The first time I watched a video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was struck by the number of times she would prefix her sentences with “I think”. A few years later, I was at her workshop and again, I was struck by how she never said anything without saying “I think” first, even on the most ordinary things, even in spaces where she is an authority. She would always use that prefix and after a while I was upset by it (see what I did there). Why did she always have to absolve herself from being definite with her opinions? Why didn’t she cut through certain bullshit with “you know what, this is what it is” and end the matter?
Eventually, I would come to understand why it was necessary to create that distance, she is a human being whose words are prone to be twisted, misinterpreted and even outright lies ascribed to her. I have long since stopped wondering why she is such an easy target; she doesn’t say things we haven’t heard before or thought about, neither is she rude or uncouth in passing her message. And no, it is not the fault of bloggers and newspaper headlines, if we stopped reacting to a particular topic- it would stop being news.
If I hadn’t watched the video of Ms Adichie’s interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show yesterday, I would have thought that she decreed a new law preventing men from opening doors for women- from the reactions I saw this morning. No, I am not going to pretend to understand how asking people to be kind to everyone regardless of gender and using opening doors as an example is suddenly the worst thing in the world. Or how asking that the weak be saved first regardless of gender is a now a crime, I’m sorry my brain circuits would not survive the power shunts required to make the connection.
The truth is, she shared her thoughts on chivalry, watch the video or see the transcript on Farida’s wall. Everything began with “I think”. Unless we are saying she has no right to think or that her thoughts are suddenly binding on all of us. She can go on a billion talk shows and tell men not to open doors for women- as people are implying she said, it will not change anything. The men who want to open doors/ stand up from seats/buy assurance for bae, will still do so.
You can still be anything you want to be, a feminist, a feminist who loves the patriarchal privileges, a chauvinist, a woman who believes that women were put on earth as afterthoughts and to be foot mats to the kings- men. I have always distrusted chivalry and romantic gestures, call me unromantic if you like but I value kindness and tolerance more than anything. Ulterior motives scare me every time.
I’d much rather be with a man who is kind to everyone and is unromantic than one who is terrible to others and fantastic with me, romance will always fade, friendship might wear and chip and crack but kindness is constant. I’m more interested in how my man treats his younger sisters than in his pampering of me, if he is a bully to them… I should fucking expect to be bullied with time. My friend ‘Vester, lights up when he’s talking to his sisters, it almost makes me want to be one of his sisters even though I do not want more brothers and my feelings for him are not even sisterly to start with. But this is Adaeze and these are her thoughts and not binding on anyone.
We all have our platforms where we share our thoughts, some of us make a dozen posts daily across social media where we talk about the same things over and over; Buhari, Assurance, Sex, Money, Saraki- whatever we please and nobody tells us how our own is too much or how we put our mouths in things that are not our business. Most of all, we would not tolerate people coming to tell us what to talk about, or what matters while our thoughts do not. It’s not hard to extend that courtesy to CNA, to wait to watch a video or read the transcript to know what she’s talking about before going on outrage rampages or speculating silly theories about her mental state or her marriage. We do more for pastors and politicians…
At the end, Ms Adichie in her speeches, interviews and books, does the same thing we all do every day- share her thoughts. Until she gets into the position of making laws and edicts that affect our lives, let’s spare our outrage for those who actually make the decisions that affect us.