On Colorism, Respectability Politics, and Cardi B

 Getty Images/Alberto Rodriguez

Getty Images/Alberto Rodriguez

Last week, Cardi B made history as the first female rapper since Lauryn Hill to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart without any guest appearances. Her hit single, “Bodak Yellow”, dethroned Taylor’s Swift “Look What You Made Me Do”. Although Cardi B’s historic success was met with praise across social media and beyond, it didn’t take long for people to question the value of it.

Within a day of Cardi B taking the number one spot, there were a plethora of facebook posts on my timeline expressing how discouraged they were about Cardi B being the image of success for young black girls. Most of the posts were from Christian women who couldn’t fathom a stripper-turned-reality star-turned-rapper being a leader for women. One post in particular even did the cringe-worthy hazard of comparing Cardi B to Michelle Obama, obviously emphasizing that she wanted her daughter to be more like the former first lady and not the unapologetic rapper who has no filter.

I can’t say that seeing post like the one mentioned above surprised me. As progressive as this generation of millennials are, there’s still an odorous tinge of traditionalism that highlights how respectability politics prevails in black culture.  My first reaction was basically filled with concern because I knew those posts were not the right message to be sending young black girls, and I also knew that it was wrong to diminish one’s success because of their past.

I will be the first to say that comparing Cardi B to Michelle Obama, Oprah, or any other black women whose rise to success seemingly makes them more conducive to being a “leader for young black girls” has respectability politics written all over it (in all caps, followed by an exclamation point). Just because someone’s rise to success doesn’t align with other’s perception of what success should look like, doesn’t mean that it should be demeaned and contained. Furthermore, that notion is attendant to the archaic idea of black elitism in which the divide between middle class, church-going, respectably mannered black women and the perceivably unkempt, loud-mouthed,and misunderstood black girls from the hood becomes more apparent.

This is a notion that was also held by Azealia Banks who mentioned, among other things, that stripper culture should not be the face of hip-hop and Cardi B representing that is an issue. Besides the fact that Banks isn’t in any position to declare what the face of female hip-hop should be, she subconsciously contributed to the faulty reasoning that a black woman’s profession defines her worth and assuming that all women who are strippers chose to be in that position . Cardi B’s rise is an obvious suggestion of the opposite. In fact, like some black women who are strippers, Cardi B became a one because it was an escape from poverty and the domestic violence incited by an ex-boyfriend. Although it’s a desired profession for some, it’s a means of escape for others. That’s obviously illustrated in “Bodak Yellow” with Cardi B rapping “I don’t dance now. I make money moves”.  Furthermore, I will also be the first to argue that Cardi B’s rise to success should be an example for all black girls that they can fulfill their dreams when the odds are heavily stacked against them

The second aspect of the criticism of Cardi B involved Azealia Banks again. In typical Azealia Banks fashion, the highly controversial rapper took to social media to express that colorism helped Cardi B ascend to the top, even going at length to label her “a poor man’s Nicki” (insert straight-face emoji here).

 

azealia-cardi-tweets-1.png

Immediately following her twitter thread, there were black feminists who defended her under the guise of colorism and Banks’ mental illness. Basically, social media defenses of Banks  varied between the “Banks is a dark-skinned women, so we have to acknowledge her disadvantage in society, and choosing Cardi B over her just perpetuates the colorism narrative” facebook post and the “We have to address mental health and how it take its toll on black women” twitter thread.

 

Don't get me wrong. I am well aware that hip-hop culture regularly demeans black women and has a long history of contributing to misogynoir. I will also admit that hip-hop does have a behind-the-scenes colorism issue. I only use that term because I do believe that hip-hop is probably the only platform in which the dark-skinned women are more accepted. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, Rah Digga, and more are examples of hip-hop being a welcoming environment for dark-skinned black women. Additionally, to counter Banks’ claim of black men not hyping them up, it was Russell Simmons and Jay-Z who believed in a 17-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, New York, by the name of Foxy Brown and immediately signed her to Def Jam Records. It was Timbaland’s production skills that helped elevate Missy Elliott to hip-hop regality. I can go on and on and list examples of how black men have helped dark-skinned black women and even put them on the map.

However, I am not oblivious to colorism being a hidden issue. Whether we like it or not, there’s truth to Lil Kim’s decision to bleach her skin and Azealia  Banks’  decision to do the same. Additionally, I believe that Banks did accomplish shedding light on the colorism dialogue in hip-hop because although the issue isn’t prevalent in hip-hop doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in that realm.

Nevertheless, those truths  don’t reduce my thoughts on labeling Azealia Banks an asshole. And I’m not going to use colorism and her mental health as excuses for her being that way. I don’t believe there is more depth to her comments on Cardi B than simply being a bitter, self-destructive female rapper who's jealous because Cardi B's social media feuds aren’t more famous than her actual music.

I find it distressing that black woman’s historic accomplishments are being unpacked and analyzed as a means to belittle her success. Cardi B is a perfect illustration of the potential that black girls have in an environment that’s increasingly stifling to their success and that, in itself, doesn’t require any further analysis.



 

How the Kardashians Strategically Maintained Success While Stealing Black Culture

 instagram/Getty Images

instagram/Getty Images

The Kardashians have made a living off of stealing black culture by going unscathed from their white peers.

As “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is in it’s tenth year (the season premiere of the 14th season airs Sunday) and Kylie Jenner is reportedly pregnant with Travis Scott’s (another black rapper’s) baby, it’s been an intense weekend for the Kardashian clan. Furthermore, those circumstances make it easier to reflect on how the Kardashians have remained successful despite their black culture-centered career.

The answer is bigger than the always appropriate claim of them being pretty white girls. It’s more nuanced than that. Unlike other white celebrities who’ve been chastised on social media and by others for their representation of black culture, the Kardashians have seemingly went unscathed. There are many twitter threads and think pieces about the family being the main culprit in culture appropriation. However, those are all by black people. In fact, black people are the only ones who’ve demonized the reality show stars.  White people, on the other hand, still welcome them with open arms, an occurrence that has become the beacon of their success.

The family has gotten the best of both worlds by sporting cornrows and surgically-enhanced lips, asses, and whatever the hell else while also remaining at the culmination of their Calabasas-based white society. It’s hard to concede that Kylie Jenner has built an enterprising beauty business, Kim Kardashian is listed as the most influential on the internet while continuously gracing the covers of prominent magazines such as Forbes and Vogue, and Kendall Jenner being considered the hottest supermodel and trendsetter. However, those are all true, and they’ve managed to align themselves with the lifestyle of black people while doing it.

In other words, Kardashians have strategically succeeded in  trying to be black while not thoroughly being perceived as black. For instance, the Kardashians have in no shape or form linguistically appropriated black people. All of them have that typical white girl voice. Each of the sisters are their own version of “Becky with the good hair” minus their casual usage of black women’s style.

Miley Cyrus, in her attempt to appropriate black culture, did not reach that same success. Her desperate attempt at blackness during her 2013 VMA performance with Robin Thicke was ridiculed by Cyrus’ white peers for being too trashy.

“I just want to know who’s advising her and why it’s necessary…..[our children] can’t watch that,” Brooke Shields, who played Cyrus’ mom on “Hannah Montana” said

Comments like that made it obvious that Cyrus was perceived as white trash by blacks and whites alike.

The Kardashians, on the other hand, haven’t received similar criticism. They’ve continued dominate pop culture, but how did they do it?

The Kardashians have a lot of black friends who are among black hollywood’s elite. Kim Kardashian has friends like Lala Anthony, Ciara, Serena Williams, and more. The list goes on for the other sisters. Drake attended Kylie Jenner’s birthday. Khloe Kardashian’s mentioned on the show that she parties and is close with P.Diddy, and Kevin Hart once said that Kim Kardashian’s soul food was actually good. Those are the friends whose silence about the Kardashians’ appropriation basically warrants the sisters’ choices. This isn’t to say that the Kardashians shouldn’t have black friends, but those friends should check the sisters’ appropriation at the door. Maybe Kevin Hart should have asked Kim about the significance of soul food within the black community before praising it.

The sisters are the only white women to receive all-access passes to the rap and NBA world, two realms dominated by black men. Kim Kardashian’s ex husband Kris Humphries played for the Brooklyn Nets while Khloe Kardashian has had her fair share of NBA players. She’s currently dating Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson. Kim Kardashian is married to one of the hottest rappers and Kylie Jenner is dating and now reportedly pregnant by hitmaker Travis Scott. Mission accomplished. The Kardashians have successfully infiltrated afro-centric territory without anyone wondering how they got there in the first place. A pretty face and a big butt was all that they needed to gain entry.

In fact, that’s the beneficiary of the sisters’ success. That’s all they needed. That’s what Miley Cyrus was missing before she decided that being black was giving her the popularity that she expected. Miley Cyrus put on this metaphorical blackface without maintaining her whiteness and or having the sex appeal and body parts that are primarily unique to black women. The Kardashians continuously sat on the first rows of New York Fashion Week shows while wearing weaves and dresses that showed off their surgically-enhanced, black women-inspired figures, mixing their upper-echelon white societal practices with their newly found black-culture centric style. Now, they’ve reached a decade of that success.

Stop Invalidating the Experiences of Light-Skinned Black Women

From Tinashe to Amber Rose, it's time for society to stop perpetuating a narrative that light-skinned women can't possibly experience colorism.

Colorism is among the most divisive factors within the black community. In fact, it's probably the most divisive because of the rise of social media. For those who don't know, colorism is basically discrimination based on your skin tone. Because there are many shades of blackness, colorism is a huge issue that black people unfortunately face. Furthermore, it primarily takes its toll on black women and the way we are treated. From relationships to job opportunities, colorism has significantly affected us and our livelihood.

Social media, specifically Black Twitter, does a great job of calling out colorism (and anything else that oppresses black people) where they see fit. There are many black feminists who will unapologetically drag A-list celebrities, popular films, and black men who have been obliviously (and purposefully) contributing to the painful narrative that dark-skinned black women aren't beautiful.

So when Kodak Black reminded everyone that he's irrelevant (and simply ain't shit) by once again professing his disdain for dark-skinned black women, Twitter arguments erupted and colorism was a trending topic among Black Twitter.

However, during the virtual conversation of colorism, the experiences of light-skinned women pertaining to the subject were deemed nonexistent. Amber Rose was dragged on Twitter because of simply telling her experience with colorism while demonizing institutions and black men like Kodak Black who bash dark-skinned women. People claim that she was contributing to the pain felt by dark-skinned women in her post by choosing to explain how being a light-skinned girl has impacted her life. However, in my opinion, all that she was doing was describing how her entire life and career couldn't escape the perils of colorism and how all women should be considered beautiful. 

The slander that Amber Rose received on Twitter simply because she shared how colorism affected her made me realize that light-skinned women get erased from the conversation of colorism. It's as if their experiences don't matter because they don't compare to the experiences of dark-skinned women. Light-skinned women experience colorism, too. And although it's not as prevalent as the discrimination of dark-skinned women, that shouldn't make it less significant. In fact, there have even been claims of "reverse colorism" when light-skinned women explain their discrimination from darker-skinned women as if it somehow compares to reverse racism.

Tinashe is another celebrity who came under attack for her comments on colorism. In an interview with The Guardian, she said the following about her experiences of being of mixed-raced heritage: "There's colorism involved in the black community, which is very apparent. It's about trying to find a balance where I'm a mixed woman, and sometimes I don't feel like I fully fit into the black community; they don't fully accept me, even though I see myself as a black woman. That disconnect is confusing sometimes. I am what I am". According to the article, those comments were used to describe her rough time and obvious disconnect from being in school. However, people attacked her because they saw her comments as yet another example of "light-skinned women not knowing how colorism works".

So, does colorism only work when it's used against dark-skinned women? Is it "reverse colorism" when light-skinned women honestly share their experiences when dealing with colorism?

"Reverse colorism" shouldn't even be comparable to reverse racism because LIGHT-SKINNED WOMEN DO EXPERIENCE COLORISM FROM THE BLACK COMMUNITY! I don't understand why it is so hard to comprehend that notion. I knew this at a young age, growing up as a light-skinned black girl. In fact, I didn't even consider myself light-skinned until someone told me (I basically considered myself as brown-skinned). But, I was disrespectfully reminded that my features weren't enough for me to be considered "truly black" by girls who were darker than me. If I, someone who isn't considered light-skinned enough to be white-passing or noticeably mixed, has experienced such things within the black community because of my skin tone, imagine what those white-passing, noticeably mixed women go through on a regular basis.

Obviously, colorism is embedded in the notion of whiteness. The closer to white you are, the more you are deemed acceptable and beautiful. Because of that, it has created this understandable hatred of light-skinned women by dark-skinned women. What isn't understandable, though, is the hatred and oppression building into the belief that colorism doesn't impact light-skinned women and the notion that they aren't "black enough". In fact, invalidating the true experiences of light-skinned women is an example of colorism at work.

People often forget that light-skinned girls face a double burden that creates an identity crisis-----being not "black enough"to fit in with their own community but being reminded by those outside of their race that their blackness will never be hidden. Thus, invalidating those experiences that light-skinned women share only perpetuates that identity crisis.

 

 

 

How Respectability Politics Within the Black Church Oppresses Women

 

 

 

 Does my change in appearance reflect my relationship with God?

Does my change in appearance reflect my relationship with God?

The discussion of respectability politics within the black community is more than often limited to the idea of being closer to whiteness in order to be accepted in society. However, the discussion neglects how black people create those standards for other black people. Those toxic standards unfortunately stem from the church and tend to be detrimental to the black female identity. Within the black church, respectability politics is hidden under the mask of holiness and being closer to God.  I've finally noticed how this lingering issue has become benign to my self development and confidence.

"Are you really wearing pants to church?"

Yes, I am. When I was younger, I never liked to wear dresses or skirts (I still don't to some degree). I was a tomboy, so I despised the idea of wearing anything that did not include blue jeans and gym shoes. But when I started regularly attending church, I was basically taught that what I had on wasn't acceptable in God's eyes. I was given a sermon on how the youth, especially young girls, should wear their "Sunday best" to church because that's what God deserved. I was scolded for always wearing jeans and was considered not acceptable in the eyes of God.  In retrospect, I find it funny how that same conversation didn't apply to guys.

Additionally, I learned that the idea of me wearing pants instead of dresses to church was not the only problem. For some reason, the pants that I wore revealed too much of my shape. Ok, it's not "for some reason"; it's because in anything that I wear my curves are going to show no matter how much I want to hide them.

I was not the only one being told to not wear jeans. There was another girl in church who wore jeans on a daily basis and certainly did not seem like she enjoyed wearing dresses any more than I did. But when she went to the altar one Sunday, the pastor ended the prayer with a demand for her to start wearing more dresses to church. 

"Your dress needs to be two inches below the knee"

Yup, I compromised and started wearing my "Sunday best" to church. Although I really did not like the idea of getting all dressed up for church, I unfortunately thought that my appearance was a representation of my relationship with God. Then I was told that the dresses that I wore were not presentable. It was either my hips being too exposed or my butt being on full display, which is uncontrollable. I was taught that my clothing needs to be as modest as possible because ( yea, you guessed it) I needed to be modest when reverencing God.I didn't know that God was so invested in what I wore when worshipping Him, but I changed my clothing anyway. Recently, I had to change my entire outfit because it wasn't modest enough to attend a party at a church.

I also learned that the dresses and skirts that I wore were too short for God's liking (and anybody else's)Typically, the clothing that I wore would be about an inch or two above the knee. I was quickly told that it needed to be about four inches lower. The justification for this was one that didn't have anything to do with God at all. Instead, it had everything to do with tempting the men in the church. Not only did I have to worry about how God perceived me in the clothing that I wore but I also had the unrealistic task of being careful not to tempt the men in church.

"You'll be a mother one day."

No, the hell I won't. Ok, maybe I will; I don't know.

I was told this by one of the members of the church on Mother's Day. I didn't know what to say. I just smiled at her. Then, I realized how much the church puts pressure on women to be married and have children (in that order). There's this unrealistic expectation in the church for women to be married. This is tied to the burden of women being able to dress appropriately in order to be worthy of a righteous man in the eyes of God. I didn't realize this until the member just decided for me that I would be someone's mother. Then I remembered the many instances in which single women were called up for prayer because they needed to get married. Then I remembered how the church perceives women who were married as if they were fulfilling their purpose for God. It was those things that enabled the member to say that to me.

In the church, there are these unspoken requirements for women------have a purity party to profess your virginity for God when you're a teen, eventually get married (because God will send a husband to you), and have children to replenish the kingdom of God in order to spread the Gospel. For women, if you are able to do those things in order, then anything else that you do really doesn't matter. As long as women are able to scratch those things off this imaginary "Being a Saved, Sanctified, and Filled with the Holy Ghost Woman" checklist, everything will be fine.


Why couldn't I wear pants to church? Why couldn't I show off my figure? Why did a woman have to be virgin/married with kids in order to be complete? Was it because God really cares about how you dress to worship him or was it that people cared more and just used God as an excuse? 

I've realized that the latter is more true. Don't get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with a woman doing all of those things if she wants to do them. The issue emerges when women are forced to do things in order to uphold a certain standard of "holiness" within the church, a standard that has been more perpetuated by people than God. Every woman is not built the same; some can't control how much of their shape is exposed in a dress. Every woman doesn't have to wear a dress and skirt in order to be a respectable lady. Every woman doesn't want to be married or have children. Black christian women are not monolithic; they can be many things and still be a fervent disciple of Christ.

Standards such as those ultimately inhibit women and make them feel as if their wants aren't good enough, and it's been that way for years. This is not me just wanting to go against tradition and the standard that my ancestors have set; I would take a page out of Maya Angelou's handbook on wisdom any day. But, there's a difference in giving wisdom and creating a respectable (and unrealistic) image for young girls that stifles their freedom. I have felt the latter numerous times. It has made me feel less confident in my body. But those days are over. I'm a black woman, and I refuse to allow my body/ appearance  be another thing added to the list of oppression that black women have to face on a daily basis. And I'm not compromising that for anyone, not even people in the church.

On Miley Cyrus, Hip-Hop, and the Objectification of Black Women

This piece is not to demonize girls like Miley Cyrus. I respect her art, but I cannot respect what she has represented.

***This article was inspired by a thought-provoking conversation between my boyfriend and I.

 Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus, and Juicy J;  Rolling Out  magazine

Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus, and Juicy J; Rolling Out magazine

 

Last week, in a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Miley Cyrus explained how she would return to her musical roots. But she also indirectly admitted to appropriating hip-hop while promoting her “new” sound. When asked if Melanie Safka influenced her new music, Cyrus responded with the following:

“She did, and I grew up with her. But I also love that new Kendrick [Lamar] song [‘Humble’]: ‘Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks.’ I love that because it’s not ‘Come sit on my dick, suck on my cock.’ I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’ -- I am so not that.”

Her words circled my mind around three conclusions. The first one was obviously how Miley Cyrus profited off hip-hop in order to make a hit record. Whether she wants to admit it or not, Cyrus used hip-hop only when it was convenient for her. Her words in the interview cemented the idea that her grandiose display of twerking, trying-to-hard-to-be-blackness and association with prominent hip-hop artists was just a phase of typical, non-intersectional white feminism. I can go on and on about how Cyrus reflects the trend of whiteness admiring black culture by appropriating it and explain the historical significance, but I will not shower her with that much attention. She simply isn’t worth it. There are many blogs, facebook posts, and twitter threads that have been written within the past 48 hours that accurately explain how Miley Cyrus is a representation of peak white womanhood. But this blog is not one of them. Instead I will focus more on my next two points---hip-hop and the objectification of black women.

The next conclusion that came to mind was how much black men validated Cyrus’ phase. Popular rappers and producers like Future, Juicy J, Mike WiLL Made It, and others clearly didn’t think that Cyrus’ appropriation was enough for them to stop working for her, which is very problematic. Their gracious welcome to the singer illustrates how black men are complicit in this cultural appropriation in terms of white women. Black men’s instant acceptance of white girls who wear hip-hop and black culture as a costume only perpetuate the occurrence. The sad thing is that those white women are equally aware of this. They know that if they get those butt injections, wear their hair in a style that is typically seen on black women, and display the littlest glimpse of them being “down for the culture”, they will automatically be welcomed with open arms by black men who will perceive them as alternatives to black women.

The saddest and most unfortunate aspect of this situation is that black women will call out the white woman before calling out the black men who accept them. I have been a victim of this. I would automatically be disgusted with the white woman who appropriated our culture. Instead of being mad about the existence of Kylie Jenner’s popularity based off of black culture and black women’s style, I should have been just as upset with Tyga and other black men who acknowledged her and chose her over black women. White girls like Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus would not have gained as much hype within the black community if black men would have shown even a little bit of adamance in not normalizing them. But that just reflects black women’s unrequited loyalty to black men.

The fact that black hip-hop artists are offenders of this speaks volumes. It only adds to the narrative hip-hop failing black women and the larger trend of black men not protecting black women, which brings me to my next point. Regardless of how hypocritical Miley Cyrus’ statement was, which it was very hypocritical, she did have one point------hip-hop is very misogynistic. Furthermore, hip-hop has especially been that way in terms of black women. For instance, I think the Notorious B.I.G. is among the top three rappers of all-time. But I cannot gloss over his highly misogynistic lyrics. In “Me and My Bitch” from the iconic Ready to Die album, Biggie raps a love song to the one he loves by emphasizing the point that she will always be there to protect him: “Love me when I’m broke or when I’m filthy fuckin’ rich and I admit, when the time is right, the wine is right, I’ll treat you right, talk slick, I beat you right”. Biggie loves the girl because of her devotion to him regardless of anything that he does, even beating her, basically treating her as his bitch ( thus, the song title). Another example of Biggie’s misogynistic lyrics are found in the songs “Fucking You Tonight”, which features R. Kelly on the chorus. Now, R.Kelly’s popularity in R&B is problematic in itself, and it will be discussed in another post for another day. But, the song basically talks about the guy spending his money and on the finer things in life so much that she has owes him sex.

Lyrics such as those have been used throughout hip-hop for years, and the perception of black women as sexual objects has unfortunately played a huge role in hip-hop culture to the point where it is ubiquitous in almost every song. I only used Biggie as an example because he is hip-hop royalty, and his lyrical and stylistic prominence should not erase his misogyny.

In order for hip-hop to escape this perilous theme, there needs to be a black woman’s perspective. “But there’s Nicki Minaj”, you say. Yes, Nicki is significant in her own right and has done a lot for women in hip-hop in terms of building their own empire, but she certainly is not woke enough to handle the issue. I’m not saying that she needs to be; everyone isn’t called to be woke. And as political as Kendrick Lamar is, he can’t even be the one to offer the female narrative, which was shown by the controversy in the same lyrics that Miley Cyrus referenced. But in order to tackle hip-hop’s degradation of black women, we need a woke female hip-hop artist. This is why LAURYN HILL WAS SO ICONIC! This is also why I’m mad at her for not making any more music. We need another Lauryn Hill to offer the female perspective in hip-hop because this certainly needs to stop. With The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill is illustrated a black woman’s identity through the lens of love.

We don’t get enough of that in hip-hop. Instead, a black woman’s identity has been demoted to an object that is subservient to black men. It all illustrates the general idea of black men simply not protecting/defending black women enough.

On Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Perils of Black Feminism

 David Levenson/Getty Images

David Levenson/Getty Images

I would like to start off this piece by stating that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is right. The experiences of trans women are not the same as those who are cisgender. That does not imply that one experience is more important than the other.

I have always wanted to label myself as a feminist. However, noticing how mainstream feminism too often neglects the needs and issues of black women, I decided I did not want to be a feminist. Thus, I took up black feminism and womanism in order to sufficiently be on board for the rights of black women. I have engaged myself in readings of black feminism ideology and followed modern leaders. The latter of the previous statement has made me want to stray away from black feminist thought and the movement  altogether. I have realized that those who are at the forefront of the movement are doing more harm than good. The unnecessary slander against Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent statement is a prime example.

When asked by Britain’s Channel 4 news, “Does it matter how you’ve arrived at being a woman?.....If you’re a trans woman who grew up identifying as a man, who grew up enjoying the privileges of being a man, does that take away from becoming a woman? Are you any less of a real woman?, the critically-acclaimed author responded:

"So when people talk about, you know, 'Are trans women women?' my feeling is trans women are trans women.

I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experience. It’s not about how we wear our hair, or whether we have a vagina or a penis, it’s about the way the world treats us.

And I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges 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.

And so I think there has to be — and this is not, of course, to say, I’m saying this with a certainty that transgender should be allowed to be. But I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women, because I don’t think that’s true."

I find nothing inaccurate with what Adichie said. She basically said that the plight of trans women is different from that of cis women. She never said that because of those differences, trans women cannot partake in feminism or that trans women are not “real” women. She didn’t say anything of the sort. It’s just like saying that the plight of women of color is different from the plight of white women. That does not mean that one plight is more difficult or more significant than the other. It just simply means that they are different, which they are. Stating a difference between the two experiences does not invalidate the other.

However, many black feminists and LGBTQ+ activists went on a tirade against Adichie and totally misinterpreted what she said. Most thought that she meant trans women were not women. Trans activist Raquel Willis went on a 22-tweet long thread explaining how Adichie should not have felt the necessity to speak up for trans women.

 

Laverne Cox also took to Twitter to explain how trans women did not grow up with male privilege.

Those reactions to Adichie’s statement reflect a serious problem with the leftists —— the use of language. It is this ridiculous occurrence that if some activist or ally to left-wing movements says the wrong thing (or doesn’t articulate something the way that others would) they should immediately be prepared for backlash on social media. If Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had used the term cisgender, there would not have been any problem with what she said. But she didn’t, so people took to social media to explain these ludicrous claims of Adichie being transphobic. Yes, they labeled a woman, who has spent her life advocating for intersectionality, as transphobic simply because of word choice. That behavior not only continues to create a platform for opponents of the movement, but it makes the movement less appealing to future allies.