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“There are so many women for whom pregnancy is the thing that pushed them down” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks Sexism with The Guardian UK

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Photo Credit: David Levene for the Guardian

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had a chat with The Guardian UK’s Lisa Allardice recently and she opened up about her fight against sexism, the need to reject likability, how she feels impacting young women all over the world and more.

Read excerpts below.

On the #MeToo movement: I feel optimistic. But cautiously optimistic. It’s either the beginning of a revolution, or it is going to be a fad. We just don’t know … I do see in women a sense that ‘We’re done, this is it … No.’ and it gives me hope.

On her fight against sexism: I don’t think sexism is worse than racism, it’s impossible even to compare. It’s that I feel lonely in my fight against sexism, in a way that I don’t feel in my fight against racism. My friends, my family, they get racism, they get it. The people I’m close to who are not black get it. But I find that with sexism you are constantly having to explain, justify, convince, make a case for.

On impacting young women all over the world: To get letters from women, saying ‘you make me feel stronger’ that means a lot to me. It’s a woman in Denmark, it’s an email from a woman in Korea, it’s the woman in Ghana. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

On the need to reject likability: Oh my God, all that time wasted. It is still very upsetting to me. I don’t care how much societies tell themselves that they are progressive, the kind of criticism that Clinton gets from the very progressive left, I think is terrible. People now say to her ‘shut up and go away’ – that whole idea of silencing women. I kind of like what’s happening to her now, it feels as though that ‘f*ck it’ I wish she had said before, she seems to be saying now.

On Donald Trump: Trump’s campaign was coded, but it was the language of racism, the language of taking the country back, being anti-immigrant in a way that was being opposed to immigrants of colour. There were white women who were therefore able to overlook his very blatant misogyny because he appealed to their whiteness.

On pregnancy and feminism: There are so many women for whom pregnancy is the thing that pushed them down, and we need to account for that. We need to have a clause in every job that a woman who gets pregnant gets her job back in exactly the same way. It’s wrong! I don’t think I’m more inherently likely to do domestic work, or childcare … It doesn’t come pre-programmed in your vagina, right?

Read more here.

Photo Credit: David Levene for the Guardian

25 Comments

  1. Anon

    April 30, 2018 at 7:19 am

    For me, Adichie is extremely admirable. I mean, I am in awe of her accomplishments in every aspect. But there are quite a number of issues that I am not quite in agreement with her..and not because I am intellectually challenged but because I believe those issues are, to a large extent, defined by nature and not just society. An example is her comment that gender roles are absolute nonsense.. I don’t think so simply because by nature, men are a certain way eg. usually physical and women are usually more emotional …there are exceptions of course. Same with pregnancy bringing a woman down …while I agree that in many instances, having children may affect a woman’s career growth …I say this as she mentioned this in relation to the work place …I also believe that it’s not entirely society’s fault either as nature plays a role here, whether we like it or not. I am a typical example of this ….I could work my ass off, be the first to arrive and the last to leave, not to prove anything but just cos I enjoyed the work. I grew fast too due to this. However when I had kids, I slowed down without even realizing it I didn’t realise my work ethic changed until my boss said it. I would change meeting times, hurry meetings along, and not be as eager to take on extra case loads, etc.. Usually, I was his go-to but somehow, with kids, it wasn’t like that anymore. He reminded me of our many conversations about the change that comes with having kids and family and I was stunned to see it has happened to me. I still loved work but I also now had another thing I loved maybe even more …my kids. It wasn’t society or my boss …it was nature and me. I had a hubby who happily shared home and family responsibilities with me …I mean the guy took on more than 50% of the work load on the home front as he was self employed but I still just wanted to do something there. In that moment, I realized life is a bit more than black or white .. The gender thing is quite complicated … for me, where and when ever I hear gender issues, I find that all I really want is to be treated with the same dignity and respect as the men but in truth, certain issues will always hold such as as society deriding men who are not bread winners or who choose to be house husbands and wary of women who are not maternal. Due to “nature”, these are perceived as outside the normal

    • Marie

      April 30, 2018 at 7:33 am

      Brilliant analysis …but her point is that it shouldn’t be normal. Using your example: your workplace should make extra allowances for you now that you are a mom. You should have a more flexible timeline. The norm should be accepting that change in women – not as a weakness – but as a strength- same way the actual queen bee is treated. Society sees us as weaklings- the smarter bees see this as a strength . That’s chimamanda’ point .

    • CrazyWorld

      April 30, 2018 at 11:47 am

      And it can’t be normal. She is just fighting nature. A pregnant woman or new mother will slow down production or process in a company. If she has to meet a deadline for a book publication and it’s delayed because some pregnant woman is slow or someone had to attend to her new born Baby, will she be happy? WIll she say ‘women empowerment’ and smile at whoever is in charge of the company?

      I’m not saying they should be sacked but just fight for maternity leave and paternity leave and leave it there. Imagine the outrage if men are saved first during disasters or females are used as child soldiers. Women aren’t the only one suffering injustice in the world

    • omo ajorosun

      April 30, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      @Marie, isn’t it contradictory that women ask to be treated equally as men on the one hand, and then on the other hand, as for extra allowances when we become mothers, considering the fact that men don’t get extra allowances when they become fathers?

      It is difficult for people to take feminists seriously if we make requests for extra advantages that the end result is not to close the gap between male and female but to elevate the uniqueness of the female gender. I would think that instead of asking for more time off for extra allowances for parents. That way, a mother can ask the father of her child to take time off work while she focuses on work. That way, employers don’t worry about hiring female employees if they know both male and female employees can take time off work for their children. Employers are reluctant to take on female employees because 1) the law has programmed it to be that only mothers are entitled to parental leave; 2) the society expects that only a woman would take parental leave.

    • slice

      April 30, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Our differences can’t really explain gender roles. Mama won’t bring brother into the kitchen but now in the abroad, he suddenly can make stew. Men change diapers, cook clean so what’s left…women mow their own lawn if there’s no man to nag to do it and life continues. In that sense, she’s right. Gender roles are nonsense . Also some some women become more focused at work after their maternity leave sometimes due a new lease on life or the daily reminder of a new mouth to feed and for others they are just focused before or after.

      If you want your job, you should be allowed to keep your job. Not because you’re a new mom but because you earned it through hardwork

  2. Cocoa

    April 30, 2018 at 8:09 am

    I liked Anon’s analysis too. For me..no one voice represents all women. I have embraced the natural inclinations in me.

    “It doesn’t come pe-programmed in my vagina” but I actually think there’s a rather strong correlation between my body nurturing a child for 9 months and wanting to be the primary care-giver after birth .

    But that’s just me.

  3. CrazyWorld

    April 30, 2018 at 8:09 am

    I think CMA is intelligent but let’s not forget that this part she is targeting has to do with real people, real life. A woman is emotionally connected with her baby and we know this can affect work. I am not saying a pregnant woman should be sacked but if there are lots of customers or probably something that needs an employee to travel, will she leave a milk sucking baby and travel? This affects a real company and it’s profit but let’s keep quiet.

    I remember the Davido and Dele Momodu saga. Everyone was shouting ‘a baby needs Its mother’. Even all the die hard feminists on here were saying this. A baby doesn’t need Its Father? Feminism can be confusing and when we ask, they say we should pick a book and educate ourselves. I really want to understand but it seems like women just say they want this and don’t look at its effect on men and this kind of defeats the whole idea feminism(equality) that you are fighting.

    CMA doesn’t push for paternity leave which will still benefit women in the long run. In war torn areas where male child soldiers are used, we don’t hear anything but let’s assume it’s female they use (please don’t talk about Chibok here). What about all the rescue operations that target women and children first. CMA’s fight is unbalanced and it can’t be because it’s not arithmetic. Nature isn’t not balanced, life is unbalanced and it can’t be.

    • slice

      April 30, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Women push for paternity leave and many companies give up to 3 or 4 months because they understand men need time to bond with the new baby too. We still have a long way to go in Nigeria but people are fighting for these accommodations. She’s fighting for you to have the right to keep your job after belle. There’s nothing to criticize here. If you don’t want the job, that’s ok.but some women want to keep their job.

  4. Mondela

    April 30, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I dont understand how anything this woman says become news headlines,you people should leave her alone,i doubt if she wants all this attention you people are giving her.

  5. Oma

    April 30, 2018 at 10:46 am

    @Mandela, your doubt that she wants our attention is most likely incorrect and if it is, then it would be strange that one who does not want us to have any opinions on her viewpoints is doing interviews in public magazines or whatever public podium it is.. Besides, her ‘mission’ is to raise conversations on this issue which will bring up different opinions, same or different from hers. We are all discussing ….and maybe, from our conversations, we will achieve some change. For @Marie comment on the first comment that her workplace should make allowances for her new status, I appreciate that but again, in a competitive work place, some allowances only come with certain positions and even then, we have seen enough ruthlessness in corporate to see that some , female or male, are reluctant to enjoy those allowances hence they are perceived as less effective. Check it now , you’re competing against both men and women,.single and married, some with kids and others with not, some much older whose kids have left home and those with young kids. The playing field is uneven. O di tough but we will keep talking about it. If we believe enough, maybe we can fight to effect those changes when we get to such decisions making positions

    • kingsley

      April 30, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      the truth of the issue is this no matter how productive is a woman as soon as she marry it always weigh her productivity down, leave is a necessity for woman after birth
      to arrange her self.

  6. Mine

    April 30, 2018 at 11:55 am

    I was Promoted to the position of a Manager at my Place of work and I was hated by the men folks for being a woman manager

  7. kingsley

    April 30, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    the truth of the issue is this no matter how productive is a woman as soon as she marry it always weigh her productivity down, leave is a necessity for woman after birth
    to arrange her self.

  8. Elle

    April 30, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Closer home I would say BellaNaijs is an example, I sometimes wonder why Uche P is not further establishing this brand she’s painstakingly built up and if it’s because family life demands more from her. But on the flip side, people like SDK too have families so maybe it’s not an excuse. Just thinking out loud.

    • ifedolapo

      April 30, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      It is not fair to compare two hardworking women especially considering that Uche has younger kids compared to SDK. Besides you do not know what their peculiar realities/situations are.

    • slice

      April 30, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Uches blog is not the same. Could be because of kids or because she’s got other business interest or because someone else was making it look good and the person left
      Whatever the reason, everyone knows it’s not up to par and it seems the uche herself stopped caring. There’s a lot of copy and paste stuff and not much original content and the comment moderation is beyond absurd. Not sure if atoke is still on board. She was a shining light on here

  9. Larz

    April 30, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    The key here is that you should be able to come back to your original work. Some company demote (overtly or on the downlow) when they come back to work. If you feel you need to reduce your hours, let that be your decision.

    It is not just women that have to adjust after kids. My boss (who only just recently got promoted) told me that he picks up his son from school at 3pm on Mondays to drop with his parents and come back to work. Another guy does 7-4 two days a week so he can pick up his kids. Another guy must finish work at 5pm everyday, it is non negotiable, he has to see his kids before their 7pm bedtime. All these guys are being judged on their output and nothing else. You may have a few months adjusting as a working mother but with enough support at home (god vhildcare) and at work (including things like flexible working hours and office creche), most women can operate at their optimum l3vel.

    • slice

      April 30, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      This this right here is what some women don’t get. All day long I see guys run off real quick for the all important task of picking up kids or waiting on them at the bus after school. But yet when women do it, it’s seen as requiring a huge accommodation and women buy into this idea too. It’s simply not true

    • Peaches77

      May 1, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      That’s all!
      And I must say, there are IT coys in Nigeria that allow women a certain level of flexibility. One I know particularly, a good number of Women are managers plus there is a little crèche in the building. Company is owned by a man so what’s the excuse? Productivity and delivery is key. We can do better.

  10. Engoz

    April 30, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    If it is in your nature to be limited in productivity because of birth/child care and most Nigerian women believe this, I sincerely believe you people should look into staying at home to free up the work-space for unemployed men. It is ok to be a housewife. We have an unemployment issue in Nigeria and I think one of the ways we can alleviate the burden at least for men, is for men to be given top priority over married women for job positions if the case of both having same qualifications presents itself. Most Nigerian women believe that men are supposed to carry all financial responsibilities anyway. So it’s not as if most are operating a 2 income household anyway, unless we are all lying to ourselves.
    Also, we also need to look into admission in schools, boys with same qualifications over girls should be given priority, since most Nigerian women allude to preference for home economics/family duties. This is why I am seriously anti companies adopting a quota system for women in Nigeria, because a quota system will allow for ‘low-productivity’ entities to invade the work-place.

    If you are a married woman in Nigeria and you don’t have such views, you better wake up and challenge this ideology (that reinstates discriminatory practices against you) among your peers of married with children = less productivity . I don’t really give a damn. I don’t live in that country and I’m not coming back to say I want to ‘work’. God forbid! So it ain’t my fight. The other day Glo kicked married women out, I laughed ehn. When you make statements like this ‘I used to be good, now I’m not as good because of marriage/childcare”, why should any sane company hire or retain you as a married woman with kids? Lol. I think such statement is a disservice to all working women navigating the areas of their lives beautifully. Heck I see women carrying babies on their backs and hawking their wares on the streets of Nigeria. It is now people that have time for bellanaija that are complaining of being low on productivity, lmao. Nevertheless this topic is about pregnancy not child care or being married.

    Here in the US, men and women are involved in child care. We have Benefit time off. We plan our schedule. In fact Larz has said it all.

    On racism, not interested.

  11. Cee

    April 30, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Enough of all this gender equality noice” all we should be concerned about is doing the best we can for our society and working together in peace” with an open mind and heart towards the other person.. let’s all stay positive” think positive” and act positive” just be the best person you can be and let GOD reward you accordingly.

  12. Be real

    May 1, 2018 at 3:49 am

    The rise in mental health issues correlates to the rise in women leaving lil babies at home. It’s rather unfortunate but it is what it is, most mental illnesses stem from mother child bonding.

    • slice

      May 1, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Lies

    • Pseudonym

      May 2, 2018 at 5:52 am

      Lies you tell…

  13. Ephi

    May 1, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Like the world is not divided enough. Every single thing seems to be a war these days and now it’s Gender war. I understand standing up for women’s rights, what I don’t understand is the aggression and vitriol with which it is sometimes done.

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