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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide - Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn Half the Sky is about the difficulties women face in the developing world, including prostitution, child slavery, education, reproductive health, and religion. These are all worthwhile topics, but the execution left me with mixed feelings.

On one hand, the authors clearly care about the plight many women face, and especially in early chapters, they could be rather insightful.

On the other hand, the book as a whole simply wasn't as strong as it could have been. Some of the conclusions the authors drew felt forced or were contradicted later in the book. For example, at one point, they talk about a woman in a village in Pakistan who has been very active in working against rape, and they make the case that she's made real headway--but then later, they talk about how much of an issue rape continues to be in Pakistan. It felt haphazard.

Additionally, while there is considerable lip service given throughout the book to the fact that solving all of these problems isn't easy and many women end up in horrible situations, you don't get that sense from the stories. One woman dies in childbirth. Another can't break free from the brothel she was sold into. On the whole, however, the only women they talk to are the ones with success stories, which feels disingenuous. It doesn't all always turn out okay. I wanted them to acknowledge that rather than quoting statistics but then whitewashing the whole thing.

There was also an air of condescension I didn't like. Again, while lip service was given to the importance of grassroots movements, it felt like there was an awful lot of Western interference going on, and some implications that the Western way is the right way. Capitalism got a hard sell, and virtually everyone gets demonized. They mention wife-beating, but don't really attempt to understand the cultural paradigm that endorses it. They also didn't really examine why in some cultures, women can only be seen by women doctors, instead seeming to humor them while implying that the sentiments behind the discomfort are wrong. The tone therefore was sometimes self-righteous and patronizing, which isn't something I really enjoy reading.