There’s no question that the world should be fighting for global equality and the right to an education. But am I really the only one who has picked up on the shallow irony of the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign?
Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture: Why did Islamist militant group Boko Haram attack the school? The particular region in Nigeria—a region that’s reportedly half Muslim and half Christian— has been targeted relentlessly by the terrorist group for almost five years now. Their goal? To establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. Boko Haram are ideologically opposed to Western culture, as well as the education of girls, and thus coordinated the abduction of more than 300 girls in the middle of the night as they slept at their school.
The response from the crème-de-la-crème of Western women? Taking fully made-up photos of themselves pulling ‘sad’ faces and the like to post on their social media pages. In the words of The Independent’s Ms Morse, “Boko Haram must be quaking in their boots. These ‘Islamic’ militants have razed entire villages to the ground, hacked men to death and killed children as they slept, but now the West has a hashtag campaign.”
Of course there are more issues at play here. For example the selective nature of the Western media that didn’t initially give the issue prominence in the news agenda – the excuse here that the press must give their audience what they (think they) want. Which implies that the West only wants to hear about the brutal kidnapping of 300 African children when popstars and the like start posting photos of themselves on Twitter. But that’s one for another time.
For the likes of Cara Delevigne, Tulissa, etc – I get it. They probably don’t have a whole lot to contribute in terms of intellectual integrity – so they’ve joined the campaign the only way they can – by looking pretty. But Michelle Obama? Alicia Keys? Malala? Supposedly intelligent, astute, “strong” women, who’ve jumped on the hashtag bandwagon and reduced themselves to a vanity-induced status update.
What happened to feminism? Where is the activism? The passion? At history lessons we learned of women throwing themselves under horses and chaining themselves to buildings, burning their bras and shouting for equality from the rooftops. Only Angelina Jolie stands alone as a beacon of hope for Western woman-kind, using her red carpet exposure to speak out with strong words, genuine emotion and intellectual savvy.
I hear you, you’re saying, “Billie, you’ve missed the point. The social media campaign has brought the attention of the world to such an important issue – why does it matter by what means it is accomplished?” I’ll tell you. Because it’s shallow, it’s vain – in a nutshell it’s celebs using a foreign crisis to capitalise on a PR opportunity.
But worse than that – isn’t this exactly what Boko Haram are fighting against? They don’t want their women to be exposed to a Western education; and really, who can blame them when our strongest female minds can only express themselves through selfies and status updates?