How to love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and support transwomen
(Yes, pilule it is possible)
First things first. I believe that all women, ambulance black or white, poor or rich [insert our other differences here] deserve to do more than exist and survive. They deserve to lead happy, fulfilling lives. There is nothing I am more certain about. For far too long, the idea of being a woman has been defined by suffering; whether that be because we are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or the gender pay gap. It is time all of us women lived the lives that were rightfully ours – loudly and unapologetically and without shame, and (metaphorically) ran over anyone that got in our way. Can I get an Amen ladies?
Now that’s out the way, it’s time for my unpopular opinion. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the main reasons I believe all those things. She was the midwife at my feminist rebirth, and in some ways, I owe her my life. She inspired my departure from a very toxic situation. To say I admire the woman is an understatement.
I’m also sure I’m not the only woman that feels this way. So, what do when we get stuck between this rock and this hard place? A woman we hold the utmost respect for, seemingly marginalising other women. We are reminded that even those we place on the highest of pedestals are imperfect. This lesson is an important one in our digital age of political correctness and rushed Twitter apologies. The reminder that everyone (including us) can be problematic.
While I am not ready to ‘throw her in the bin’ as some Twitter personalities have suggested (in fact I might stand in front of the bin, ready to cut anyone who tried), I completely support the right of transwomen to speak for themselves and say why they found her comments hurtful, undermining and downright unfair. I stand completely ready to learn and be educated, and I have learnt a lot over the past few days.
This episode of a webseries highlights issues faced by a transwoman.
I need to listen and learn because my experience of womanhood and a transwoman’s experience of womanhood, while there may be similarities, are not the same. In the same way that I listened and learned when Katouche Goll shared some of her experiences of being a woman with a disability on a night out. Or the way I listened and learned when I spoke to two women about their FGM experiences. As women who want a feminist movement that leads to the empowerment of us all, we must recognise that our experiences are not all the same. We face unique difficulties. How else can we target them?
When I say, for example, that as a child I was singled out, taken aside and sternly told off for running in church because young ladies don’t do that, while a group of boys continued. Or I tell you about my intense embarrassment when I bought my first ever bras with my Mum at Marks and Sparks. Or the silent terrors that were my early periods, when I was convinced everyone knew, or that I would leak, or some other disaster would befall me. Not to talk of my current experience of being the only black woman in all of my university seminars.
These are some stories from my womanhood. Of course, there are also stories of triumph. But my stories will not be the same as yours. They might be similar– but it doesn’t even matter. If we are all listening to one another, and learning from one another, the feminist movement is strengthened not divided by our many differences. Isn’t that the whole point of intersectional feminism anyway?!
I’m convinced that this is what Aunty Chimamanda was trying to say, but take my views with a pinch of salt because I am not just a fangirl, I am a ride or die fangirl.
Feel free to take another look through and decide for yourself. After that – write your Twitter threads, think pieces and discuss with your friends.
Then get back to the important work; trying to live the happy, fulfilling lives we as women deserve.
Written by Izin Akhabau
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