It Doesn’t Happen Here, So We Don’t Have To Take It Seriously [Part 2]–Chimamanda Adichie

By Ikenga Chronicles April 10, 2017

(This is a strange time to criticize journalism, by the way, because the unhinged American president has lied about journalists and turned journalism into an easy punching bag. Journalism is not just important but sacred. It is a necessity in any democracy, because it informs, it educates, and it sets the agenda.)

And so I arrived in Amsterdam, feeling a little wary.

I had been invited to appear on a TV show that my publisher characterized as one of the best in the Netherlands. The Dutch version of Meet the Press, I was told.

Donald Trump’s boast about assaulting women was still in the news, and the TV show host wanted to talk about it.

When I told him that Trump was the perfect example of male privilege, because a woman who behaved exactly like him would never be the nominee of a major political party, the host asked what this hypothetical woman would boast about.

I told him she would probably go around boasting about grabbing men’s penises.

And his reply was: “that would be great, wouldn’t it?”

I was stunned. So taken aback that I half-laughed before saying that no, I did not think it would be great.

He persisted: “No?”

Afterwards, I was annoyed with myself. Because I had allowed myself to be goaded; I had trivialized my own point. Simplistic comparisons of that sort are neither useful nor accurate.

If a person who is part of a powerful group assaults someone in a non-powerful group, it is not the simple equivalent of a non-powerful group member assaulting a powerful group member. Power differences matter.

And I was still stunned by those words: “that would be great, wouldn’t it?”

There was something flippant in his manner, a condescension that had convinced itself that it was humor. Feminism was a subject not to be seriously discussed but dismissively challenged in a way that would expose you as humorless if you were to object.

Sexism, his tone seemed to say, is foreign. Misogyny does not happen here.

The Dutch thinker Gloria Wekker, in her brilliant book WHITE INNOCENCE, describes debates about Dutch society as having a self-congratulatory national tone, because the Netherlands believes itself to be ‘a paradise of emancipation.’

WHITE INNOCENCE is a lucid unearthing of a nation’s image of itself. It is an illuminating collage of history, politics, and anthropology.

It helped me better contextualize not only the TV interview but that ‘catfight!’ headline.

I only wish I had read it sooner. I hope it finds the many more readers that it deserves.

 

 

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