That Time My Feminist Icon Totally Screwed Up
My heroes are fallible. From time to time, whether by words out of their own mouths or revelations from some news outlet or another, the women I admire remind me they are, in fact, human. And that’s not always a bad thing. Heroes should have flaws. Shonda Rhimes is a workaholic. Erykah Badu has some uncomfortable ideas about school girl uniforms. And Chimamanda Nogozi Adichie, the woman whose feminism speech is featured in “Flawless,” thinks having to talk about Beyonce in interviews is a bore.
Before you go thinking I’m calling that a flaw because I’m just another Beyhive stan with my stinger out in defense of Beyonce, hear me out. My issue isn’t with Adichie not wanting to talk about Beyonce. My issue is with why. Adichie, one of my favourite authors, shared her thoughts on the whole Beyonce experience in an interview with Dutch paper, de Volkskrant.
She laughingly told the interviewer she was surprised and resentful that so many of the interview requests she got after the song’s release revolved around discussions of Beyonce. I can’t imagine why she was surprised. Beyonce is arguably one of the most famous celebrities on the planet. News outlets damn near report her every breath. The resentment I could more understand, seeing as Adichie was a well-known success in the literary world before “Flawless” made her speech viral. The idea of her entire body of work being shadowed by four minutes and ten seconds of trap is understandably irritating. (And we know the internet is quick to do this. Remember when a bunch of teeny boppers said Kanye was going to make Paul McCartney famous?) I get it. I do.
Beyoncé casts an enormous shadow. Ask Solange, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. And Adhichie rightfully wanted to avoid getting caught in it too. She didn’t want people to attribute her success to that one time she was on a Beyoncé song. But I think she mishandled this situation. She ended up coming off petty and missing a golden opportunity to amplify her voice and her message.
She could have set the record straight in every one of those interviews. She could have sat down across from every one of those reporters and let them know the full breadth and depth of her success and pull the receipts to prove it. She could have continued the conversation Beyonce she started with audiences who previously wouldn’t have called themselves feminists. She had the chance to show the collaborative power of women having a discussion on an important topic from their respective platforms and genres.
I agree with the definition of feminist that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives in her speech: a person who believes in the social, political, economic equality of the sexes. But for me, that means being willing to swallow my pride for the collective good of my fellow women. It means being eager to promote their goals, support their business, amplify their voices We don’t have to compete or compare, we can collaborate. There is space for all of us in the spotlight. There is room for all of our voices and all of our messages, and we can acknowledge the greatness in one another without diminishing the greatness in ourselves. And most importantly, when others try to pretend there isn’t space, we must tell them how wrong they are.
I really wish this is the road Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had chosen instead. But my heroes are fallible.