The following post was written almost six years ago, but still holds relevance. On the good news side, more women are running for office and winning elections. And, the US just voted in its first female Vice-President. Yet, these three powerful books remain tough, but essential reads.
Our friend Debra (see link below) has written a review of the much-needed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn called “Half the Sky.” This is one of the toughest reads you will ever take on as it discusses how women are maltreated around the globe. In addition to how awful it is to the women and children who are subject to this maltreatment including rape, sex slavery, genital mutilation, fistula due to births before the body is able, and domestic violence, it discusses the economic detriment to those communities. The book is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky, so if you treat them poorly, you are devaluing your economy, competing with one arm tied behind your back in a world that will leave you behind.
Kristof and WuDunn have followed up their first book with one called “A Path Appears,” which expands on these issues, but discusses how we can make a difference. We can find a path forward to help women, children and communities in need and how it will do the giver as much good as the receiver. Attached is a New York Times review which provides a review and summary of the book. I have yet to read this book, but have seen the two authors interviewed on PBS Newshour as they discuss how each of us can play a role in helping others.
An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem. While we are only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.
I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.
Our world needs stronger positioning of women. We see the wonderful examples with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine LaGarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to name only a few, but need more. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, while not the first female, she was the most widely known ambassador of the US and made a huge difference to the issue of helping women.
But, we cannot wait on more women to get in power. We all need to see the wisdom of treating women and children fairly and as we would want to be treated. We all need to see that if we devalue women, we are limiting idea creation, market opportunities and good governance in our country and communities. We all need to see that treating a human being like property is not in keeping with the overarching messages of religious texts or answering well the Christian question of WWJD? What would Jesus do? He would treat women like he would want to be treated.
Sometimes I ask myself why the effort to make people treat women and children equally? That means the measure is the men in the world? And here we can even go more into detail: is the measure white men? That really makes me think. Why can we not simply see anyone for who they are: A precious creation of a being with the same birthright for everyone to be treated fairly, respectfully, and with dignity.
Erika, well said. What I have never understood is religions that allow, nay require, male children to respect their mothers, but once they become adults can look down upon the same women. Politics is all about power, not governance. Men have used religious texts and laws to treat women as second class citizens. It is a means of control, because the humane and right way to govern would ask these men to be accountable as they treated these women equally. Saying it a different and in more candid way, men should not be given license to be a jerk to women or anyone for that matter because some arcane religious book, written by a man, says they can. Keith
I agree fully, Keith! But I have to add that there are women too who can be even more cruel to other women once they are in a “higher” position (whatever that means). We need to stop setting standards because who says what standards are right or wrong regarding equality? It is a very difficult and at the same time so widely reaching subject. I think we only have discovered the top of the iceberg. But at least we got there!
Thanks for the additional and pertinent comments. It is sad when women imitate the worst traits of men in power, who think it gives them license to inappropriate behavior. Keith
Note to Readers: I cannot emphasize enough how tough a read “Half the Sky” will be, due to the subject matter. It will infuriate you, but make you want to take action and stand strong. “A Call to Action,” will also tick you off, as this should not be happening in a democratic society, but t does. Men exploiting women for gain knows no boundaries and even consistently occurs in the US military, corporate halls and universities.
If any women is exploited, if you want justice, take it outside the chain of command or reporting structure. The organizations are designed to protect their brands and often do not adhere to key lessons from history which is simple. When an incumbent dishonors the office, the best action is to punish the incumbent not the accuser. Keith
Any excuses by creatures not worthy of the title ‘man’.
For those pathetic creatures who call themselves Christians and insist women should be subservient, they would do well to remember that while all the apostles were hiding and lamenting, it was women who went to Christ’s tomb and then took the men to get off their backsides.
And let us not forget Deborah in the Old Testament appointed as a Judge.
Hypocrites, lairs and misogynists- not worthy of the title ‘man’
Roger, and it was women who kept the Christianity alive with services in their homes. Keith
Let us not forget the babushkas who kept religion alive during the times of Stalin’s Terrors