Yesterday I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk on feminism. NOT because Beyonce told me to (although I admit I did learn about the Ted Talk because of her music video featuring the author). Before Bey, I only knew about Chi’s first Ted Talk about the danger of a single story. But the one I watched yesterday had nothing to do with writing. It was about feminism. It was an incredibly insightful, accessible and on-point discussion of feminism.
I find it interesting that Adichie’s work as a novelist put her in a position to be an authority on feminism. Interesting but not surprising. Anyone who sits down and writes a 300-page work of fiction has thought about something a lot. Adichie happened to come to conclusions about the expectations placed upon women (and men). But all novelists, I believe, inevitably develop a strong opinion on a person or group or society because to write their books they are forced to deeply consider things like what motivates people to do what they do. Or, what in someone’s background would make them act a certain way. What experiences would force a person to change?
Somewhere in the midst of these noveling thoughts, Adichie started having feminist ideas and eventually chose to share them with the world. Not just through art, in an abstract sense. But also through a Ted Talk, in a direct, intellectual sense. Without necessarily studying feminist theory, she evolved into somewhat of an expert because she thought about it deeply while writing her novels (I assume). She became an authority not just on writing, but on something completely different.
This made me realize that all authors probably become sort-of-experts on whatever they choose to focus on in their work be it human behavior, politics, relationships, a specific culture, a specific race, or anything else.
There’s a lot of discussion about how, in order to get published, you need to build a platform. But what about the platform you build after you’ve been published? What about the issues you’ll have the opportunity to discuss when you’ve reached a stature that leads people to actually listen? I wonder, when Chimamanda wrote her first novel did she think she would become an authority on feminism? Does she wish she had?
Anyway, both of Chi’s Ted Talks are definitely worth viewing—seriously. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t speak to show you how smart she is; rather, she discusses the topic in way that you can easily understand. Below is the Ted Talk on the danger of a single story.