Adichie Speaks at UCT Lecture After Boycott Calls From Students' Council


UCT open lecture invite.

30 JULY 2021

By Sethi Ncube

Johannesburg — On July 28 internationally acclaimed Nigerian author and renowned feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presented the second University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture titled The Idolatry of Theory: A Defense of Storytelling.

But the university's Students' Representative Council (SRC) held a parallel lecture to boycott Ngozi Adichie, whom they accused of transphobia, with guest speaker Dr Anastacia Tomson who spoke on "the dangers of sectional feminism in the context of trans women".

They boycotted Ngozi Adichie's lecture because of an interview with BBC in 2017, where she said "trans women are trans women" in response to a question about whether she considers trans women as real women. She apologised after getting a backlash. She was criticised by members of the LGBTQIA+ community for the comment, saying she is transphobic and her feminism is "lacking intersectionality".

The SRC said, in a statement, that: "As an institution which actively promotes intersectional feminism through its curriculum, it is important for us to recognise that Ngozi Adichie enhanced the divide in the feminist community with her anti-trans remarks, instead of using her platform and influence to highlight how trans women also have a right to simply be recognised as who they are without having to defend their womanhood."

"The argument that transwomen are different from cis women assumes that trans women did not experience any form of discrimination prior to transitioning," the SRC tweeted.

(Editor's note: A cisgender person is a person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was identified as female at birth is a cisgender woman. It is often abbreviated to "cis".) 

In their parallel lecture which they called a "safe space", the SRC clarified that the boycott was not about "cancel culture" but a call for institutions like UCT to support people like Ngozi Adichie who have anti-trans views and sideline affected people.

The request that the VC Mamokgethi Phakeng change her as the speaker in solidarity with transgender students and staff at the institution fell on deaf ears.

According to News24, UCT viewed the lecture as an opportunity for debate and different perspectives on the same issue.

Phakeng has also been criticised on social media for having the rainbow flag as part of her Twitter bio, yet "she entertains people with anti-trans views".

Lorde @TshepiMamashela The rainbow flag in the Twitter name and CNA as a guest speaker will never make sense.

Call Me J4M4L @CallMeJ4m4l UCT said let's give the known TERF and transphobe with her entry-level feminism a platform. That Pride Flag is clearly just for varbs.

Nkgono Neria  @neriahlakotsa Read the room. Respect Trans people. Stop being arrogant. Noone needs to hear Chimamanda.

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