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I think what I want the most this year is for everyone I know to read this book I don t really know what to say about it, except that it is exactly what it should be It s hard to even think for too long about how purposeful and smart Kristof and WuDunn were in structuring and presenting the information they included here because it obviously represents a lifetime of research and investigation, but it comes off as though they re telling campfire stories I don t mean to be disrespectful in describing it that way, and they certainly weren t I just mean that all of the heroes in this book are very vivid to me, and I want to meet them all and do anything I can for them I don t think I m exaggerating when I say I care about human rights for women and girls than anything else in the entire world If nothing else, this book is a wonderful resource for information and direction on these issues, but it really is both a storybook and a guidebook.The premise of the book is that the great human rights battle of the twenty first century will be to make women equal around the world The main problems Kristof and WuDunn focus on are child sex trafficking, lack of education for girls, fistulas, and maternal mortality Ultimately, they say spoiler alert that the best ways to fight these injustices are through education, micro finance loans to women entrepreneurs, and, surprisingly enough, getting TVs into rural areas of developing countries.They note that typically the mistake activists make, when trying to motivate people, is overwhelming them with statistics by trying to present the big picture of how the cause affects the world Kristof talks a little bit about this in his article Advice for Saving the World There is some psychological study where the testers took two groups of people and told one group they could help a thousands of people by giving a dollar and told the other group they could help one person by giving a dollar and described that person s situation The test subjects were much likely to help the one person than the huge number of people This makes sense to me, because people want to feel successful in helping, not like they re throwing a bunch of money and effort into something that is too big to be solved WuDunn and Kristof managed this by discussing the problems in a very specific format For each issue, they would present the story of one or two women who in some way exemplify the problem, then they would give background information on the problem historically and brief statistics, and then they would tell the story of someone who is successfully fighting the problem Even though I know they were in some ways spoon feeding me by being so purposeful, this was a very inspirational way to write the book They weren t patronizing, and in many ways it is such a substantial topic that I think I need to be spoon fed.All of my stories end up being about Ukraine, probably because the others tend to be boring and depressing It is difficult to know what to write about Half the Sky, because I loved it so much, but it made me think of this little moment with my ninth grade students I used to make my classes write stories together to practice vocabulary, so on Valentine s Day, I made them write a love story I gave them a boy character and a girl character and asked them to describe them They said the girl was tall and strong, had big muscles, short hair, and was very brave The boy had beautiful hair, was graceful, small, and kind I was impressed by them going against the usual gender stereotypes, which I found to be extreme in Ukraine But, then, I thought, they were my favorite class, and always had a good political point or poignant question for me At some point, though, one of the students exclaimed, No No Miss Holley We are wrong These words, boy and girl We are wrong about these words You must move them Then, there was a lot of yelling in Russian, and I laughed pretty hysterically for about 10 minutes at the mistake they had made Obviously, I refused to switch the words, and we had a nice little lesson about how girls can be very brave and boys can be graceful If the kids hadn t been drilled from birth to stay in their seats come hell or high water, I m sure one of them would have forcibly changed the words I guess I m not telling this story to point out how silly it is that some kids think girls have to have long hair Teaching moments are important but, also, I think that really important humanitarian issues can be clouded by the idea that feminism exists because a girl got her feelings hurt I am not married to the word feminism, though I do love it I think, though, there is almost no real way to discuss this topic using a phrase that doesn t typically get disregarded as trivial This book is not about girls opening their own car doors or boys having cooties This book is about slavery and genocide, perpetrated against the female half of the population, which is globally considered subhuman.The most difficult part for me about this entire topic is when women themselves don t want to improve their own lives or the lives of other women There is a small mention in this book about families who have very little food and allow the men to eat first The boys in the family will be healthy and strong, and the girls will eventually be taken to hospitals, wasted and malnourished if they are lucky The mother of the house herself will eat, and the family gets fat on the starvation of the girls This is not only a problem in developing nations Women perpetuating the dehumanizing of other women occurs all over, from West Africa to West Hollywood It bothers me when I meet men who really hate women or women who really hate men, but then I think the person probably had some kind of traumatic experience with the opposite gender and is over stereotyping It seems really disturbing and unnatural to me, however, when women hate other women I don t want that to exist.Now to go uncomfortably personal on y all I finished this book last month, a couple of days after my mom died from an eight year long, horrible illness By the end, her illness was sadder than her death, so I am not saying this for sympathy My mom s life just seems somehow connected to the topic of this book I guess, with any discussion of women, our mothers lives, our own lives, and our relationships with our mothers are very present My mother was a very unhappy person She believed that men should provide and women should be fulfilled by motherhood I don t know if she was unhappy because life didn t live up to that standard, or because she believed women should be unhappy, or maybe even because the universe conspired against her My mom and I were very different and didn t communicate very well There are many things I don t know about her I do know, however, that there was to her than the unhappy woman I grew up with I believe there is to any woman who dehumanizes herself, or other women, than only the hopelessness and resignation they show to the world.I also think it is possible to create a world that is nurturing to both men and women I don t even think it should be as difficult as it seems There are many things to be discouraged about in the fight to give women human rights but, there are also people who stand up to oppression, helping women around them and women internationally I do not feel discouraged by my mother s disappointments, but I decided to go to law school partly because of them I hope that when I get out I ll be able to advocate for women and girls and help the heroes Kristof and WuDunn talk about in Half the Sky In the meantime, you should read this book and do your part, too even if your part is only hugging your mom and reminding her, if she needs a reminder, that she s a worthwhile human being. Oh my god this is so fucking powerful and sad and eye opening and just go read it right now TW rape and abuse. Seeing the amount of praise given this book by progressives and conservatives alike, it seems like smug and self righteous really sells Or, perhaps it s that whole journalistic idea if it bleeds, it leads that works to capture the reader s attention Maybe, just maybe, Westerners really know that little about the world outside our borders and the fight for gender equality within and without those borders and this book actually makes them care.While as much as I wish that I could say I liked this book because it brings attention to the war against women the world over, the book is full of controlling images of the poor that are politically useful in a Western context It s a heavy handed, exploitative look at the monolithic third world woman to use Mohanty through the white Western male gaze oh, and the gaze of his WOC wife Kristof clearly feels for the women he writes about, though it reeks of the racist love that Frank Chin describes But, the worst part is the way that he naturalizes the oppression of women without historicizing the ways that neoliberal capitalism and development, colonialism, and the political economy of Western imperialism have helped to create these conditions and not just out there , but for U.S third world women, too.The only reason that this does not get just 1 star is because a the response that people have had to this book is worth noting I take some heart in anything that makes people actually care that women are human, too and b because he does highlight some of the atrocious statistics about women s inequality globally that the particularly, American public just never hears.At best, this book brings light to women s issues and hopefully causes some attention to women s needs in development, and exposes the misogyny of our social world, which I believe can create change At worst, it exploits and re victimizes women by condoning the ideologies of development that often directly result in women s oppression itself Acknowledging that, it doesn t leave me with a very good taste in my mouth Instead, I recommend Firth Murray s From Outrage to Courage The Unjust and Unhealthy Situation of Women in Poor Countries and What They Are Doing About It this is a well written, nuanced understanding of global women s health issues and what s being done by women s rights activists to make woman centered change. I found this book to be quite powerful Pulitzer prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn vividly describe the brave plights of women in developing nations in ways that were incredibly eye opening to me While I was aware of the brutal conditions lack of education, demoralization, rape, beatings, sex trafficking, mutilations, and murder of women and young girls going on in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I admit I did not fully realize the immense enormity of it Nor did I fully realize how much all these atrocities can so intricately tie in with such things as the global economy and modern terrorism.Despite the authors notation that statistics are less effective in inspiring people to take action personal stories work better , here are some statistics mentioned that I personally found hard to wrap my mind around More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century The equivalent of 5 jumbo jets worth of women die in labor each day life time risk of maternal death is 1,000x higher in a poor country than in the west That should be an international scandal While these statistics are disturbing and sobering, to say the least, the book itself is quite empowering and hopeful The authors introduce us to individual women around the world battling these horrible conditions, and their strength and spirit shine through the pages It s impossible not to be moved.The book is also not without interesting suggestions and ideas to help bring about change And clearly something must be done As the authors note, in the 19th century, the central moral challenge was slavery In the 20th century, it was the battle against totalitarianism We believe that, in this century, the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world This book is a hugely important, shocking, eye opening and thought provoking read I highly recommend it. ( READ E-PUB ) ⚇ Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide ♠ From Two Of Our Most Fiercely Moral Voices, A Passionate Call To Arms Against Our Era S Most Pervasive Human Rights Violation The Oppression Of Women And Girls In The Developing WorldFrom Two Of Our Most Fiercely Moral Voices, A Passionate Call To Arms Against Our Era S Most Pervasive Human Rights Violation The Oppression Of Women And Girls In The Developing WorldWith Pulitzer Prize Winners Nicholas D Kristof And Sheryl WuDunn As Our Guides, We Undertake An Odyssey Through Africa And Asia To Meet The Extraordinary Women Struggling There, Among Them A Cambodian Teenager Sold Into Sex Slavery And An Ethiopian Woman Who Suffered Devastating Injuries In Childbirth Drawing On The Breadth Of Their Combined Reporting Experience, Kristof And WuDunn Depict Our World With Anger, Sadness, Clarity, And, Ultimately, HopeThey Show How A Little Help Can Transform The Lives Of Women And Girls Abroad That Cambodian Girl Eventually Escaped From Her Brothel And, With Assistance From An Aid Group, Built A Thriving Retail Business That Supports Her Family The Ethiopian Woman Had Her Injuries Repaired And In Time Became A Surgeon A Zimbabwean Mother Of Five, Counseled To Return To School, Earned Her Doctorate And Became An Expert On AIDSThrough These Stories, Kristof And WuDunn Help Us See That The Key To Economic Progress Lies In Unleashing Women S Potential They Make Clear How So Many People Have Helped To Do Just That, And How We Can Each Do Our Part Throughout Much Of The World, The Greatest Unexploited Economic Resource Is The Female Half Of The Population Countries Such As China Have Prospered Precisely Because They Emancipated Women And Brought Them Into The Formal Economy Unleashing That Process Globally Is Not Only The Right Thing To Do It S Also The Best Strategy For Fighting PovertyDeeply Felt, Pragmatic, And Inspirational, Half The Sky Is Essential Reading For Every Global Citizen In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world When I first heard Nicholas Kristof make this argument at the PIH symposium in October, I was taken aback Not because I didn t believe and have a firm understanding that gender discrimination worldwide is shockingly brutal and horrifying But, at the time, it seemed like a self serving statement Of course you feel that way, I thought You have a book on women s issues to sell Is it really possible that gender equality is the central issue of the twenty first century More so than terrorism, poverty, hunger, global warming Then I read this book and I now believe that he is right In Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn compellingly argue that empowering women is not just a moral imperative, but a cause that has great potential to make a significant contribution to reducing other major issues like terrorism, poverty, hunger, and global warming.This is a bold book that dares to take a stand, political correctness be damned The discipline and work of human development in the developing world is complicated Well meaning people wish to empower women without being culturally intolerant But how can we tolerate violence like the sex slave trade and genital cutting Kristof and WuDunn believe that local, grassroots efforts, supported by Western money and human power, are the real agents of change Cultural change must come from within, but it needs support They are also not afraid to point out that a large proportion of countries that systemically discriminate against women are perpredominantly Muslim They make this claim and then explore why They are not afraid to point out that some of the most vilified leaders in history have been the most effective at empowering women and reaping the rewards the title of the book comes from a quote by Mao himself They know that empowering and emancipating women is a staggeringly worth cause on its own Yet they know that it will take than a moral imperative to rally the world behind this issue, and I can only hope that their arguments take hold and begin to inspire the world to care about its women. I agree with other comments about this book Half the Sky is not meant for those who seek scholarly material about the current state of women throughout the world The authors use heart wrenching stories to describe the reality millions of women experience each day.The reason I gave this book two stars is not because I disagree with the premise of the book or the authors push to radically alter the trajectory of global rights sign me up What frustrated me, and in the end left a sour taste in mouth, was Chapter 12 The Axis of Equality In this chapter the authors discuss sweatshop labor in a positive light because Labor intensive factories which prefer young women, perhaps because they are docile and perhaps because their small fingers are nimble would create large numbers of jobs for women, and they would bring capital and gender equality Really While I get what Kristof and WuDunn are getting at, this chapter does little than support perpetuating engendered capitalistic notions of economic development and exploitation as a means of development. This was actually a selection for my in person book club a few years back, but I didn t read it at the time, knowing I would be away for that discussion So when it came around as part of a postal book swap, I appreciated the chance to read it.I feel when reading this that I am observing a phenomenon that I m not sure the author s is are aware of It feels like many of the lessons are that you can t just sweep in with money and expect to fix a problem Issues that seem to be specific to women in a population are complex and far reaching, and not as simple to fix as throwing money at the problem There are many stories in this book where the authors discuss the mistakes that were made and the assumptions that were made, to the extent where I have to ask, did the people responsible for these programs even talk to the people living in the places they are trying to help first Or is this part of the white savior complex that people can t see beyond I felt like the lesson was right there, but was a little out of reach for the author at times Or sometimes he could see it in others but even while writing about it in himself could observe but not understand Prostitution is not just prostitution, burkas are not just burkas, and so on He also seemed to think that the United States is an example of a country working well, but I ve seen recent maternal death statistics that would beg to differ another blind spot, or has so much deteriorated in the six years since this came out Still I do agree that women are often underserved and there are positive things happening in some places that should be highlighted, replicated as different settings allowed, and funded It really does seem like the most effective changes happen from within so I m not sure I agree with some of the solutions posed, such as rich American college students spending a gap year helping to educate women in Africa I do agree with items such as microloans I also agree that legislation is not where true change occurs This book is full of case studies of places where people have made attempts, and I believe there is a lot to be learned from these stories But not everything that works in one place will automatically work in another And sometimes something that seems obvious will fail And still, again It is better to start the conversation than to not even try. At one point in their book, Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn write, There will be less sex trafficking and less rape if woman stop turning the other cheek and begin slapping back.WuDunn and Kristof, a married couple, detail much of what are woman s issues in the developing world Their book focuses on sexual trafficking, micro finance, maternal health, as well as religion and education The argument that they put forward is that developing countries need to emancipate women and women need to free themselves so that the country can develop Kristof and WuDunn give a call to arms, not because of guilt, but because it is simply the right thing to do.The thesis of the book is aptly illustrated though several stories of women who have succeeded, for the most part, despite the circumstances that they lived in The first section of the book deals with sex trafficking and prostitution Though the use of personal stories as well as statistics, they make a compelling case to illegalize prostitution They examine and compare places were prostitution is semi legal to where prostitution was outlawed Sweden, for example, won t charge the prostitutes but the johns The primary focus of this section is the use of sexual slavery and child trafficking Kristof tells a particularly chilling story of a border guard in India who will stop the import of pirated DVDS, but not of young girls that are sold into brothels The guard sees such foreign women as less than Indian women Kristof and WuDunn examine the cultural beliefs that led themselves to a tacit endorsement of such trafficking.The human trafficking section gives way to a section about the use of rape as punishment, control, and a terror device Included in this section is the story of Usha Narayane, a woman who lived in an Indian slum She and her family were Dalits Untouchables , and the slum was under control of a man, Yadav, a gangster who was able to terrorize the slum though rape and sexual violence because the police were paid off and looked the other way Yadav attacked Narayane s neighbor and Narayane went to the police to report it Yadav and his men threaten Narayane at her family s house The thing is that Narayane s was a well educated woman, as was her family they were well liked in the slum Narayane fought back and this inspired the others in the slum to fight back as well They attacked Yadav who eventually turned himself into the police for his own protection During what amounts to a pre trial hearing, the women from the slum showed up and stabbed Yadav to death Each woman stabbed him once The importance of this story isn t the revenge killing in fact, there is a slight uncomfortable feeling in the retelling, but the fact that women can rise up and can effect change There is a famous story told in the section on rape, that of Mukhtar Mai, the young woman who was ordered gang raped as punishment for an alleged crime of her brother She ended up pressing charges, facing death threats, and persecution from the government What is important about these stories is that Kristof and WuDunn never take them out of context They are careful to keep the stories within a culture, while comparing it to Western way In other words, they do not paint Mukhtar Mai as the definition of a Western feminist The reader is told her whole story, including her becoming a man s second wife.The rape section also includes a good description of Rapex, an insert able vagina detintia, and its inspiration.At one point in the first half of the novel, the authors seem to wonder if they are portraying men in too negative a light.They re not This book is pro women, but it is not anti male.Even if one were to disregard that one of the authors is a man, plenty of the stories about woman s success also illustrate the support of men Mukhtar Mai was supported by her father and brothers, Narayane and her fellow women also had the support of their male relatives, a young girl continues school after a rape that was suppose to end in her marriage because her father supports her It is true there are some stories were the husband s look bad and strangely, these stories appear most in the section about women and business , but 95% of the stories show men in a positive light Not as protectors or rescuers, but as supporters.Additionally, Kristof and WuDunn keep the focus on what local people are doing They focus mostly on the grassroots level While they illustrate and call for Western nations to help in terms of donations, they do not present the great white man coming to save the poor colored natives approach that can sometimes appear While they present Westerns primary Americans and Brits who have helped women in developing countries, Kristof and WuDunn keep the focus on what local women are doing We are given, in brief, the story of a hospital founded in Africa to repair fistulas, but we are given, in far depth, the story of a woman who went to be treated there and ended up becoming a doctor who now works there Further, they argue for cultural understanding as well as aid In other words, they caution against going to X and demanding that it become Westernized The book is not designed to be a Hollywood happy ending book the difficulties of aid are presented quite well It does not bash one political party or the other, but instead calls upon the right and the left to work together It is a call to arms at a governmental level as well as a grassroots one Arguing, quite eloquently that in order to fight poverty and even terrorism, women should be emancipated.Read this book now just to find out how big the problem is Some of the information is absolutely frightening Incidentally, there is a section on Islam and the 70 virgins The authors point out that some scholars think the word that some people means virgins might mean white grapes instead. Everyone should read this book The stories are present not 10 years ago shocking and inspiring this book is not just about woman s issues, but human issues As the reader, it becomes clear how sexual equality is huge moral struggle today in 2010 around the globe.but many people are beginning to take inspired actions, and we can too.Its a great book to give to our daughters after we read it.