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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By Douglas Anele

The denigration, stigmatisation and subjection of women is almost universal; its taproot can be traced to remote antiquity and probably coeval with the crystalisation of monotheistic religion that emphasises unquestioned belief in a single masculine deity worshipped as the Creator of the universe. Consequently, the psychological grip of male domination over females, apparently ordained by God, is extremely strong and appears natural to both men and women. Ordinarily, people do not realise that most of the things they consider “natural” or established by some supernatural being, including the subordinate status of women to men, are actually man-made.

That is why valiant feminists worldwide who consistently challenge irrational stereotypes and maltreatment of women and girls simply because of their gender should be commended because it takes a lot of hard work and determination to change habits of thought and behaviour that have lasted for thousands of years. Having said that, and reverting to the issue of Chimamanda Adichie’s interview with Hilary Clinton, Daddy Freeze was uncharitably bad-tempered towards Adichie when he claims that “woman to woman, what Hilary has achieved, in my opinion you never can…Even Obama refers to himself as a dad first, husband second… .”

It appears that Daddy Freeze is one of those men that hide their anxiety under the rickety umbrella of Christian dogma whenever women push back against gendered social injustice by either questioning the unscientific stereotype of male superiority or by refusing to behave in accordance with that stereotype. Anyway, at no point during the interview did Adichie in any manner suggest that she was competing with Mrs. Clinton and working to accomplish what the latter had achieved. Hilary Clinton is a mentor Adichie has admired for so long from a distance as a good example for other women to emulate.

So, aside from her honest admission of being a little upset that Clinton put her domestic life first before her professional accomplishments, Adichie’s question is legitimate particularly from a feminist point of view since Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton’s spouse, did not put “husband” first in his own biodata. Moreover, Freeze’s reference to Obama is completely irrelevant: as a man, Obama’s political career was not constrained by the unique hard socio-cultural and religious glass ceilings women must shatter in order to achieve their aspirations in those areas of human endeavor traditionally dominated by or reserved for men. Reading through Freeze’s response, I discerned a repulsive blend of male chauvinism and antiquated Christian stereotypes that inhibit rational understanding of the significance of feminist complaints about how, for very dubious and untenable reasons, women have been subjected to systematic social injustice and compelled by religion and culture to play second fiddle to men.

To complicate matters for both feminists and their male sympathisers, a lot of women, brainwashed by their parents, relatives, pastors, imams, and so on actually condemn feminists for seeking to topple ancient gender roles which actually distort the most liberating relation between man and woman, that is, the most natural relation of human being to human being. As Simone de Beauvoir affirmed in her provocative book, the bible of contemporary feminism entitled The Second Sex, to gain supreme victory over gendered historical impediments against women, “it is necessary…that by and through their natural differentiation men and women can unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.”

Now, in apparent agreement with Chimamanda Adichie, Mrs. Clinton has silenced Adichie’s critics by modifying her Twitter bio: instead of “wife, mom, grandma etc.,” it now reads “2016 Democratic nominee, Sec. of State, senator…” The only reasonable explanation for this is that, after a moment of introspection the former American first lady realised that the Nigerian novelist was probably right in questioning her self-description which appears to emphasise her domestic role as a wife and mother. Meanwhile, some women have argued that women are free to choose how to present themselves and that they should not be questioned if they prioritise or give preeminence to the domestic aspect of their lives. However, as the psychoanalytic philosopher, Erich Fromm insists, freedom of thought “means something only if we have thoughts of our own.”

Similarly, freedom of choice means something if the choice made truly reflects one’s inner disposition and genuine feeling or thinking on the issue the choice was made. Certainly, any choice can be questioned, especially in terms of context and basic motivation, which implies that one can legitimately want to know, as I adumbrated earlier, whether Mrs. Clinton wrote her bio data before the interview with Adichie without attaching any significance to the order in which the various items were listed, or whether the order was determined by her subconscious desire to win the support of men and women who would instinctively recoil at the thought of a female President unless they are convinced that her persona conforms to the traditional domestic roles of women – in which case the choice is not really genuine.

To have an intelligent and urbane discussion concerning emotionally charged and controversial topics such as feminism is not easy, as can be seen easily from several silly and irritating ad hominem arguments against Chimamanda Adichie by some women – and men. But the good thing is that her conversation with Mrs. Clinton has brought to the fore once again the necessity for continuous dialogue on how best men and women can relate with one another for the optimum benefit of humanity.

One of the most popular musicians in Nigeria presently, David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, has been the subject of heated discussion for a while now after buying a Porsche vehicle reportedly worth N45 million for his girlfriend, Chioma Avril Rowland, to celebrate her birthday. Expectedly, while some Nigerians commended Davido’s action, others have condemned it. According to media reports, one woman was so incensed that she wanted to know what kind of mother Chioma has that would allow a “serial casanova” to be toying with her daughter.

Putting emotions in abeyance, if the birthday gift saga is not a publicity stunt by Davido and Chioma, what is the most appropriate response to it? In a materialistic and acquisitive society such as ours, buying such an expensive gift for a purportedly twenty-three year old girl can easily be interpreted as a genuine sign of deep love. Yet, only David Adeleke knows exactly the depth of his feeling for Chioma. But it is wrong to claim, as some who had never met any of them have done, that Chioma is making a grievous mistake by taking Davido’s profession of love seriously because he would eventually not marry her, having left two other girls that had children for him. Possibly, both lovers complement each other to the extent that marriage between them might be successful.

But why are Nigerians so fixated on marriage? Must every genuine love between woman and man lead to marriage? Is love meaningless simply because the people involved did not end up as husband and wife? Or can love still be beautiful, worthwhile and enriching even if the lovers failed to marry? Is the overemphasis on marriage always helpful to fruitful and fulfilling man-woman relationship or can it do more harm than good in some situations? Must every one marry? Is it true that a woman (or man) is incomplete without matrimony? As we ponder these questions, it must be pointed out that some of the men and women criticising Chioma and Davido might be doing so because of hypocrisy and jealousy or envy.

These men, in their hearts, really wish they were rich enough to buy costly gifts for their girlfriends, or that their daughters would be the lucky recipients of such a gift. On the other hand, young girls might be jealous because their boyfriends cannot do what Davido has done, whereas if the daughter of that woman who upbraided Chioma and her mother received a gift worth N45 million, she would go to her church immediately and testify loudly that “the Lord who answereth by fire, the I am that I am, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, has done it for my daughter!”

To be continued…

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