africa

It is obscene: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pens a harsh essay about people’s social media conduct


Feminist-author-speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently wrote a detailed and intense essay titled ‘It Is Obscene’, about young people’s conduct on social media. Adichie posted the essay on her official website on June 15 and since then it has garnered much attention.

In the three-part essay, Adichie writes about two unnamed authors who attended her Lagos writing workshop. Both of the unnamed writers became close to Adichie but later criticised her publicly on social media for the latter’s views on transgender people. It is noted that in a 2017 interview to Channel 4, Adichie has said “a trans woman is a trans woman”. A report by The Guardian reads, ‘At the time, Adichie rejected the claim that she did not believe trans women were women, saying: “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.”’

While both the unnamed writers criticised Adichie for her opinion on social media, one of the unnamed writers went ahead to name Adichie in the author bio of her debut book without Adichie’s permission. And when Adichie asked her name to be removed, her request was declined.

“This person has created a space in which social media followers have – and this I find unforgiveable – trivialized my parents’ death, claiming that the sudden and devastating loss of my parents within months of each other during this pandemic, was ‘punishment’ for my ‘transphobia.’,” Adichie wrote on her website.

Her post further read, “Here is the truth: I was very supportive of this writer. I didn’t have to be. I wasn’t asked to be. I supported this writer because I believe we need a diverse range of African stories. Sabotaging a young writer’s career is just not my style; I would get no benefit or satisfaction from it. Asking that my name be removed from your biography is not sabotaging your career. It is about protecting my boundaries of what I consider acceptable in civil human behavior. You publicly call me a murderer AND still feel entitled to benefit from my name?”

Criticizing young people’s social media conduct these days, Adichie said in the concluding part of the essay, “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 then ended the essay by saying, “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… I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and re-read their tweets because they fear they will be attacked on their own. The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”



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