Grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls

Yesterday for the first time Michelle Obama gave the weekly presidential address, in order to speak up about the kidnapped and enslaved Nigerian schoolgirls.

Speaking for the first time instead of the US president, before what is Mothers’ Day in the US on Sunday, she said the couple were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction of more than 300 girls from a school in Chibok on 14 April.

“What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.

“I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home. In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

She also said, with angry emphasis: “grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.” Yes.

Ken Wiwa, an adviser to the president and son of playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, wrote in an article for the Observer that there was something “reassuring” in the fact that the world cared about the plight of the girls. He said that, with support, Nigeria could “overcome this challenge”, and called it the turning point in the battle against terrorism.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the security council should act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group and hold “its murderous leaders to account”. The security council has demanded the release of the girls and is threatening to take action.

“The members of the security council expressed their intention to actively follow the situation of the abducted girls and to consider appropriate measures against Boko Haram,” the 15-member council, which includes Nigeria, said.

The logistics are appallingly difficult though.

In her speech, broadcast nationwide on radio and uploaded as a YouTube video, Michelle Obama said: “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.”

She noted that the Chibok state secondary school where they were abducted had been closed because of terror threats, but the girls had gone back to take exams. “They were so determined to move to the next level of their education … so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud,” she said.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    This is a terrific new development. I can only imagine the conservative outcry we’ll be treated to, about a woman – and a BLACK woman at that! – taking the forum thus far reserved for the President of the United States. The nerve! The rudeness! How completely inappropriate!! Why, this is worse than Obama putting his filthy feet on OUR Resolute Desk in OUR WHITE House!!

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    I hate to be the one to point this out. Let me make clear that I respect our FLOTUS and I’m glad she took this shocking step – to take over the President’s place in order to emphasize the urgency and importance of this issue.

    But this is NOT a “women’s issue” and it must not be framed as such! This is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue, one in which the gender of the children and youths in question should be irrelevant! If Boko Haram were kidnapping schoolboys and selling them into slavery – into SEXUAL slavery! – our response should be identical, and identically strong.

    Once again, we women cannot solve this problem by ourselves. We shouldn’t have to. We should be able to rally the participation of all people – men, women, transgender, third gender, EVERYONE – to protect our young people. OUR young people.

  3. says

    Blanche – your two comments cancel each other out.

    And, it’s both. I advise against going down the “it’s not women’s rights, it’s HUMAN rights” path: that’s a favorite trope of the anti-feminist brigade.

    And can we please not use “FLOTUS”? Ugh. It’s Secret Service jargon; civilians have no need of it, just as we have no need of “Gitmo.” Civilians sound ridiculous using military jargon.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    I know, I know. I’m just so CONFUSED!! WHERE is the one path, the single high road that can’t be challenged and that expresses in full the correct reaction AND the proper perspective??

    Okay, okay, the First Lady of the United States. *Fine* 🙂

    So perhaps it’s up to women to raise the alarm, but at some point, we HAVE to get the men to buy in, since such a high proportion of the world’s politicians are men, or else nothing’s going to change.

    Difficult topics are difficult.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    Or, rather, men have to decide that this is their problem as well. It’s not up to us to change them. They can change their own damn selves.

  6. says

    Or, just call her Michelle Obama. We know what her job title is. I call Obama Obama; I don’t bother to point out he’s the pres (usually). (She gets two names and he gets one; it’s unfair; I know.)

  7. Al Dente says

    She gets two names and he gets one; it’s unfair; I know

    Maybe someday he’ll be rich enough to buy another name, possibly something exotic like Tom, Dick or Harry.

    Seriously, I’m glad Michelle Obama spoke out about this. Boko Haram is trying to force Nigeria to medieval times when the peasantry were illiterate and education meant religious training for clerics. The other part of Islamic medievalism is that women had two functions, perform housework and have babies. The modern world needs to stop Boko Haram and the Islamist mindset which promotes and supports them.

  8. Blanche Quizno says

    I usually refer to him as The President, because that’s the function I’m typically discussing. Same with the First Lady – it is their actions in the context of these positions that we’re discussing, not their preferences as private individuals. We can agree to disagree.

  9. quixote says

    I’m glad she (MichelleO) finally spoke up about it. Where’s he (BarackO) in all this?

    With another world leader, one who’s at least capable of looking like a politely pleased politician when speaking with women, I might assume he was doing it for the good of the Nigerian students.

    With this one and the disdain for women he wears right on his sleeve, I have the rotten feeling he couldn’t muster up his “concerned face” so he shoved it off on Michelle.

    Admittedly, if they’d done some kind of antiphonal both-together weekly presidential address, I would have found fault with that too.

    I guess I’m just furious he couldn’t be bothered until weeks had gone by.

  10. Daniel Schealler says

    With this one and the disdain for women he wears right on his sleeve, I have the rotten feeling he couldn’t muster up his “concerned face” so he shoved it off on Michelle.

    Oh come on.

    I’m all for being cynical about politicians, but that’s just a bit much.

    I think that it’s a damn shame that the government of the US didn’t make a statement on this until well after it became a widely known issue among their constituents, and thus an obvious political win if they did make a statement and took action.

    But that nonsense about ‘shoved it off on Michelle’ is just silly. As if any political party with a feel for politics that short-sighted would have been able to get a candidate into the presidency in the first place.

    They would have used Michelle as the talking-head in this scenario because their political analysts would have determined that it was in the best interest of the party to do things this way. Why, I can’t be sure – I am not an analyst. But if I had to guess, I’d say it is something about using a woman and a mother in this scenario both tugs at the heartstrings more while not speaking to the war-hawk-ish-ness of the American public who would want America to swing in gung ho and take military action immediately.

    Cynicism aside, it’s still good that they’re finally taking note of the situation.

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Also, immediately pre-Mother’s Day, and given the fact that a weekly presidential address isn’t news but a president giving up the weekly address *is* unusual and thus is boderline-newswothy in itself, it’s highly possible that the Obamas thought that it would be more effective in a “Raise opposition to Boko Haraam” sense and not more effective in a “I’m more likely to get reelected even though I’m in my second term” sense.

    I’m as skeptical of Barack Obama as the next queer whose rights to marry were deemed inconvenient by the leader of the “free” world, but skeptical means weighing all the hypotheses, not merely those that make the Obamas look bad.

    Seriously. They have a lot to do. And as pressing as this problem is, the first responsibility of the Obamas is to the US, not Nigeria. The state dept has been gathering info on Boko Haraam for quite a long time, now. I don’t know that that info is being selectively shared with the Nigerian government, but I’d be surprised to find out
    otherwise. My guess is that they didn’t use the office of the president to address this until it became widely enough known that doing something about it would affect more than just the families involved – the deterrent effect of rounding up the kidnappers, the education-promoting effects of having the kidnapped free to tell their stories, etc, etc. Now that the story has the potential for global impact, the Obamas are giving it the kind of push likely to be globally noticed.

    That could be wrong. It could be all about garnering domestic political support (and, undoubtedly, there is at least one person in the administration whose job is to assess things from a domestic political perspective who argued, per assigned role, only from that perspective). But the power and demands of an office like the presidency are incredible. To use that power selectively only on issues of global reach is neither surprising nor cynical.

    This isn’t to say that Barack Obama isn’t a cynical calculator, just that we can’t possibly know that from his delaying a few weeks before paying public attention to this ongoing kidnapping/slavery horror. Nor can we be sure that even a cynical person isn’t capable of having a heart string tugged now and again, enough even to do something for the right reasons.

    I think using Michelle Obama on Mother’s Day weekend inevitably gained more attention for the address. I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s impossible, with all their advisors, for the Obamas not to be aware that this was the likely outcome.

    Finally, I think it’s not unreasonable for us to believe someone intended X when that someone does something that has a very high likelihood of causing X.

    At that point were just arguing about why they wanted X, and I think it’s a bit grotesque to assume that they don’t want those girls/women* to survive, to return to their families, to have support in healing, and to have a chance to put their educations to work. They may not consider it their jobs to get those things done, but assuming that they don’t want those things to happen is a bit…well, it’s a bit much for me.

    *are any of them 18? what is the proper language here to prevent infantilizing adult women who are still young and are engaged in an activity with girls that nonetheless keeps attention on the victimization of girls?

  12. Decker says

    The Obama administration fcor years resisted labelling Boko Haremn a terrorist group., a semi official Democratic body. had been posting an on-line petition since 2012 ( taken down just last week) urging people to pressure gov’t NOT to class Boko Harem as terrorist.

    Lastly where has the Obama administration been for the first three weeks after this story broke, and where is Obama himself? Just how big are Michele’s skirts?

    To be fair to Obama, however, both the Dems and Republicans are the same damned party, so the latter wouldn’t have done any better

    These girls will never be released. They are ( WERE? ) Christian…the 10% who were Muslim were released. They’ve probably already undergone FGM and any attempt at rescuing them, an exploit that only the U.S. Russia, Israel or France are capable of doing… would only mean that most would be killed.

  13. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Just how big are Michele’s skirts?

    Fuck your sexism, Decker.

  14. Decker says

    @ 13 Obama’s intransigence doesn’t begin or end with these girls. He waited weeks before even acknowledgin what happened, and then his wife tweets holding a sign with four words on it as though THAT would do any good.

    While all the Hollywood liberals denounce the Sultan of brunei’s support for sharia law, including stonings for homosexuals, Obama’s administration is fast tracking Brunei’s status as “Most Favored Trading Nation”, a status that will all give a pass to certain human rights abuses.

    Sharia laws is sexism and misogyny on steroids, you fucking idiot.

  15. Jackie the wacky says


    We get it. You really want to talk about how much you hate the president. Please go to a place where that is the topic and knock yourself out talking smack about Obama. That isn’t the topic here.

    Meanwhile, it did do something. It put pressure on Good Luck Johnathan to do something. It showed him and the families of the abducted girls that the world was watching.

    If you think people should do more, please get out there and show us how it”s done. I’m sure you’ll have this all sorted out in no time.

    That is, if you’re finished derailing conversations about the issue.

  16. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Sharia laws is sexism and misogyny on steroids, you fucking idiot.

    Excuse me? Where did I defend sharia? Or using a singular verb with a plural subject? Or that you, of all people, are a good judge of idiocy?

    I have quite enough brainpower to condemn **multiple incidents** and even, gasp, **multiple forms** of sexism. That it is incomprehensible to you that I might condemn sexism you spew and sexism from others is not a failing of mine.

    The (putative) fact that your sexism doesn’t take steroids is a fairly small rock on which to build the house of your heroic virtue.

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