Comment: Chimamanda Adichie’s Question Was Woke. It Was Also Wrong.

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Life LessonsPeople

We should be talking about investigating and finding out the Lagos big media man who sought to violate a 17 year old Chimamanda Adichie as price for publishing her first book.

Instead, a bullet has been gifted to those who hate her guts. The subject is the question (and by the way it was asked, a comment) by Ms Adichie in conversation with Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential candidate, former Secretary of state and former US Senator. (To add her other titles before these is to offend Chimamanda).

Here were her words to Mrs Clinton, according to a feminist magazine;

“In your Twitter account, the first word that describes you is ‘Wife.’ And then I think it’s ‘Mom,’ and then it’s ‘Grandmother’.

“And when I saw that, I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset. And then I went and I looked at your husband’s Twitter account, and the first word was not ‘husband.’”

Ms Adichie is an avowed feminist, forming her opinions not from ‘classical feminist literature’ but, as she says, from her Nigerian experiences. But she agrees with one of the central principles of feminism as being a woman’s right to choose her career, lifestyle and how she will be identified. Why then would she be “little upset” by Mrs Clinton first identifying on Twitter as “wife”?

It was a question we can call ‘woke’, that description given to an approach to issues from a beyond-the-expectations social consciousness. As some have observed, Chimamanda was conversing with a fellow “powerful” feminist, hence, nothing to judge here. They are amused by the reactions from men who cannot keep themselves off the impulse to legislate on what women should say.

But that’s not correct, to be kind. Ms Adichie’s question was absurd. It was not so much a genuine inquiry to understand as it was a rhetorical manner of deriding Mrs Clinton’s choice. The offense of it is in the over-arching motive: to send a message to Nigerian women that being a wife is second-rate, considerably less important to career accomplishments.

The sense is a damaging one. In traditional understanding, a society relies for much of its prosperity on mothers who raise children but also on wives who care for husbands. The reverse of the latter is the case and neither should be derided. Were it not for a general moral debasement, a mother is in fact either a wife to a loving man, or a widow to one who was once doting. But because there are now means of having children without binding long-term commitments (aka Marriage), the terms “wife” and “husband” are declining fast in use. She becomes, in this sense, an enabler of this unfortunate decline.

By coincidence or not, however, we continue to have opportunities to remind ourselves of the truths we cannot dispense with, no matter our discomfort and wokeness. To announce the birth of the third child of the Duchess of Cambridge on Monday, at least two International publications of repute went with the following:

“Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William…”

Both papers probably wanted to make the effort to put the woman’s “career” first before her family role. Can you spot the fumble in doing that? (Hint: You have to be ‘something’ to become Duchess of Cambridge.)

And Mrs Clinton’s reply to Ms dichie is worth closing with. She referenced Barbara Bush, the recently deceased wife and mother of two United states presidents, only the second woman to have played such roles in history:

“She said, you know, at the end of the day, it won’t matter if you got a raise, it won’t matter if you wrote a great book, if you are not also someone who values relationships”

It is reasonable to encourage women to aspire to careers and adventures outside the home. Yet, there are many gladly identifying fully and willingly as housewives. Under the veil of a question, the celebrated novelist appears to shame them. From one human to another, Ms Adichie should ask better questions worthy of her excellence and influence.

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By Alexander O. Onukwue | Follow @inquizimedia on Facebook and Twitter

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