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Chimamanda Adichie appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show hosted by Trevor Noah to promote her book Dear Ijeawele.

This is not the first time Adichie and Trevor are engaging in live conversation before an audience. They talked art and feminism at a PEN event held last year. But it is the first time Adichie is appearing on a top-rated American talk show viewed by millions of people.

The last time something this big happened was about a year ago when Oprah interviewed Cameroonian novelist Imbolo Mbue for a feature on her OWN TV Bookclub special, so pardon the excitement. For of us in the African literature side of things, Adichie appearing on The Daily Show is TV history.

Here are a few highlights:

The Outfit:

Adichie looked lovely in a white dress. She later shared on Instagram that the white dress was a Lola Baej ( @lolabaej) piece called the Simi Dress. She complemented the look with leopard print pumps and a braided updo done by Baltimore-based hair stylist @nnaturalhairstudio.

A Feminist of Our Time

Trevor introduced Adichie as “a critically acclaimed author from Nigeria” to the cheering audience and said he’d been a fan of her “work” and her “words” for a very long time. At some point, he referred to her as “one of the foremost feminists of our time.”

Adichie looked comfortable and relaxed. Her quick-wittedness and intellectual charm was not stifled by being in the spotlight. When she criticized the misguided notion of a feminist as “a crazy woman who hates men and doesn’t shave,” she got hearty laughs from the audience. All through the interview, she kept saying things that made the audience laugh. Adichie clearly has jokes. Who knew!

Adichie Is All of Us:

We get a bit of insight into Adichie’s attempt to follow her own rules on bringing up her daughter feminist:

Only after I had a baby—my daughter is 2 and half—did I realize how easy it is to tell people what to do about child raising when you don’t have a child. It’s much easier to deal with a hypothetical child than a real child. But I’m still trying to follow all of the suggestions. It’s just that it’s much difficult than you’d think.

It feels good to know that super-hero feminist Adichie is like all of us—being a parent is hard. Being a feminist parent is even harder. But the idea, of course, is not to give up in our attempt to instill good values in our children.

Adichie and Trevor Noah Had a Moment:

There was this beautiful moment when Adichie gushed about how she liked Noah’s mother from reading his book Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood.

By the way your mother is wonderful, just from reading your book. You are so fortunate to have been raised by her. Trevor, I’m serious. I think everything good in you is because your mother raised you.

Noah was grateful for the complement. But being the comedian that he is, he couldn’t help but reply: “It’s a beautiful complement that sounds like an insult. You know, it’s like “everything good in you is from your mom. The rest of that shit is you. That’s you and your dad.” At this point, the audience was in stitches.

Chivalry Should Not Be About Gender: 

Adichie’s comment on chivalry is worth taking to heart. It clarifies a contentious point in feminist practice. Should the guy open the door for the woman or not?

Adichie: “I think gestures like holding the door should not be gendered. I think it’s a lovely thing to hold the door, but we should hold the door for everyone one.”

Touching on Controversy:

Noah sort of brought up the Hilary Clinton Twitter bio controversy. Earlier this year, Adichie had the chance to interview Hilary Clinton during a PEN event. She asked the former presidential candidate why her Twitter bio began with “wife” while her husband’s began with “founder.”

Adichie was savagely criticized on social media for being anti-marriage and disrespectful. First of all, her critics clearly hadn’t read her book. They would have known that it was an issue she had already raised in her book. In her response to Noah, Adichie insisted that Hilary’s bio reflected a society that had deep-seated issues with powerful women: “People don’t know what to do with the idea of a woman who has power or who is seeking power.”

Women like Hilary are, thus, forced to soften their image so that they are perceived as less “scary” or intimidating.

How Many Boys Think of Their Wedding Tuxedos

The discussion on Hilary’s bio led to Adichie’s criticism of a culture that taught girls to aspire to marriage.

Adichie: “Marriage is a wonderful, and it can be such a joy and all of that but we raise girls to aspire to marriage in a way we don’t raise boys to and I think there is a problem with that. You have little girls who from very early on are thinking about their wedding dress. I don’t know how many boys think about their wedding tuxedos.”

Love is wonderful. Marriage is fine. But it does not have to be a measure of a person’s worth.

You Can Be Feminine and Feminist:

During the interview, Adichie had the chance to reiterate some of her key talking points on feminism. Noah asked Adichie whether being a feminist meant shunning femininity.

Adichie’s fans know that one of the cornerstone concepts of Adichie’s feminism has been that femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive. Her beauty campaign all of last year was built on the idea that women should not feel bad about wearing heels or make up.

She told Noah that a women should think of herself first as “an individual” and remember that  feminism is not simply about what one wears but about preserving the choice to decide what to wear.

Adichie Has a Male Feminist Icon

We also now know that Barack Obama is one of Adichie’s feminist icons.

It came up in response to Noah’s question about the participation of men in the feminist struggle. Her response: “You can change women all you want, but if you don’t change men nothing changes.” In calling for men to take the lead in convincing other men about feminism, she identified Obama as a feminist role model: “Barak Obama is a very good role model because he is feminist, and he’s cool. We need more men like that to speak up.”

She ended the interview by inviting Noah to join in taking the lead to convince other men that feminism was not an attack on manhood but the fight for a just world: “There are some men who have been convinced. More men need to be. Trevor, you should get cracking.”

Congrats to Adichie for getting the opportunity to promote her book, share her ideas on feminism, and represent the continent on such a lovely platform. It was a brilliant interview!

Watch the full 10+ minutes below:

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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