Feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has found herself in hot water over comments she made during a March 10th interview with the British television news station Channel 4. When asked by journalist Cathy Newman “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?” Adichie responded as follows:
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.
Newman’s ignorant framing of the trans experience in her question aside, Adichie has been taken to task for essentializing the varied experiences of transwomen down to a single, myopic story. Many noted feminist authorities spoke up about the issues with Adichie’s offensive statements, imploring her to add further intersectionality to her definition of feminism.
Black queer transgender activist Raquel Willis had the following to say:
We know exactly what you mean when you say, “Trans women are trans women,” but can’t simply say, “trans women are women.”
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017
Adichie later responded to her critics in a Facebook post. Unfortunately, the note seems not to reflect anything new learned from the experience, and is basically a defense of her original statement: