Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has advocated for writing in African languages because how relevant is African literature if we write not in our native tongues but in the language of the White man? While I have my own opinion on this line of thought, the other subjects of discussion that come up after the former are conversations surrounding which audience African writers cater to? Is immigrant literature African and how much of Africa is projected in these stories that are told predominantly from the West? Even bigger is how an African writer gets published and who decides what goes into their story so that if publishers wield so much influence and power, then it goes to say that if an African writer publishes in the West, then the Western publisher more or less owns and determines what or how certain parts of the African story gets put across,
that is if they do get put across in the very first place. As we all know, the West has written Africa’s story in multiple ways and continues to impose suggest ways they deem fit on Africa. By extension, I remain curious about how influential Africans push certain messages and how such messages, in turn, get interpreted by other African minds.
Chimamanda Adichie questions on her Twitter about why Hillary Clinton decides to place ‘Wife‘ before her other titles on her Twitter bio. I stare at this screenshot and I edit thought after thought after thought. First of all, why can’t she self-describe as a Wife? Wouldn’t that be her sole prerogative? Second, I want to know more about why Chimamanda is engaging with Hillary. Not that she can’t, but really, what is this about and if it is about what I suspect it is, then how many more African women are waiting or wanting to engage with Chimamanda who haven’t yet had the chance? (Refer to previous thought about who the new African writer’s target audience really is) What I believe though, from listening to Chimamanda speak countlessly is that she is suggesting that Hilary’s self-description as a Wife negates her other accomplishments. That, it is almost as if her other accomplishments come second to she being a Wife so that in a more overt sense, being a Wife is the main calling of a woman. In addition is Bill Clinton self-describing as husband above other things online?
Outside an African writer engaging with a non-African which I am in no way saying is wrong because of course everyone is entitled to their choices, I am more concerned about this concept of feminism and how individuals feel the deep-seated need to impose views on others. I keep maintaining that this concept is not a one size fits all and neither is it a term that Africans should embrace while thinking oh my God, I just discovered something surreal. Good news is that before precolonial times, while Europe’s women were still disenfranchised, African women were leaders in their communities, serving as heads of state, queen mothers, queen sisters, chiefs, female husbands, warriors, and contributing to their economies, through substantial work. Your mom is probably the best example of what feminism means to you. Yet, the West had to once again come tell us that hey, this tag is what you need to make all your outdated attempts official. It sounds almost as if someone would walk to my grandma and tell her ‘hey mama, this Vibranium in my hand is the key that will make you a better woman’.
By all means, Feminism is a great concept, however, let us not be quick to jump on it while implying that before it, we had no understanding of it in our societies. Doing this only reinforces the idea that the West civilized and saved us from our primitive ways and set us straight on the path of life after rescuing us from murky waters. In addition, if a human deems it fit to self-describe as Wife above other achievements, so be it, who said because I am feminist I can’t be a Wife? Or that being a Wife makes me any less a feminist? In any case, Wife, as defined in the African socio-cultural context, can either be a female who is married to the family of her husband, in that sense, she is a Wife,theirWife, and she can be called thus by either male or female member of her husband’s family without it being language that is in anyway derogatory or implicitly suggestive of possession or ownership, it may simply even in most cases be a term or endearment or a demonstration that the family accepts her totally as a member of their family. In the West though, where concepts are generally more legally than socially interpreted, a Wife is simply and more narrowly, the woman a man legally lives with as a lifelong partner. From these two definitions, we see that different spaces have different conceptions of ideas. Western feminists have different motivations that characterize their fight than African feminists. Even in a western society such as America, a white feminists motivations and concerns will hardly be the same as a a black or Hispanic feminist, why then do we simply assume that Western feminism with its highly nuanced points of concern will be the same antidote for African women’s issues?
While progressive movements are helpful, let us as Africans be critical of how and why we adapt concepts. After we do that, let us subjectively interpret it for ourselves according to our specific contexts. Then after that, let us endeavor not to impose what we believe is right on others.
If the issue is with Hillary placing Wife first, this can be looked at differently. From a position of strength, this fore mention of Wife can be interpreted to mean that as a woman, you can achieve it all without having to deal with the all-or-nothing mentality that society often drums in our heads. Women can be ambitious and career driven and still be Wives or succeed in their romantic ventures if they meet supportive humans (being that heterosexual relationships do not necessarily define our times) who share the same values as they do. Maybe listen to Alicia Keys’ SuperWoman again.
Barack placed dad on his bio above everything else. While his and Michelle’s has been a presidency that has humanized the White House the most largely by its depiction of the intimacy of its family set up, his use of dad, I believe has more to do with the contradiction of the usual perception of Black fathers’ absence in the lives of their children in America. Ultimately, there is always a reason, and our concepts aren’t the primus inter pares of what the world needs to do, a word to the West and influential Africans.