Feminists across the world, regardless of their colour or other political leaning, look up to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as she has risen to become one of the most vocal advocates for the cause of women. It is safe to say Adichie is now better known as a “feminist icon” than a writer, the latter being how she initially became part of our collective consciousness.

“I didn’t plan to become this “feminist icon””, Adichie says in this interview with culture magazine, Vulture’s David Marchese. She also shares lessons from being a mother and the difference it makes in her perspective of the world.

From race to Melania Trump and the #MeToo movement, here are five things we learned from Chimamanda Adichie’s interview:

There are certain distinctions between being African and being African-American in America, but at the end of the day, they’re all black:

“I remember when I first came to the U.S.,After a brief attempt at studying medicine, Adichie moved to America for college when she was 19, graduating from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001. Like the protagonist of Americanah, she has also spent time in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. my sister was in Brooklyn so I spent the summer with her. And when I was there an African-American man called me “sister.” I’d been in the U.S. only a few weeks, but I already knew that “sister” meant blackness and that blackness was loaded with negatives. I remember saying to the man, “Don’t call me your sister.” Almost 20 years later, I’m ashamed of having done that. If blackness in America were benign, I wouldn’t have had a problem with being called “sister.” I had internalized negative stereotypes. But my need to understand those stereotypes made me start reading African-American history, and now I take a lot of pride in that history. There’s a lot of grace and resilience with black American stories. So to answer your question, for me there are many positives. I’m quite happily black. But I also make a distinction: to be African is different from being African-American. We’re both black, but we’re distinct ethnic groups — America labels us both “black”: You walk into a fancy store, you look like me, and there are people who think, why are you here?”

Melania Trump represents the only humaneness that is left in the White House:

“There’s something I feel about her and it lives in the same emotional space as compassion and pity — and that feeling has increased. I look at pictures of her and I see great sadness. I don’t want anyone to be sad, but the idea that she might be sad about her situation is almost comforting because it reminds you that there’s still some sort of humane presence in the private space of the White House.”

Men are still less likely to be criticized for their art compared to women

“When a woman says something controversial, she’s much more likely to be criticized about her personality and even about how she looks. Not that men don’t get that, but women get it more quickly and more often. And to be specific to writing, a man can write about a subject like marriage and immediately it can be seen as an insightful take on society. But a woman writes about marriage and it’s seen as this smaller, more intimate thing. We’ve gone past the point where women are directly criticized for their subject matter, but the language used about their writing hasn’t really changed. When men and women write about similar things, what the women write is often cast in less lofty terms.”

Motherhood feeds creativity in ways men would never understand

“…the other thing that motherhood does — and I kind of feel sorry for men that they can’t have this — is open up a new emotional plane that can feed your art. I really do think motherhood feeds art. How that will be executed is another question. But having access to the emotional plane that comes with birthing a child: I can see the world through her eyes and notice things that I wouldn’t have noticed without her. I’ve lost out on time, but I’ve gained quite richly in other ways. At least that’s the theory I’m working with now.”

Misconceptions about rape and how even women perpetuate them

“It bothers me sometimes, for example, when women who’ve gone through these things — we see them on TV and they’re nearly always crying. It’s like a performance that makes me uncomfortable; it’s trying to fit a certain narrative of what a good woman is. All that is part of a large system of valuing maleness — not just maleness but the patriarchy. That’s a word I was avoiding, but I don’t want to say maleness because the judgment that women get can come from men and women. I’ve heard from many women who say things about victims like, “Why was she wearing a short skirt?” My point is that a woman doesn’t have to be perfect to be deserving of justice.”

For everyone expecting her next book, here you have it

I might be doing some research for it. Maybe not.


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