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.