Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On Hillary Clinton, Refugees, Motherhood & Feminism

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She is well-known as the woman who inspired Beyonce’s feminism (and who also appeared on her 2013 track ***Flawless, as well as the Nigerian author whose book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, is now being distributed and studied by every 16 year-old in Sweden in a bid to combat sexism and gender stereotypes from a young age.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also famous for her novels such as ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ (which is also now a movie starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and ‘Americanah’ where she discusses race and feminism through the lens of a Nigerian woman who movies to America to find that these issues are tackled very differently from her home country.

More recently, she spoke at the United Nations’ World Humanitarian Day “One Humanity” event and shared her thoughts on refugees and the current US Presidential race. Delivering the keynote address at the New York venue, the celebrated author was determined to put a more nuanced human angle on the immigration issue, stating “no one is just a refugee”.

“Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing. Refugee. Immigrant,” she said.

Quartz.com reports that sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than a quarter of the world’s refugee population, and about 18 million people are fleeing conflict in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, and elsewhere.

Chimamanda’s perspective is focused on the individual stories and states we should not just look at refugees as a single mass entity.

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“Let us tell a different story. Let us remember that the movement of human beings on earth is not new. Human history is a history of movement and mingling. Let us remember that we are not just bones and flesh. We are emotional beings. We all share a desire to be valued, a desire to matter. Let us remember that dignity is as important as food,” she said in her speech.

In an interview with People Magazine ahead of her speech, she expands on this issue, and ties it in with the upcoming US election which she sayd will have a massive effect on the rest of the world depending on which candidate gets elected.

“I think people who are spoken of as refugees and immigrants are often spoken of as problems, as terrorists, rapists. There’s a point where this kind of discourse dehumanizes them, to where we don’t remember how we are like them. We don’t remember that we, too, could be them. It’s a very short talk, but it’s an opportunity to talk about how it’s important to remember the humanity of people we speak about only as refugees and immigrants,” she said, referencing the anti-immigrant and nationalist statements coming from Republican candidate Donald Trump especially.

With America being her second home, the author says she wishes Hillary Clinton would have a “proper” candidate to debate as the low standards set by Trump’s now well-documented bigotry and fact-free racist statements are a “disservice to her intelligence”. Well put!

On the topic of Hillary Clinton, Chimamanda’s feminist radar has certainly picked up on the misogynistic treatment she has been getting from the media during the election.

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“People complain about Hillary not being charismatic, or say that she’s robotic – I think it’s her reaction to how she’s been treated, and a large portion of that treatment has been because she’s female. There’s a lot of talk about, ‘Oh, Hillary Clinton is so disliked.’ And I just keep thinking, ‘Well, she’s won all of these elections. Why are we not asking the question of who likes her and why she’s liked?’ ” she states.

She believes Donald Trump doesn’t think of women as “full and equal human beings” and that has become evident by the way he talks about his political opponent in a way that mirrors much of the sexist narrative that has been constructed to paint her in a negative light for the past few decades. That has made it very easy for people to discount the idea of a woman in charge.

“I think the world in general, both men and women, has complicated feelings about women in authority and women in power. They say she doesn’t smile, they say she should laugh. There’s a lot that goes into the way that the public engages with her that would not happen if she weren’t a woman,” she said.

While she thinks it is perfectly fair to disagree with Hillary’s policies, it’s the other stuff she has a hard time getting used to, as do we.

“To call her a bitch? To talk about her being murdered? Even to talk about her personal life and her marriage, I just find it deeply misogynistic. And it’s not just making others to be comfortable in their misogyny – what it does is that it gives them an opportunity to say, ‘It’s not because we’re misogynistic. It’s not because she’s a woman.’ And that’s even more troubling,” she said.

Yet the significance of the most powerful country in the world finally on the verge of electing its first female head of state in more than 200 years is not lost on many adults who have children, especially daughters. The knowledge that they could grow up in a world seeing a female president is part of the reason many parents are more interested in the fight for gender equality than every before.

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And now that Chimamanda is a parent to a baby girl, she too realizes her own passion for equality has advanced even more.

“I care about equality and justice and peace in the world, but now I really want it. I want my child to live a world that is better than the world I lived in. I think that’s why thinking about what’s happening in the U.S. and Nigeria terrifies me,” she said at a literary panel event in London recently, referencing the horrific impact the Boko Haram terrorists are having on young girls in her home country.

The admission of being a mother shocked some, as she kept it very quiet without feeling the need to announce it to the world. And we can see why, given that in her famous TED Talk she breaks down how women are fed the idea growing up that they need to aspire to motherhood and marriage rather than determine for themselves what is going to fulfill them.

For Chimamanda, being a feminist is not something she compartmentalizes depending on which hat she is wearing on any given day.

“Feminism is not a cloak that I put on on certain days and take off on certain days. I did not get the memo that says men and women are not equal. Being a mother, sister, daughter is not mutually exclusive,” she explained.

And for that we are glad, because as a feminist role model, hearing how her perspective on various issues all tie into her passion for gender equality and feminism is something to aspire to. And if you are interested in hearing more of her thoughts on immigration, watch her UN Keynote address below:

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