After an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists was sampled on a Beyoncé track, she was inundated with requests for comment. Adichie held back on the subject for so long that people apparently questioned if Beyoncé had even asked permission to use her words. For some reason, she’s finally decided to clear the air three years later.
That TED Talk is being translated to Dutch, and to celebrate de Volkskrant did an interview with Adichie where she let it all out. Basically, she didn’t talk about her words appearing on ‘****Flawless’ because she resented the narrative that Beyoncé acknowledging her was the pinnacle of achievement (though it would be for most of us):
In the first place: of course Beyoncé asked permission to use my texts, and I did give her permission. I think she’s lovely and I am convinced that she has nothing but the best intentions. In addition, Beyoncé is a celebrity of the first order and with this song she has reached many people who would otherwise probably never have heard the word feminism, let alone gone out and buy my essay.
But I was shocked about how many requests for an interview I received when that song was released. Literally every major newspaper in the world wanted to speak with me about Beyoncé. I felt such a resentment (laughs loudly). I thought: are books really that unimportant to you? Another thing I hated was that I read everywhere: now people finally know her, thanks to Beyoncé, or: she must be very grateful. I found that disappointing. I thought: I am a writer and I have been for some time and I refuse to perform in this charade that is now apparently expected of me: “Thanks to Beyoncé, my life will never be the same again.” That’s why it didn’t speak about it much.
This isn’t very surprising, as Adichie has an aversion to performing any aspects of her life that women are often encouraged to publicize, including having a baby. Most women involved with Beyoncé would likely be expected, and perhaps psyched, to talk about it.
She goes on to say that she appreciates the reach Beyoncé has to introduce the concept of feminism to women and girls, but Adichie’s idea of what feminism actually means is very different from what can be packaged and sold on an album:
Her style is not my style, but I do find it interesting that she takes a stand in political and social issues, since a few years. She portrays a woman who is in charge of her own destiny, who does her own thing, and she has girl power. I am very taken with that.
Still, her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men. I think men are lovely, but I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men: did he hurt me, do I forgive him, did he put a ring on my finger? We women are so conditioned to relate everything to men. Put a group of women together and the conversation will eventually be about men. Put a group of men together and they will not talk about women at all, they will just talk about their own stuff. We women should spend about 20 per cent of our time on men, because it’s fun, but otherwise we should also be talking about our own stuff.
Not talk about men? Are you sure they don’t talk about us? I’d like to talk about that.