Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks feminism and story-telling
The Chancellor’s Lecture Series hosts renowned author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Nov. 21
November 22, 2019
Author and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came to Langford Auditorium Nov. 21 to present her speech “Writer, Thinker, Feminist: Vignettes from Life” as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series. Adichie is well-known for her books, including “Half of a Yellow Sun,” “Purple Hibiscus” and “Americanah,” the last of which is recognized as one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Her 2009 TEDx Talk “The danger of a single story” has over 20 million views, and she adapted her 2012 TEDx Talk “We should all be feminists” into a short book.
“I was born with the desire already in me, this deep urge to tell stories, to hear stories, to complete stories,” Adichie said.
Adichie began the lecture by discussing how her journey of story-telling started from her childhood in Nigeria. As a child, Adichie said she felt somber riding in the car because she was passing by so many stories that she knew she would never be able to tell. Even as Adichie grew older and encountered rejections in her professional writing career, she remained persistent in sharing people’s stories. Her friends recognized her passion for feminism before she did, as she was constantly lecturing them about women’s issues without even realizing it.
“I have to say that I didn’t plan to become a feminist icon,” Adichie said.
Adichie decided that she wanted to use her voice as a story-teller to bring attention to the issue of sexism, aiming to address systemic inequality in a way that provided hope for the future.
“To tell stories is not only to illuminate the reality of our world, but also to envision very clearly the kind of world we want,” Adichie said.
Adichie conveyed that it was necessary to practice feminism that takes race and religion into account in order to achieve true equality. She lamented how people assume that members of marginalized groups only write about and discuss identity, explaining how only white male stories are often considered to be universal, when in reality identity is a part of every story ever written.
“Identity is about all of us,” Adichie said. “Identity matters because identity is tied to rights and to stereotypes.”
Adichie contrasted societal expectations for women with those for men, sharing how women, in particular black women, cannot demonstrate anger in the same way men can.
“We know that the characteristic or behavior is the same,” Adichie said. “What is different is the body exhibiting it.”
At the end of the lecture, Tracy D. Sharpley-Whiting, chair of African American and Diaspora Studies, and Arelis Benítez, a graduate student in Religion, Psychology and Culture, led a Q&A with Adichie to continue the discussion of feminism. In the Q&A session, Adichie addressed topics including her vision for the world and her experience as a mother. Adichie wished for a world in which feminism was less urgent– a world that outlawed practices like female genital mutilation and a world in which women went into job interviews without worrying about coming across as too aggressive.
Adichie discussed how having a daughter made her more realistic about barriers to equality but also more hopeful about the future.
“I so want her to live in a world that is kinder to women than the world that I’ve lived in,” Adichie said.