Celebrated Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a self-described feminist who can hardly be considered right-leaning, has written a lengthy blog post castigating those who seek to destroy others for personal gain while describing her own experience with someone trying to get her canceled.
Adichie’s blog, published on Tuesday, described her experience with two writers who had attended one of her workshops years ago in Lagos, Nigeria, and who later used her name to promote their work while simultaneously publicly condemning her for remarks they claimed were transphobic in an attempt to damage her reputation.
Adichie’s blog doesn’t name the female students she discusses. Adichie wrote that she “welcomed” the first student “into my life,” something she said was a rare occurrence for her. She said this student spent time at her home having long conversations and receiving comfort and counsel.
But after a March 2017 interview in which Adichie said that “a trans woman is a trans woman,” this student apparently turned to social media to insult her. Adichie wrote in her blog that “the larger point” she was making in the interview “was to say that we should be able to acknowledge difference while being fully inclusive, that in fact the whole premise of inclusiveness is difference.”
Adichie lamented the fact that the woman, who knew her personally, would attack her this way instead of reaching out to her personally. “Instead she went on social media to put on a public performance,” Adichie wrote.
A few months after the public insult, Adichie wrote, this former workshop member sent her an email apologizing for her behavior. A year later, the student sent another apology, neither of which Adichie answered.
Adichie wrote she hoped she would never hear from the student again, but the woman has “recently gone on social media to write about how she ‘refused to kiss my ring,’ as if I demanded some kind of obeisance from her.”
This woman also claimed there was “more” to tell about Adichie, something the famed writer called “a manipulative way of lying.”
“By suggesting there is ‘more’ when you know very well that there isn’t, you do sufficient reputational damage while also being able to plead deniability. Innuendo without fact is immoral,” Adichie wrote.
The second former student was an outstanding writer, whose short story Adichie chose to publish in an e-magazine following the class. This writer sent an email thanking Adichie for her introduction to the story. A year later, this student sent another email saying her story was about to be published as a novel.
After that March 2017 interview, Adichie wrote, this student, too, began publicly condemning her, including calling her a murderer. Adichie said she ignored the insult.
“When this person’s publishers sent me an early copy of their novel, I was surprised to see that my name was included in their cover biography. I had never seen that done in a book before. I didn’t like that I had not been asked for permission to use my name, but most of all I thought – why would a person who thinks I’m a murderer want my name so prominently displayed in their biography?” she wrote.
Adichie’s name was included in the author’s cover biography, prompting a journalist to call her Adichie’s “protegee.” The author then “threw a Twitter tantrum about it, calling it clickbait, viciously disavowing having received any help from me,” Adichie wrote. “I knew this person had called me a murderer, I knew they were actively campaigning to ‘cancel’ me and tweeting about how I should no longer be invited to speak at events. But this I felt I could not ignore.”
So Adichie wrote to her representative to try and get her name removed from the biography. Adichie was eventually told her name would be removed.
After that, however, she kept being told by friends that this author was attacking her on social media, including asking followers to “pick up machetes and attack me,” Adichie wrote, adding that the person was claiming Adichie sabotaged her career.
“Claiming that I have sabotaged their career is a lie and this person knows that it is a lie. But if something is repeated often enough, in this age in which people do not need proof or verification to run with a story, especially a story that has outrage potential, then it can easily begin to seem true,” Adichie wrote.
The third part of Adichie’s blog directly takes on the current generation of performative virtue:
In certain young people today like these two from my writing workshop, I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; a massive sense of entitlement; an inability to show gratitude; an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; language that is slick and sleek but with little emotional intelligence; an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.
I find it obscene.
She explains that people “who ask you to ‘educate’ yourself while not having actually read any books themselves, while not being able to intelligently defend their own ideological positions, because by ‘educate,’ they actually mean ‘parrot what I say, flatten all nuance, wish away complexity.’”
“People who wield the words ‘violence’ and ‘weaponize’ like tarnished pitchforks. People who depend on obfuscation, who have no compassion for anybody genuinely curious or confused. Ask them a question and you are told that the answer is to repeat a mantra. Ask again for clarity and be accused of violence. (How ironic, speaking of violence, that it is one of these two who encouraged Twitter followers to pick up machetes and attack me,)” Adichie wrote. “And so we have a generation of young people on social media so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow.”
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