mark on her character. No one who has attained any level of the class should do such. And I remember that the people who swarmed and flocked to her defence said that what she was doing was fighting patriarchy. Again, that is perhaps not such a bad thing, but one does not attempt to kill a baker because he or she does not like bread. Or to attempt to spatter mud on a wall because he or she has issues with the colour of the paint.
Well, in fairness, patriarchy is something that should be engaged, and interrogated. For instance, the bride-price custom, and the idea of a wedding list, which is tribe-speak for extortion and exploitation of the worst kind, or the fact that some of the relatives, who most likely had no hand in the education of the said girl child, will come crawling out of the woodwork and claim that their daughter is a graduate, and must not be taken so cheaply, blab la bla.
That to me is just commodification and is nothing more than turning the girl to an article to be traded in the market. If she gives a bunch of interviews or presents a talk somewhere, wherein she rails against the evils of early marriage and female genital mutilation or gives a rousing speech advocating girl child education, then she is welcome to bear the tag of an activist in my book, and bear it boldly too.
For crying out loud, there are a million and one wrong things in this country to rail over and become an activist, and someone of her literary stature, who made Hilary Clinton change her Twitter bio (her fans never forget this, haha), has a powerful platform to use in calling out the evils in our society. But what do we get? Brilliance and eloquence on whether men should open doors for women or not, and whether chivalry is equivalent to calling women weak.
How does that affect Halima who is going to be married off at twelve?
Or improve the lot of Chidimma who is not going to school, because, according to her father, “she is a girl, and all the schooling of girls still ends up in the kitchen”?
Writer, feminist, publicist. I give her that. But Chimamanda is no activist abeg.
Nwga, talk your own in the comment section.