Social Justice Book Club April 2013: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

We will be kicking off our Social Justice Book Club with Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

The April Social Justice Book Club will take place the week of April 14-20.

Sue Halpern said the following in her review of Hall The Sky in The New York Review of Books:

“…he and WuDunn are very clear that they have not written Half the Sky simply to document the condition of child brides in Ethiopia and girls forced into prostitution in Cambodia, but to inspire readers to change the dynamic and shift the paradigm. “Let us be clear about this up front,” they say in their introduction. “We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts.” It is a testament to their skills as writers and reporters that they’ve managed to write this call to action without having to raise their voices. The facts, as they learned long ago in China, speak loudly enough.

And what are some of those facts? A girl in India dies every four minutes because her parents don’t believe she’s worthy of medical care; a third of all women worldwide are beaten at home; women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined ; according to the United Nations, 90 percent of females over the age of three were sexually abused in parts of Liberia during the civil war there; there are, very conservatively, according to the British medical journal The Lancet, ten million child sex slaves. If Kristof and WuDunn have their way, righting “gender inequality in the developing world” will be embraced as the moral battle of the twenty-first century, as totalitarianism was in the twentieth and slavery was in the century before that.

For Westerners, the words “gender inequality” are likely to suggest pay differentials and glass ceilings and old-boy networks. For the women and girls Kristof and WuDunn write about, gender inequality is more elemental. It takes the form of sexual slavery and other kinds of bondage; rape and other kinds of physical and mental assaults; and the withholding of medicine, food, and other privations; and it issues from a belief so fixed as to be unimpeachable: women are less human than men. (Not that they are less worthy, but that they are, fundamentally, less human.) When this belief is coupled with religious and political ideology, class bias and racial supremacy, women’s bodies also become tools for ethnic “cleansing,” for political intimidation, and for genocide. If this is old news for being commonplace, might it mean that in some deep place most of us believe it, too?”

Half the Sky has been in my “to read” stack for quite some time. I am looking forward to reading it and discussing it with you.

We will have a number of posts and virtual events dealing with the book during the week of April 14-20. Guest posts about the book are very much welcome. Posts need not be reviews of the entire book. Instead, they can be reflections on some aspect of the book.

Further details to come. For now, get your hands on Half the Sky and get reading!


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