Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refuses to apologise for trans women comments

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refuses to apologise for trans women comments

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said she has nothing to apologise for over her remarks about trans women, and that she has always thought trans women are women.

Speaking on Channel 4 news earlier this month, Adichie was asked if “trans women are women,” and responded: “…trans women are trans women.”

The 39-year-old added that trans women could not be placed in the same category as cis women because they had experienced male privilege.

The comments produced anger from the LGBT community, but in Washington recently, the author of We Should All Be Feminists refused to say sorry, stating that she had been misunderstood.

“I didn’t apologise because I don’t think I have anything to apologise for,” she said.

“From the very beginning, I think it’s been quite clear that there’s no way I could possibly say that trans women are not women. It’s the sort of thing to me that’s obvious, so I start from that obvious premise.

“Of course they are women, but in talking about feminism and gender and all of that, it’s important for us to acknowledge the differences in experience of gender. That’s really what my point is.”

She told a sold-out audience at an event created by bookshop Politics & Prose that a culture of “language orthodoxy” was to blame for the backlash.

“Had I said, ‘a cis woman is a cis woman, and a trans woman is a trans woman’, I don’t think I would get all the crap that I’m getting, but that’s actually really what I was saying,” she explained.

“But because ‘cis’ is not a part of my vocabulary – it just isn’t – it really becomes about language and the reason I find that troubling is to insist that you have to speak in a certain way and use certain expressions, otherwise we cannot have a conversation, can close up debate.

“And if we can’t have conversations, we can’t have progress.”

Adichie said that “gender is about what we experience,” and therefore the idea that cis and trans women were the same was “like the idea of colour-blindness”.

She said this concept was “a really hollow idea that if we say we don’t see colour, then somehow all the oppressions will disappear. That’s not the case.

“I think there were people who felt I was somehow making a point about the Oppression Olympics: you haven’t suffered enough. It’s not at all that. It’s simply to see that if we can acknowledge there are differences, then we can better honestly talk about things.”

Host of the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Dame Jenni Murray, recently suggested that trans women are not “real women”, speaking in a similar way about trans women having male privilege.

Another feminist speaker, Germaine Greer, also faced criticism ahead of appearing at an International Women’s Day event in Brighton for her trans-exclusionary rhetoric.

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13 Comments

  1. Mandy
    March 23, 06:09 Reply

    She is a writer. It is in her job description to make sure she communicates what she wants to say.

    Either she did that, in which case, she deserves the backlash.

    Or she didn’t do that, in which case she should apologise for not communicating clearly.

    “but that’s actually really what I was saying,” she explained.”

    No, it really is not what you were saying. And you haven’t convinced me that this is what you intended to say because, when one makes a mistake, then the proper thing to do is apologise. not blame those listening for hearing it wrong.

    • MagDiva
      March 23, 08:01 Reply

      But she said she didn’t do anything wrong though. So what are you asking her to apologise for??

      Apologies only mean something when you are genuinely remorseful and not when people demand it.

      • Jamie 2.0
        March 23, 12:11 Reply

        Exactly the point. She seems to be accepting that she said something in a fashion that she was massively misunderstood; and yet quite still arguing that she did nothing wrong.

  2. Jo
    March 23, 09:04 Reply

    If an expression used by a speaker has more than one shade of meaning and the listener chooses one out of the lot and it turns out not to be what the speaker intended, it is really the speaker’s fault for not being clear. And any excuse, whatsoever , including lack of the requisite vocab will not fly.

    In this case, it is CNA’s responsibility to make clear every ambiguity, especially one as glaring as this, especially based on the huge followership she has and the platform she maintains.

    Anyways, I do think all these explanations are some sort of apology. Shikina

  3. beejay
    March 23, 09:23 Reply

    Semantics. That’s all it boils down to. My problem is with the tone of her assertion, it’s condescending at best, seeming to suggest that trans women have less of a story to tell. Correct me if I’m wrong but the greater percentage of trans women were effeminate men in early life, no? One thing that rings clear about being effeminate, especially in modern climes where feminism has become such popular culture, is that the effete have become the punching bags, the objects of ridicule, the bully’s targets; the ‘less thans’.
    So yeah, She gets to make whatever assertions she pleases so long as she takes into cognisance the reality, substance and gravity of the struggles of the trans women.

  4. Jamie 2.0
    March 23, 12:22 Reply

    ” “But because ‘cis’ is not a part of my vocabulary
    – it just isn’t – it really becomes about language
    and the reason I find that troubling is to insist
    that you have to speak in a certain way and use
    certain expressions, otherwise we cannot have a
    conversation, can close up debate.”
    Come, this woman should better tell us what language she intends to create. I dunno what’s offensive about ‘Cis’ that she should not want to say it. Is it after acquiring a large vocab of English that she thinks Cis should not be included??? If she had used Cis and Trans in that statement, all these several shades of misunderstanding would have been averted. Apology she no go gree tender responsibly. Your confusion pass my own sef. For me, if you must say Trans, you must say Cis as well. All are women, of kinds, but women. If you say Trans women and say women again, you talk about Trans women inclusive as well!!!!!

  5. Edo
    March 23, 20:42 Reply

    Please can we be real? she’s got nothing to apologise for! so we cannot air our opinion again? Trans women are not women! can anyone really change their sex by surgery? and receiving hormonal treatment throughout life? yeah I know some women develop issues and that makes them unable to produce hormones and etc but at least they were born XX! If you weren’t born XX you are not a woman! stop the story and plenty English. CNA needs not apologise kapish!

    • Jamie 2.0
      March 23, 22:18 Reply

      I agree with you that you have to choose XX and XY as your basis for determining who is male or female. We might just as well say only a quantity of melanin is required to determine who’s Black, and how many light skinned Black people would become…..nothing, even though it’s evident they’re black. Take a look at this:
      “Modern sex determination started at the end of the 1940s—1947— when the French physiologist
      Alfred Jost said it’s the testis that is determining sex. Having a testis determines maleness, not having a testis determines femaleness. The ovary is not sex-determining. It will not influence the development of the external genitalia. Now in 1959 when the karyotype of Klinefelter [a male
      who is XXY] and Turner [a female who has one X] syndromes was discovered, it became clear that
      in humans it was the presence or the absence of the Y chromosome that’s sex determining.
      Because all Klinefelters that have a Y are male, whereas Turners, who have no Y, are females. So it’s not a dosage or the number of X’s, it’s really the presence or absence of the Y.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/q-a-mixed-sex-biology/
      Since you rigidly believe in XY and XX, these ones need to jump into river Benue because they are not human enough abi? Nature is not perfect, whether we try to make it seem it. Mistakes abound. Someone has more than five fingers right now… Someone with XY has breasts; and another with XX has beards. Free yourself by reading more abeg!!! Transphobia is not cute from anyone….and even worse from a gay person.

  6. Pankar
    March 24, 07:24 Reply

    This girl is smart

    Again I’ll say, and that is what Adichie’s been saying; Trans women are women but their experience is different from that of Cis women. Socialization/ experience also sums gender, not just body organs.

    Kindly understand that no matter how offended anyone is, she is not retreating from what she said ‘ab initio’ ; they are both women but with different experiences. Now no one can argue that, It is what it is, different experiences. Equate them, compare their gravity of experiences, juxtapose them, chose or prefer one before the other, different is the difference.

    So what’s the apology, she’s clear, she’s smart.

    • Enigmous
      March 24, 23:29 Reply

      God bless you biko…people can like to join the band wagon and demand for rubbish. Apology nsi na ahu.

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