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Troublemaking Role Model: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Yesterday I posted about Serena Williams as a troublemaking role model who, when asked why she wasn’t smiling and happy in a post-match interview–a question that is imposed of women all the time, resisted the demand to be a polite good girl and challenged the reporter’s right to even ask the question. This morning, while scrolling through some old tweets, I found another example of refusing to be smiley and likable: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her talk at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards:

I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world….That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.

Yes it is.

Troublemaking Role Model: Serena Williams

Reporter: Serena, you just won the match, and … normally, you smile when you win … you laugh. What happened tonight, is it because you beat Venus or because you’re thinking about [the next match]? What’s wrong?

Serena: It’s 11:30 … to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now, and I have to wake up early to practice. And I don’t want to answer any of these questions, and you guys keep asking me the same questions. So … you’re not making it super enjoyable. [laughs] Just being honest.

I love Serena’s response. Makes me think of my problematizer, Smile of Die! from a few years ago.

Make Trouble From the Inside

It’s time to get busy. It’s your turn to cause trouble – but this time in the real world, and this time from the inside (John Waters).

Wow! I just watched John Waters’ awesome commencement speech (via Open Culture).

(check out the transcript)

What great advice for kids! Here are few ideas that I found particularly compelling:

1. Maturity = honing your skills as a troublemaker, not stopping troublemaking

Today may be the end of your juvenile delinquency, but it should also be the first day of your new adult disobedience.

2. Resist/disobey through sneak attacks.

You need to prepare sneak attacks on society. Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America – and nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys. Pink Flamingos was preaching to the converted. But Hairspray is a Trojan horse: It snuck into Middle America and never got caught. You can do the same thing.

3. Success/fulfillment = avoiding assholes.

I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich. And not being around assholes should be the goal of every graduate here today.

4. Create in ways that challenge, outrage, terrify and beautifully fuck up the world.

I love how he elaborates in this section:

  • Design clothes so hideous that they can’t be worn ironically.
  • Horrify us with new ideas.
  • Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living.
  • Make me nervous!