Stereotypical Gayness

As much as “Walking with Shadows” is a poignant testimony of a closeted man being forced to come to terms with his sexuality in the most inhospitable of social environments, I have one critique (or question that I should have asked him tonight) that I would like to address:

If the general consensus is that Adrian passes as heterosexual, I find it interesting on pg. 36 when Ada begins to contemplate about all the initial “signs” of Adrian’s “gayness-” attributes mostly relating to his physical characteristics that should have informed her that she was barking up the wrong tree. For example, Ada believes that Adrian’s “prettiness,” his “elegant gait,” his well-maintained appearance like his “pretty eyebrows,” his immaculate neatness, etc are major indicators of her husband’s homosexuality. She even reminisces about how Adrian “was always arranging things and had all the best ideas for doing up the house,” that she equates as “subtle signs.” (36) Granted Ada embodies the rampant homophobic sentiment alongside her fellow Nigerians, I find it interesting (and somewhat disheartening) that Dibia decided to showcase the most “obvious” characteristics that some consider to be synonymous with gay men to justify Ada’s initial suspicions. However, I don’t understand why Dibia would use these stereotypical associations, and in a way, subtly create a stereotypical portrayal of gay men in his novel~ that idea that of course a man is gay if he has a fashion sense or “struts” around with confidence!

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Another example of these stereotypes is Abdul’s apartment on pg.25. Based on the description of his living arrangements, the “scented candles with a hint of jasmine and lavender” and the “sofa a beautiful shade of red,” Dibia depicts an environment that sounds like it was arranged my a member of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy-” that every gay man is inherently good at interior decorating or destined to be a talent home maker.

My point is that there are many nuances within queer culture and I wish I saw this more in the novel. To give him the benefit of the doubt, though, I understand that Dibia has to start somewhere in hopes of dismantling all the cultural misconceptions surrounding homosexuality in Nigeria. Perhaps by starting with the most blatant (or easily understood) portrayals of gay men (even in the Western media!) the Nigerian audience can gradually see that even the most masculine and testosterone-filled of men can be attracted to other men- that homosexuality isn’t exclusive to men with an impeccable fashion sense or top-notch designer skills.

What do you all think?

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About Jacob Atkins

young professional delving into convoluted world of freelance journalism, investigative reporting, and foreign correspondence. Originally from Maine, educated in Washington, D.C. and soon-to-be living in Santiago, Chile- I'm an introspective extrovert with nomadic tendencies

Posted on November 13, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. erika926nishihara

    I also think that walking with shadows depicts the stereotype on gays in the society. Adrain seems to be heterosexual as you say. This book depicts how society categorize and recognize gay people. I thought it is interesting that Queer culture in the novel. Though it is ambiguous, I think the culture can be interpreted in the novel.

  2. Thanks for the response, Erika. The more I think about it, the more I understand why Dibia chose to utilize such popularized imagery to illustrate a queer lifestyle, by using “laymen’s terms’ essentially. Perhaps the book wouldn’t have been as well received if it depicted “foreign” imagery of what constitutes a gay man- let’s say a “macho” kind of guy who likes sports and adrenaline rushes. Considering that Nigerians equate homosexuality to femininity and “sissyness,” how utterly confused they would be with such a different interpretation! In class today I was thinking about the influential role of Nollymood, the media in general, and public relations- and possibly how these outlets of information could someday shift public opinion to become more accepting of gays and lesbians. The challenge with that, though, would entail getting the Censor Bureau to become more lenient. How can the West assist in such endeavors without impeding on Nigerian’s sovereignty???

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