A writer and advocate for gender equality “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” confronted former US First Lady and US presidential aspirant “Hillary Clinton” on her Twitter bio in which she identifies herself first as a “wife”.
While interviewing Hillary Clinton at a PEN World Voices Festival lecture at the Cooper Union in Manhattan on Sunday night, Chimamanda asked the former Democratic presidential candidate why, with all her career accomplishments, she chose to be primarily identified in her Twitter bio as a “Wife.”
In your Twitter account, the first word that describes you is ‘Wife.’ And then I think it’s ‘Mom,’ and then it’s ‘Grandmother’. And when I saw that, I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset. And then I went and I looked at your husband’s Twitter account, and the first word was not ‘husband.’
Bill Clinton’s Twitter bio leads with, “Founder, Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States.” There was no mention of his marital status, neither did he add that he’s a father.
Adichie said she wanted to know if it was Clinton’s choice to first identify in relation to her husband, and if so, why.
And Hillary Clinton replied:
When you put it like that, I’m going to change it.
Clinton’s response prompted roars from the crowd. But she had a good explanation for why she started by describing herself as a “Wife” in her Twitter bio. She said that women should be able to celebrate both their accomplishments and their relationships. She told a story about hearing the former US First Lady, late Barbara Bush speak at Wellesley in the early 1990s.
Quoting Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton said:
She said, you know, at the end of the day, it won’t matter if you got a raise, it won’t matter if you wrote a great book, if you are not also someone who values relationships.
And though Barbara Bush got a standing ovation after that speech, Hillary Clinton told Chimamanda Adichie and the PEN crowd she’s not sure Bush was right.
It shouldn’t be either/or. It should be that if you are someone who is defining yourself by what you do and what you accomplish, and that is satisfying, then more power to you. That is how you should be thinking about your life, and living it. If you are someone who primarily defines your life in relationship to others, then more power to you, and live that life the way Barbara Bush lived that life, and how proud she was to do it.
But I think most of us as women in today’s world end up in the middle. Wanting to have relationships, wanting to invest in them, nurture them, but also pursuing our own interests.