Chimamanda’s Response: An Aloof Vibe?

Opinion

Let us not go huddling in the shadows by painstakingly viewing it as an overt act of feminism. The questions were purely personal as we heard from the horse’s mouth and considering Hillary’s history in which she would not accept her husband’s name, it was surprising and all the more contradictory that she would describe herself as a wife first

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Following the interview of Hillary Clinton by self professed feminist and award winning writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the PEN World Voices Festival, the writer came under scrutiny which apparently but not surprisingly got to the ears of the writer for which a response was release on her Facebook page.

Her choice of words did little to placate the anger of her critics but let us not miss her line of thoughts because we are so bent on forcing her to her knees. The tone was firm and condescending to a fault – she received a flurry of insults so who can blame her? Her response however was not without reasoning. Before you pick up stones, she spoke to her critics but particularly to an unknown person who claimed to be family – they have some history so let them deal with themselves.

The import of this post is to respond to her reply. I awaited the response because I disagreed with her – a fact that surprised many because I am her biggest fan. Love is tough and hench there comes times we will disagree but that doesn’t mean that I love you less.

To begin with, I want to point out that despite your many views, you were right, even to a large extent. It comes down to perception. My position was born out of the fact that I am pro choice and hench a woman should be allowed to identify herself how she want. Albeit, knowing Chimamanda it was easy to take the bait of feminism and reprise an opposing view. Thankfully, the question wasn’t meant to endanger the pride of proud wives but to ascertain the reason for Hillary putting up wife first in her bio having lived contracdictorily. Maybe we should have waited for her to clarify. Maybe without the outcry, she would have had nothing to clarify – Just maybe

It was easy to ask her to get her pristine perfect but presumably uncultured life out of your faces. Afterall this was Chimamanda and what else would she be doing if not chaining the sheeple to her ludicrous belief. This debate has been interspersed with incessant inquiry as to whether she was warm enough and why her question wasn’t phrase in a better manner. From her response, I deduce that there was mutual respect and a familiarity between two successful women. A familiarity that transcended personal success because one was a model and the other a fan – Chimamanda happens to be the latter. In her words, “they were supposed to be having a conversation, the context of which was personal and warm, I had made the decision to speak from the heart…..to so many issues issues around Ms. Clinton, whose life has become a crucible of all the questions that affect women.”

I will try not to belabour the points here. Chimamanda was “upset” ( a word that still remains unforgiven by critics) that the Twitter bio of a person who is the most accomplished person to run for the President of the United States, would begin with “wife”. And considering her personal history, it just didn’t seem to fit. In her words, “I felt that ‘wife’ was used as an attempt to placate all the men and women who will not vote for a woman unless they are able to see her first in domestic terms.

It is easy to dismiss her assertion on the ground that intelligent people always have an intelligent comebacks – albeit sometimes still disagreeable. However, there is no denying the fact that society at large places a greater respectability and acceptability on women seen as wives. To best single ladies and divorcees during argument, points are hinged on derogatory comments such as “that is why she not married” “she can’t even live with a man that is why her husband sent her away” “At least I have a husband.” As honourable as marriage is (please a good marriage not just marriage), I’m convinced that a woman shouldn’t be accepted or respected solely because she is married but rather inspite of that fact. Respect people because they are human – humanity is the tie that binds us.

Not satisfied, I went searching for the “personal history” of Hillary, Chimamanda spoke about that just didn’t fit and thanks in no little measure to my friend in whom I am well pleased, in the course of an all night discuss (not all night actually, I answered call of duty by 4am) I was able to pull through on insight.

Hillary Rodham Clinton might have been a fixture of American public life for the last 25 years but as The Washington Post reported in July 2015 during a routine effort to create consistency in the newspaper’s pages, inside Camp Clinton the official word is this: Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016. Not “Hillary Rodham,” as she wanted to be called until nearly 10 years after her marriage. Not “Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the headband-wearing, apologetic cookie-baking wife of a White House contender. She’s Hillary Clinton now. Despite being married to a powerful person, she had always wanted to keep her maiden name and build a career for herself by herself, inspite of her husband and not because of her husband. Being a woman, it was always going to be a long walk to freedom and despite the odds, she hit the glass ceiling – a ceiling she would have broken had she beaten Trump to the Presidency.

Women’s accomplishment according to Chimamanda are often considered incomplete unless they have also ticked the marriage box. These things she went on to say are not true of men even though marriage can be a wonderful thing for both men and women. For this reason I won’t raise the fact that Bill’s bio didn’t read husband and Obama’s bio did while Michelle’s didn’t. The scale of justice like she pointed out is not balanced.

Let us not go huddling in the shadows by painstakingly viewing it as an overt act of feminism. The questions were purely personal as we heard from the horse’s mouth and considering Hillary’s history in which she would not accept her husband’s name, it was surprising and all the more contradictory that she would describe herself as a wife first. Hench it became apparent that she clarified if the bio was personal choice or a conformity to societal expectation for her to gain acceptance.

To buttress this point, When Professor Rodham married fellow law school professor Bill Clinton in 1975, an Arkansas newspaper reported that Rodham was keeping her name. Clinton has since said neither her own mother nor Bill’s mom was happy about that. But Rodham said she wanted to be her own woman. She was 27. According to school records, she was Professor Rodham the entire time. As Bill Clinton’s political prospects climbed from a failed bid for the state House of Representatives to a successful one for the Arkansas attorney general’s office, Hillary Rodham remained a Rodham. In fact, after her husband was elected the state’s governor in 1979, she still went by her maiden name. Bill Clinton lost his reelection bid. And Hillary has said publicly that she learned the hard way that, on the list of voters’ gripes, was the fact that she used her maiden name (Voters apparently wanted a societal definition of wife for Clinton before Bill could be accepted. I don’t know how name change defines a woman but according to a study by Dutch researchers published in the Journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology in 2010, it was revealed that women who did not change their names after marriage were regarded as “ambitious” and “smarter.” I don’t see how that is a problem or how this makes sense but then statistics are like mini skirts, they don’t reveal everything).

When Bill Clinton announced on Feb. 27, 1982, that he would seek to regain the governor’s office that year, it was a big day for more than one reason. As he wrote in his autobiography, “My Life,” his wife also announced that she would “heretofore” be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This was a partial bow to tradition — but also, in this sense, it was a political play. It was an attempt to disrupt the idea that she was an excessively ambitious woman or disinterested in the traditional role of the state’s first lady. Bill Clinton became governor again.

There’s almost no way to say what role Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name change played in that outcome but, at the very least, maybe a few more culturally conservative Arkansas voters viewed her as caring and emotionally connected to her husband.

Between 1987 and 1991, Hillary Clinton served as the inaugural chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, under the name Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the association’s records. And in an overlapping period — 1986 to early 1992 — Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the board of Wal-Mart, becoming the first woman to ever do so. Wal-Mart officials told The Fix that a look at the company’s 1987 and 1991 annual reports showed Clinton identified as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In 1991, Bill Clinton launched his campaign for the White House. Bill Clinton won. And once in the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton changed her name game again, according to the White House Historical Association. The Clintons were eager to uphold and maintain White House protocols and traditions. So on official White House materials such as invitations, Hillary Rodham Clinton was identified as “Mrs. Clinton” or “Mrs. Hillary Clinton.” But on the first lady’s letterhead, in her public remarks and just about any informal setting, she was “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” That’s certainly how she was referred to in the press, particularly during her failed fight for nationalized health care.

Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for the Senate, not Mrs. Clinton. That’s how her name appeared on the 2000 New York state ballot. That’s the name the governor submitted on her official certificate of election, according to the Congressional Record. And that’s the name read in her first Senate roll call on Jan. 3, 2001. For official purposes, that was her name in the U.S. Senate

But when Clinton launched her 2008 bid for the White House, the campaign signs and ballots in early primary states like South Carolina read simply: Hillary Clinton. Sometimes, she was just Hillary. We all know how that turned out. Of course, she also had bigger problems than her name.

But when President Obama named her secretary of state, Clinton took office in January 2009 under the name Hillary Rodham Clinton. That’s how things remained, officially, until she resigned Feb. 1, 2013. Behind the scenes, as her now partially public trove of e-mail correspondence makes clear, Clinton is most often referred to as “HRC.”

When Clinton left the State Department, she turned her attention to her mind-bogglingly profitable speech-making enterprise and work at the renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. In the organization’s 2014 annual report to the IRS (some of these same reports are, yes, being corrected right now), they bore the name Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Having outlined all these, I hope we sit on the same page with Chimamanda. Her question which she insists were merely personal and to a model for women around the world was to ascertain if the wife in her bio was her making or a result of societal pressure to gain political acceptance. Having lived her life practically trying to be independent of her husband, it became confusing to see wife as the primacy of her bio. In a Nigerian manner of speaking, she was saying “Madam tell us where you dey, no dey confuse us – albeit in a polite manner. It is different for you if you live your life as a wife to the fullest and primarily use bio as wife – you are living your truth. Although, a certain school of thought still posit that there is more to you than being a wife. Choice please!

I know that some people see her as compulsively overrated and too lousy for a woman but as humans our views should be malleable. Let us not go hammering the hammersmith everytime just because we hate the hammer. Chimamanda shouldn’t be the reason why you are a feminist or why you aren’t. If feminism irks you so much, please adopt egalitarianism for in due season, we will arrive at the same destination if we faint not.

Once again, the question wasn’t an attack on women who are proud wives. It is not an attack on Hillary who is yet to pick an offence. It is not an attack on womanhood. Please wear your toga of wifehood and motherhood and careerhood as bold and unapologetic as you want.

I still have my reservations and I understand the feelings of critics who didn’t buy the response but I’ll let it pass – for now.

Chimamanda insisted the questions were personal to Hillary and for all intents and purposes, we should believe her – if not for anything, for clarifying her position.

Please what do you make of her question to Clinton and her subsequent response to critics?

Responses

  1. Larz
    Thank you!

    It is shameful how many ppl were drinking Panadol for Hilary’s headache including so called feminists. Some even went as far as calling CNA a bully on top of the matter.

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