As much as I am happy to see the international community paying attention to the problem of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Nigeria, I can’t help but notice the widespread hypocrisy and double standard of the mainstream media in reaction to the kidnapping of 234 female students by Boko Haram. Let us review the facts. Here is a list of recent massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria:
(1) 6 July 2013: Boko Haram militants attacked Yobe State school dormitory and killed 42 people, all male, most of them teenage boys staying at the residential school. Some victims were burned alive [1] [2].
(2) 29 September 2013: Boko Haram attacked the College of Agriculture in Nigeria. Only the male sleeping quarters were targeted: “[The terrorists] appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women”. 40 school boys were killed [3].
(3) 16 February 2014: Boko Haram attacked the Christian village of Izghe. They went door to door and forced the men in the village to gather, then they hacked and shot them to death. Women were let go out of the village. 105 men and 1 elderly woman were killed. She was a brave grandmother who was trying to protect her grandson [4].
(4) 25 February 2014: Boko Haram militants barged into the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi in Yobe State. They threw explosives into dorm rooms as they sprayed the rooms with gunfire. According to an eye-witness “students were trying to climb out of the windows and they were slaughtered like sheep by the terrorists who slit their throats. Others who ran were gunned down.” All 24 buildings were burnt to the ground during the attack. 59 students, all males, were killed in the attack. Some died from gunshots or knife wounds, while others were burned to death [5] [6].
(5) 14 April 2014: Boko Haram attacked the government girls-only Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Approximately 234 female students were kidnapped [7]. Most students were Christians. A video footage of them was later released showing them as converted to Islam, saying Muslim prayers and reciting verses from Quran. The search for girls is still ongoing. [8]
Overall, the insurgency led by Boko Haram has killed some 2,000 people since 2009, majority of them men and boys.
With a tiny degree of oversimplification, I can summarize the reaction of the international community to massacres (1) to (4) as: “who gives a shit?” That must have been particularly disappointing for the terrorists, i.e. Boko Haram! Terrorists usually know that they cannot murder all or majority of the citizens, neither can they shut down all the schools. Therefore, they pursue the goal of terrorizing people by making headlines through violent acts (hence the term terrorism). The most depressed terrorist is the one who carries out a massacre that nobody cares or talks about. Terrorists hate to kill or be killed in vain…
Then came the kidnapping of the school girls (5) and the whole world reacted to it in a frenzy and panic, of course mostly with empty talk and “progressive” gestures, but no tangible plan to rescue the poor girls. I am sure Boko Haram leaders have lost a lot of sleep over Michelle Obama and Hollywood celebrities tweeting pictures of themselves holding the “bring back our girls” signs. Here is a very brief list of celebrities (out of thousands of celebreties) posing with the sign: Michelle Obama, Adriana Lima, Cara Delevingne, Irina Shayk, Selma Hayek, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres, Sylvester Stallone.
The mainstream media coverage of the issue has been superficially sentimental and pathetically dishonest. Most sound bites (or even full articles) barely mention the previous massacres by Boko Haram, nor do they provide enough history and background on this terrorist organization’s ideology and atrocities. Even when they do mention the previous mass murders by Boko Haram, they mostly use sexless genderless phrases like “students” instead of boys, and “people” or “villagers” instead of men. However, whenever the victims are female, the whole story becomes about the victims’ gender. Even when Boko Haram specifically targets their violence towards men (e.g. they collect and kill all the men in the village, but spare all the women), the victims are nothing but “people” or “villagers” in the news headline.
This whole story is a testament to how the society’s indifference to men’s suffering ultimately hurts everybody, both men and women. The terrorist militia wanted attention, so they started with slaughtering and burning alive hundreds of men and school boys. Nobody gave a fuck. After a few years of attempting, they had to (in their sick mind) “escalate” their atrocities to kidnapping innocent girls. Boko Haram’s leaders had correctly predicted that the mainstream media (especially the Western media) would pay attention to them only when they start hurting women, and they were proved right.
It is plausible to think that the extra attention paid to the kidnapping incident in Nigeria is merely because the victims are still alive and can be potentially saved. Indeed I believe that this hypothesis might bear some truth. But, do you seriously think that if a terrorist group captured 200 boys and slaughtered thousands of girls, the headlines would be #bringbackourboys?

But, do you seriously think that if a terrorist group
captured 200 boys and slaughtered thousands of
girls, the headlines would be #bringbackourboys?

There are theories hypothesizing that some degree of “male disposability” and indifference or less sensitivity to men’s suffering in the society might have evolutionary roots in our species [9]. But now that we no longer live in caves, isn’t it time for us to transcend our deeply embedded but primitive evolutionary biases and realize that #MenArePeopleToo ?
[1] McElroy, Damien (6 July 2013). “Extremist attack in Nigeria kills 42 at boarding school”. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
[2] “Nigeria school attack claims 42 lives”. The Australian. AFP. 6 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
[3] “Islamic terrorists kill at least 40 students in attack on Nigerian college”. Fox News. 29 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
[4] “Nigeria’s Boko Haram in village massacre”. BBC News Africa. 16 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
[5] Hemba, Joe. “Nigerian Islamists kill 59 pupils in boarding school attack”. Reuters. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
[6] “Sleeping Students ‘Killed By Boko Haram'”. Sky News. February 25, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
[7] “Authorities – 276 Kidnapped Girls Still Missing in Nigeria”. VOA(Nigeria: All Africa). 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
[8] New York Times: “Nigerian Girls Seen in Video From Militants” By ADAM NOSSITERMAY May 12, 2014
[9] Warren Farrell,The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1993)
Feature image from Wikipedia Commons.

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