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Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Secret Pregnancy' Is Her Most Feminist Move Yet

06/07/2016 17:01 | Updated 06 July 2016
Leigh Vogel via Getty Images

"I would probably have a glass of wine, but I'm breastfeeding."

That's it. That's how best-selling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie announced she had recently become a mother.

No fanfare, no bump selfies, just a casual mention in an interview with the Financial Times for its 'Lunch With The FT' series.

You can almost hear the gasps from journalists and superfans: How did we not notice? Nine whole months went by and no one suspected a thing?

Welcome to the age of celebrity journalism and social media, where every waking moment is documented, liked and commented on. And once a female celebrity becomes pregnant or gives birth, it's like a two for one deal - who could resist?

That's why Adichie's secret pregnancy - and by "secret", I mean out of the public eye, although she admits even some friends didn't know - is so refreshing.

We don't know when she gave birth, we don't know the baby's name (she refused to tell the FT journalist), and we didn't even know that she was pregnant.

Put simply, Adichie doesn't want to play ball. She says she went "into hiding" because she wanted motherhood to be "as personal as possible".

"We live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy," she said. "We don't expect fathers to perform fatherhood."

She's right, parenthood is often framed through the most sexist lens of all.

Nowadays every mother or mother-to-be is scrutinised by the public and the press for her appearance, lifestyle choices and approach to motherhood.

It isn't just the rich and famous who are subject to such scrutiny, of course, it happens everywhere, whether it's women being shamed for breastfeeding in public or made to feel guilty for working full-time and having a nanny.

As a feminist, Adichie has long challenged the status quo when it comes to the position of women and girls in society. And she doesn't want to perform, not as a mother, not as a woman, not ever.

"The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are," she writes in her essay We Should All Be Feminists, which was adapted from her TEDx talk of the same name. "Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations."

And as a new mother, she has done exactly that: exercising her right to experience pregnancy and define motherhood on her own terms.

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