News Brief

A Timeline of Chimamanda Adichie's Controversial Remarks About Trans Women

Chimamanda Adichie has issued a response to the criticism she faced over the weekend for her comments about trans women.

Last Friday, a clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie during an interview with the UK's Channel 4 News began circulating. In the short video, Adichie is shown answering a question about the inclusion of transgender women in the feminist movement, and whether or not it mattered how someone "arrived at being a woman" in regards to feminism and femininity.


"When people talk about, ‘are trans women women’ my feeling is that trans women are trans women," she stated. "If you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men, and then sort of changed, switched gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”

She then elaborated on why she felt that it was limiting to "conflate" the issues of cisgender women, with those of transgender women, before stating that "gender is not biology, gender is sociology."

Adichie's comments sparked conversations about the experiences of trans woman and how they fit into the larger narrative of womanhood. Many found her comments to be exclusionary, and felt that it was not her place to speak on the experiences of trans women.

Following the release of the interview, Adichie took to Facebook in an attempt to clarify her statements.

"Of course trans women are part of feminism," she remarked. "I do not believe that the experience of a trans woman is the same as that of a person born female. I do not believe that, say, a person who has lived in the world as a man for 30 years experiences gender in the same way as a person female since birth. Gender matters because of socialization. And our socialization shapes how we occupy our space in the world."

In response, trans actress and LGBT advocate, Laverne Cox, shared her personal experience with male privilege and touched on the importance of true intersectionality via Twitter.

I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and was bullied and shamed for that. My femininity did not make me feel privileged. I was a good student and was very much encouraged because of that but I saw cis girls who showed academic promise being nurtured in the black community I grew up in in Mobile, Ala. Gender exists on a spectrum & the binary narrative which suggests that all trans women transition from male privilege erases a lot of experiences and isn’t intersectional. Gender is constituted differently based on the culture we live in. There’s no universal experience of gender, of womanhood. To suggest that is essentialist & again not intersectional. Many of our feminist foremothers cautioned against such essentialism & not having an intersectional approach to feminism. Class, race, sexuality, ability, immigration status, education all influence the ways in which we experience privilege so though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity. The irony of my life is prior to transition I was called a girl and after I am often called a man. Gender policing & the fact that gender binaries can only exist through strict policing complicates the concept of gendered privilege & that’s OK cause it’s complicated. Intersectionality complicates both male and cis privilege. This is why it is paramount that we continue to lift up diverse trans stories. For too many years there’s been far too few trans stories in the media. For over 60 years since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first internationally known trans woman the narrative about trans folks in the media was one of macho guy becomes a woman. That’s certainly not my story or the stories of many trans folks I know. That narrative often works to reinforce binaries rather than explode them. That explosion is the gender revolution I imagine,one of true gender self determination.”

Nigerian-American trans writer Jarune Uwujaren also penned a response to Adhichie's remarks entitled Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Comments on Trans Women are Wrong and Dangerous. Here is an excerpt form her piece:

To those people, I say this: your viewpoint is old and tired as hell. Trans exclusionary feminism is not new or interesting or nuanced or enlightened just because the normally on point Adichie failed to recognize that it is not her place to tell trans women who they are or how they live in the world. The feminist movements of our time have been historically weighed down by gender essentialism, cissexism, transphobia, and a belief that trans people are not who they say they are but who they are violently pressured to be.

You cannot fix your mouth to say you are an ally to trans people if you think Adichie’s decision to talk over trans women was appropriate. You cannot claim to shed tears for the trans women out here being killed while defending Adichie’s belief that trans women aren’t really women (and yes, that’s what she said) because that belief upholds such violence. You cannot talk about trans people as if we’re talking points or theoretical concepts and ignore our own words about our experiences with gender and call that allyship. Trans people are working, living, and speaking before your eyes about who we are and what we need—stop looking to cis feminists to dictate how you see and support us.

In short, you need to listen to trans people more than you need to speak for or about us. Anything else is further marginalizing a group of people who cannot afford to be further marginalized.

Yesterday, Adichie took to Facebook, once again, after debates over her comments continued to escalate. "Because we can oppose violence against trans women while also acknowledging differences. Because we should be able to acknowledge differences while also being supportive. Because we do not have to insist, in the name of being supportive, that everything is the same. Because we run the risk of reducing gender to a single, essentialist thing," she wrote.

"I have and will continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people. Not merely because of the violence they experience but because they are equal human beings deserving to be what they are."

She also spoke on the matter on Saturday during London's Women of the World festival.

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Image via Wikimedia

Google Honors Nigerian Feminist Icon, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, With Doodle

Today would have been the Nigerian trailblazer's 119th birthday.

Pay your Google Doodle extra attention today. It is honoring Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, an activist, teacher and politician, on her birthday. She would have been 119 today. Ransome-Kuti became a prominent Nigerian icon as she fought for women's rights, including women's right to vote, and was constantly breaking barriers—including being the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car and ride a motorcycle. Her work earned her two beloved monikers: "The Lioness of Lisabi" and "The Mother of Africa." If that wasn't enough, she's also Fela Kuti's mom.

The doodle, illustrated by Nigerian-Italian artist Diana Ejaita, blends Ransome-Kuti's accomplishments into Google's logo and show her actions reflected in women who bear her likeness. The artist is known for using stark blacks and soft colors to show the "strength of femininity," perfect in a portrait of Ransome-Kuti. If you can't view the doodle automatically, that is because it will only show up for searches in Nigeria. But, don't worry, check it out via Google Doodle's twitter post below.

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Ugandan prominent human rights activist and feminist Stella Nyanzi (C) reacts to police officers during a protest against the amount and handling of police investigations into murders and kidnappings of women in Kampala on June 5, 2018. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Found Guilty of Cyber Harassment Against President Museveni

The activist has been sentenced to 18 months in prison over a poem she wrote about the president last year, referencing vaginas.

Stella Nyanzi, the outspoken Ugandan activist and former research fellow at Makerere University's Institute for Social Research, was found guilty of cyber harassment against President Yoweri Museveni on Friday, after sharing a controversial birthday poem for the president last September.

Nyanzi was arrested in November of last year after sharing the poem on her Facebook page, part of which read: "I wish the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

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The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Rema, J Hus, YoungstaCPT, Thutmose, N'veigh and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Deaan Vivier/Foto24/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Miss South Africa Wants Men to Write Love Letters to Women to Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

Unfortunately, there's nothing stopping abusive men from writing these love letters too.

South Africa's newly crowned Miss SA Zozibini "Zozi" Tunzi has launched a "HeForShe" campaign which aims to tackle the alarming rates of femicide and gender-based violence in the country. The campaign, which is in partnership with the South African arm of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), wants South African men to step up and join the collective fight against abuse. However, the campaign has been criticized by many because of the way in which it wants men to step—by writing love letters to women. The campaign has divided South Africans, particularly those on social media.

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