Victimhood is not a virtue: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |

October 28, 2020 8:30:43 am


She concluded with a word of caution: “Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.” (File)

At Wellesley College, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke passionately on gender and feminism, but she first started with talking about eye shadow. Recounting the reason when she started wearing make-up, she said, “I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my twenties, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man. He was one of the guests at a friend’s dinner party. I was also a guest. I was about 23, but people often told me I looked 12. The conversation at dinner was about traditional Igbo culture, about the custom that allows only men to break the kola nut, and the kola nut is a deeply symbolic part of Igbo cosmology. I argued that it would be better if that honour were based on achievement rather than gender, and he looked at me and said, dismissively, ‘You don’t know what you are talking about, you’re a small girl.’ I wanted him to disagree with the substance of my argument, but by looking at me, young and female, it was easy for him to dismiss what I said. So I decided to try to look older. So I thought lipstick might help. And eyeliner.”

On a lighter note, she continued, “It’s really just to say that this, your graduation, is a good time to buy some lipsticks—if makeup is your sort of thing—because a good shade of lipstick can always put you in a slightly better mood on dark days,” continuing, “It’s not about my discovering gender injustice because of course I had discovered years before then. From childhood. From watching the world.”

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Speaking on the existing injustice, she further stated, “I already knew that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men. I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better. And I knew that men were not inherently bad or evil. They were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind. I knew from this personal experience, from the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family, that it sometimes blinded me, that I was not always as alert to the nuances of people who were different from me.” With a word of caution, she said, “Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.”

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