10 reasons why we still love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave us serious #feministgoals last week at the WoW festival in London. Here are our best 10 quotes from her speech

Last week London’s Southbank Centre hosted it’s seventh Women of the World festival – a six-day event in celebration of women and their experiences around the world. The programme featured over 100 incredible talks, events and discussion groups, yet arguably the biggest draw was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (the best-selling author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists – which was sampled by Beyonce in her hit single ***Flawless), who sat down in conversation with Zimbabwean-born literary critic and editor Ellah Wakatama Allfrey. They discussed everything from the rise of misogyny, the problem with modern masculinity, to hair styling and likeability.

Here are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best quotes from the night:

‘I like to be liked but I don’t need to be liked

Girls are raised with this idea of likeability, which makes it difficult for them to say no. I have a friend – a woman my own age – who is very accomplished and she’s being sexually harassed at work. She told me she can’t take it any more and wants to put a stop to it. A friend of ours said to her, “well yes you should, but don’t be rude about it.” And she said “Of course I won’t be rude”. And I just thought – this is a catastrophic consequence of likeability. If someone is harming you – speak up, shout. And by the way – that person doesn’t actually like you.’

‘We have to smash and dismantle the way we have constructed masculinity

I think it’s toxic. What if we taught boys to be ashamed of not being able to communicate, or be in touch with their emotions? What if vulnerability was something to be proud of? The idea of controlling women’s bodies because men need to be protected from something they can’t control – what we are really saying is that men are sub-human. Masculinity as we have constructed it is terrible for men and women.’

‘The only reason that gender is a problem is because of sexism

The world has made assumptions about you looking a certain way, and has treated you in a certain way, and oppression has grown around that. Gender is important only because it is the basis for a system of oppression.’

‘We must always speak up

We must continue to question, continue to challenge. Silence should never be an option. It’s not always easy but I think it’s necessary. It can be things like participating in the march, or calling up your representative and saying – it’s immoral that you are de-funding programmes for reproductive healthcare.’

Chimamanda

‘Women have been socialised to reduce themselves

There’s a sense in which your ability to reduce yourself somehow contributes to your worth. The idea that a woman will always be the person to compromise in a relationship, in a family. She is praised for it, but there’s something insidious about the praise because it’s a way of controlling women, of keeping them down.’

I’ve always been uninterested in the question of whether a woman can really have it all

Because it is a question about domestic work – domestic work is the woman’s domain, and we’re asking can she do it and then have a job? I was speaking at a school in DC a while ago and a young man asked me “How do you manage married life, home life and your work?” And I said to him “If I answer your question, I want you to promise me that the next time a man comes here to speak you will ask him the same thing.” Societies are not structured to support women so we give them this burden and then say can a woman have it all? It’s really f***’d up.’

‘I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, why do you call yourself a feminist? Why don’t you just call yourself a humanist?

I think its important to name something. The name feminism works for me. It’s a good word – as good as civil rights. It’s about justice, and human rights, and all those things.’

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘In my anger about sexism, I often feel lonely, and that loneliness amplifies my rage

With sexism, I’m sometimes looked at as just being a little bit sensitive. I’m told – “you’re over doing it” “All right feminist, that’s enough” the assumption is always – this isn’t sexist, you prove it to me.’

‘I always have this surge of joy when I see black women do different things with their hair

It just fills me with unreasonable happiness. I wish we’d get to point – and I don’t think we have – where natural black hair is an equal option. But if you’re living in a society which is telling you “this is the hair-type to aspire to” – you’re human, you’re going to try. But I just don’t have time for that – my hair was not made to be twisted up.’

She also addressed her comments on transwomen which caused controversy recently:

‘I was asked are transwomen, women? And I said transwomen are transwomen. And I think it was misunderstood by people who felt I was saying that transwomen are not part of feminism, or women’s issues. But what I was saying – and this is my opinion – I don’t believe that we should insist on saying that a person who is born female, has the same experience as somebody who transitions as an adult. I just don’t think it’s the same thing. And it doesn’t have to be the same thing in order for us to be supportive of transwomen.’

Watch a snippet of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk here:

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