Yesterday I had the opportunity, alongside many others to ask Chimamanda questions and watch her absolutely be open, become teary and honest. Chimamanda grew up recognising the inequality of treatments between men and men. She was aware from her early age that the expectations from both genders were different. So, she began to ask questions, and speak passionately against it, asking for everyone to have equal opportunities to live their best lives. I didn’t grow up noticing these things. I grew up thinking I could do what I wanted and be whomever I wanted to be.
From my home, I saw my mum as a strong woman, she did all she could to make sure we all got educated and never lacked the things we NEEDED. She also never stopped affirming to my siblings and me, that we would do great. With this background, I lived how I wanted. I didn’t see any roadblocks, females were leading in my class, we had a head boy and head girl in secondary school. In my set, there was only one head of prefects and she was female. I knew I could be president if I wanted. What is inequality? The word never appeared in my dictionary.
Then the bubble burst, I began to see the craziness in expectations as I graduated from university. I was told to tone down my ambitions, asked if I wanted to marry with the way I was going on with my life, to stop working so hard like a man. That I hadn’t achieved anything if I had all I worked for but still didn’t have “Ade Ori” (A crown which means a husband). I became angry and idealistic. Pushed harder, worked smarter and shut down men who tried to tell me what to do and how to live. I was so angry, I forgot to laugh. But, life is messy. I soon realised how ideology doesn’t neatly match real life.
That there’s a need for me to listen and learn, to watch, observe and speak from a place of knowledge rather than from a place of anger and rebellion. I learnt to speak gently if I wanted to change a heart of stone,that in my softness and humour, I could still fight the good fight and make people listen. That truly, my passion does not have to translate to aggressiveness. And in places where I need to shout to be heard, I will, because that too, is okay. And most importantly, that to be a feminist is MORE in my actions THAN in my words.
The difference between Chimamanda and I is that, she recognised quickly what she had to do, I didn’t. I lived in a bubble until it popped and I fell painfully on my ass.