My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This is such an important and long-overdue book. I've always loved this quote:
Women hold up half the sky.
I've seen it attributed to Madame Mao, Chairman Mao, or as a Chinese proverb. No matter. It's a powerful quote, and it's the basis for this book by Pulitzer Prize winners and married authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Kristof and WuDunn investigate the widespread abuse of women and girls via sex trafficking, prostitution, and slavery (across the globe); rape; "honor" killings; maternal mortality; and neglect of health issues. They also explore issues related to family planning and the "God Gulf," whether Islam is patently misogynistic, the importance of investing in education, and the benefit of microlending.
Stop--don't get depressed yet! Not only do they report on these widespread abuses and shocking inequality across the globe, but they also share success stories and the lives of women who have risen above these horrible situations. The power of this book is in the stories of those individual women. Stories always help to personalize tragedy and help us to understand it better on a personal level. Furthermore, they give tons of suggestions for what we--as a country and as individuals--can do to help.
The authors packed so much into this book that anything I write in a review seems grossly inadequate. Everyone must read this book. The future of our planet and the sake of humanity depend on all of us to stop the terrible abuse of women and girls across the globe. To begin that process, we must understand what is going on. This book is a step in the right direction.
Toward the end of the book, they discuss societies that have come a long way in changing the lives of women. Two such countries they cite are China and Bangladesh. This is not to say that the plight of women in those countries is easy, but only that they have made a great deal of progress over the years by gradually changing their culture and introducing more women into leadership. Imagine my horror when, after just having finished this book, I read Nicholas Kristof's blog post about a 14-year-old girl in Bangladesh who was raped by a relative and then executed for "her" crime. Kristof expresses hope that Bangladesh's "robust civil society" will send a strong message that misogyny is not only immoral but illegal. But as a commenter says, "Can any society be described as 'civil' when misogyny is this deeply ingrained in its social fabric?" Another commenter points out that blaming the victim is not unique to the developing world.
Let's hope that the world will one day recognize that women do indeed hold up half the sky and will stop the oppression of half of our population.