There is an article that is both chilling and fascinating over on the New Yorker’s Website. In “The Women Rescued from Boko Haram Who Are Returning to Their Captors,”
How is such a thing even possible? Well, whiledoesn’t mention it, surely Stockholm Syndrome plays a role. But, says Nwaubani, the bigger reason may be that once they were in the group, they were given surprisingly large amounts of freedom, more so than some of them found in their normal, daily lives back in their original society. The author quotes Fatima Akilu, “a psychologist who runs the Neem Foundation—which operated a deradicalization program for female former captives of Boko Haram,” to the effect that “People often don’t realize how much choice Boko Haram gave women…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…Even if you want to be a combatant, we will train you to be a combatant.’ ”
Thus, the women of Boko Haram might well become front line soldiers, if that was what they wanted to be. Or, if they preferred (and were lucky), they might become pampered wives, gaining access to luxuries they’d never experienced before. Boko Haram operates in some of the poorest areas of Nigeria, so, for many of the women who were abducted, merely having a private room, getting enough to eat on a regular basis, and even being able to sleep late were unimaginable indulgences. When they were then “freed,” some of these women found their return to “normal” life distinctly unwelcome.
All of this is strange and tragic, of course. But why should it be of any interest to us? The answer: because it may help us to understand a bit more about how Donald Trump was elected, and how to keep men like him out of office in future. By some estimates, up to 52% of all white women cast their ballot for the Orange One. That would seem, again, unthinkable. But, it appears to be true. Perhaps if we look closely enough at their behaviors and biases, we would find something like the motivations of the Boko Haram women. Some American women find within the sturdy prejudices of the Trumpian vision a fortress rather than a prison. It is a place where sex roles may be very traditional, but at least it is a place where there is a defined role for them–that of wife and mother. Moreover, it is a place where that role is highly valued, and not shamed, as it sometimes is within the progressive academe and the corporate work-place. It may well be, then, that for such women, the world that the progressive would offer them is as unrewarding, and perhaps tedious, as is traditional village life for the individuals who now flee back to Boko Haram.
If that is the case, then it is important for those us on the Left to know and understand the attractions of the Deplorable’s conservatism. For, forewarned and forearmed, we might discover a way to appeal to such women, before they are abducted by, or flee back to, our own version of Boko Haram…
In all its murderous fury.