A revisionist view on women and Boko Harum

The respect that Aisha and Zara [who belonged to Boko Harum] commanded contrasts with the situation of most women in northern Nigeria. The region is one of the nation’s poorest. In Borno state, according to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly sixty per cent of girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are married, and many have begun bearing children. Wives typically require permission from their husbands to leave the house, and they have little say in family decisions or public life. “People often don’t realize how much choice Boko Haram gave women,” Fatima Akilu, a psychologist who runs the Neem Foundation—which operated a deradicalization program for female former captives of Boko Haram—told me. The wives of commanders, and also women who joined the group voluntarily, were extended greater freedoms than are typical for women in the region. “We usually dismiss Boko Haram as anti-women and anti-girls, but they knew that a powerful recruitment strategy was to tell women that, ‘If you join our group, you can have whatever role you want,’ ” she said. “ ‘Even if you want to be a combatant, we will train you to be a combatant.’ ”

That is by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani in The New Yorker, and there is much more at the link.  I have no opinion on those claims, but I pass them along in the interests of providing an alternative perspective.


The article appeared to show that two high-status women who were commanders' preferred wives had a good time in Boko Haram. ("As a commander’s wife, or amira, Aisha had scores of slaves—other recent female captives—who did her chores. “The only task I didn’t allow them to do for me was preparing my husband’s meals,” she said. “I preferred handling that myself.” She dismissed any slave who seemed to have her eyes on Nur, instructing that she be taken back to the tent where the other female captives lived.") I guess it's relevant that even .1% of women in Boko Haram are treated well, but I don't find it surprising and there's not much to generalize.

It isn't that they were treated well, it is that they were treated better than they had been before. Life as a woman in Northern Nigeria is pretty nasty.

This cannot be a serious article. Seriously, Boko Harum is good for women?

Boko Harum would be a good name for a cover band.

Procol Harum was the name of the 1960s rock band with the classic song "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Whenever I read or hear about Boko Harum, I think about the rock band and I sing (to myself) these lyrics:

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale

nearly sixty per cent of girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are married, and many have begun bearing children.

That's been the norm for the human race until a short time ago.

The region is one of the nation’s poorest.

A relative, materialistic concept. Maybe they don't have, or even value, all the accoutrements of consumer societies, except for firearms and ammunition.

Really odd. Not the article - it's The New Yorker. What I find odd is someone who I'd expect to know better than spreading nonsense spreading nonsense. Well, it's his blog. I suppose we'll soon see here arguments promoting slavery in general because some slaves may be treated well. And the Nazis; surely they all weren't "bad" people. Perhaps we should be reminded from time to time that evil isn't a personal characteristic, but a description of behavior, but perhaps most of us are adults who don't need such condescension. I'm sure we'll see here further reminders of how well some Jews were treated in Nazi Germany, and how well some slaves were treated in the USA 160 years ago. Who knew?

There has long been a subtle misogyny to MR.... but this takes the cake.

I'm sure Tyler would never cite an article about how good American slaves had it in 1844, but tales of joyous women kidnapped by Boko Harum? Well, word needs to be spread about that alternate perspective!

Some slaves were indeed treated well, and Albert Speer (or was it Hjalmar Schacht?) was the Good Nazi. Bah. Humbug. The New Yorker ought to hang its head in shame.



"That's been the norm for the human race until a short time ago."

... and much worse over last 50,000 years on this planet, Chattel slavery, abuse, rape, subjugation have been the norm for female humans,

Pampered people in modern First World societies have no real concept of gritty human history... beyond their own comfy bubble.

Two Danish girls were killed (beheaded...quite brutally...and there's video) earlier this week in Morocco by three local men while touring the Atlas mountains after refusing to have sex with them.

For most 1st worlders, life is video-game, a self-help seminar, a TV show where the protagonist finds themselves in 22 minutes. For most of the rest of the world, it's a place where these alien-creatures artificially divorced from physical reality drop in from what seem like other planets on recently invented space ships for Facebook photo ops.

The "comfy bubble" as you put it is a historical aberration, not without historical precedent, and according to precedent not long-lived.

I've wondered whether the late Empire Roman upper class understood what was coming in the last years before the barbarians came over the hill, or it they too lived in "it can't happen to us" bubble.

I think they did, even longer before that, and for many their solution was adopting Christianity. The "end times" were indeed nigh.

Becoming a Christian? After all, we are obviously doomed.

We're not, but whatever floats your boat Plan, whatever floats your boat....

The Roman upper class got along very well with the new barbarian armies and they provided each other mutual support.

Tyler frames the article oddly. It’s about how people who’ve gotten used to barbaric lives have trouble assimilating back to normalcy, which I think of as a well-known and non-controversial phenomenon.

The author isn’t suggesting that Boko Haram’s female slaves “didn’t have it that bad” or something.

Is it "revisionism" when the alternative perspective is practically concurrent with the historical phenomenon it purports to examine?

"Feminism" itself is subject today to "revisionism" because of the advent of "intersectionalism", which is given a partial profile in The Atlantic courtesy of Caitlin Flanagan, who asserts her explanatory power in an essay on NY Sen. Gillibrand but leaves readers to wonder whether any feminists live in "the real world", to wit:

"[Intersectionalism] proceeds from the sound notion that all women do not, in fact, constitute a single class, and the idea that the personal gains of—for example—a wealthy, white lawyer with an expensive education and piles of ready cash will somehow trickle down to poor black women living in an urban slum is absurd. At this point, the only major feminist issue that equally affects rich and poor, white and non-white women is abortion. Other than that, American women occupy a variety of different classes, which are growing more rigid than ever.

"As a philosophy, it’s valid. . . .

"If there’s anything intersectional feminism has no time for, it’s white men—which must have seemed politically useful to her [Sen. Gillibrand] in the moment. According to the intersectional framework, white men aren’t part of the problem—they are the problem. The desperate attempt of progressive young white women to kick free from their shameful racial heritage by emphasizing the taxonomic distinction of gender is responsible for much of the most incendiary language about white men: they are trash, monsters, simultaneously bumbling incompetents and the soul of evil itself. . .”

Any "valid philosophy" dedicated to the idea that every member of the entire class of "white men" is "trash, a monster, simultaneously a bumbling incompetent and a soul of evil itself", arguably, is a valid philosophy that needs to address a range of issues as seriously as it can manage, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

Caitlin Flanagan is good, especially at book reviews that become personal meditations, but as she'd be the first to tell you, she was a "sensitive girl." She's sensitive to the feelings of the help - this has been a running theme in her writing. Professional white women have it made; now if only the gifts of feminism can be extended to the working class, and the very poor, all will be well. I am surprised she's never realized that chief among those gifts is the luxury to tell men that you hate them.

She got a lot of flak for this in the past, as though she were undermining feminism from the right. (Conservatism being now unrecognizable to nearly everyone ...) This should be her moment, but it seems she can't savor it.

--which leads me to wonder afresh whether contemporary American feminism is either splitting into "feminism" and "maternalism" (with distinct views on polity) or whether "traditional American feminism" (pre-11 September 2001) is steadily transforming itself into "American maternalism". It's early yet.

I think it was here that this article was mentioned about a year ago: Rescued and deradicalised women are returning to Boko Haram. Why? By Hilary Matfess.

Excerpts at https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/11/there-was-100-better-treatment-as-wife.html

Nov 1 2017.

This is something of a twist on the "Stockholm syndrome". Somebody should ask Patty Hearst what she thinks about it.

Isn't Northern Nigeria mostly Islamic?

I was initially inclined to make a snarky joke about how Hitler made the trains run on time, which surely benefited many people.

Then I realized that the history of the Black Panthers and similar groups (here and abroad) included initiating community benefit programs that on their own are difficult to criticize, and undoubtedly complicated the narrative of who is the bad guy, as well as muddied the water on how these groups rose to power and how the gained support in the communities.

The US press of course ignored or downplayed those aspects of the story - in their rush to push the white hat-black hat narratives that supported to CIA/FBIs goals.

So that thought made me pause and wonder what we don't know about Boko Harum

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