Women hold up half the sky.
Thus begins the bestselling book by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn titled Half the Sky. I'm just about finished with it at the moment after taking a very break to give my brain cells a rest from thinking about how horribly women are treated around the world, but I have a few thoughts about it.
First of all, it is a fascinating book. The authors (who are husband and wife as well as Pulitzer Prize winners for both journalism and book writing) take an in-depth look at the atrocities and oppression that women face around the globe. This is not a pretty book; topics such as rape, genital mutilation, sex trafficking, forced prostitution and marriage, poor education, death in childbirth, fistulas are all discussed at length within the context of the stories of actual women. The fact that these women endured such incredible horrors is humbling.
Secondly, it is a perspective-giving book. Ladies, we have it pretty darn good on this side of the world. We need to stop complaining and realize that there are real problems that many, many women are persevering through and dying because of. We should be very thankful that we are allowed to keep our clitoris, choose our husband, say no to prostitution, prosecute rapists without fear of retribution from the authorities, and survive childbirth with our bodies generally intact. It really makes me feel like debates over whether vaccinations equate to child abuse or unmedicated childbirth is "better" or whether everyone should be drinking organic milk are incredibly ridiculous in the scheme of things. First world problems, ladies, first world problems. We are not likely to die because of polio so moms can choose to not vaccinate. We have the luxury of not feeling (some) pain during childbirth whereas women in Africa endure days-long labor and die from exhaustion. Young girls grow up with no food and would love to have non-organic milk. Appreciate your choices, ladies. Lots of women don't have those choices.
Honestly, I think this is a book that all of you should read, if only because the vast majority of us tend to put blinders on and focus on our little bubble worlds. I also appreciated that the authors openly acknowledge that churches and Christian organizations are often the most effective in changing lives because they go to the villages and do the dirty work instead of just allocating government funds.
However, I have one somewhat large quibble with the solutions that the authors propose. Their main and oft-repeated recommendation is that education for women needs to take forefront. If you educate women, their opportunities increase. Obviously, as an educated woman, I don't have a single problem with educating women. Educate away. Get a college education if you desire it. Improve your mind. Fine. But the mindset seems to be that if you *just* educate women, then they won't put up with the oppression of men. In fact, they won't regard men as valuable at all. And if they wind up wearing the pants in a marriage, so much the better.
I realize that the balance of power is heavily in favor of men. In many of these countries, they do have absolute power, without any affection or love. Many of them are corrupt and have no scruples with raping or harming women.
But men are half the sky too. And the solution is not to take revenge on men by demanding that they be subservient to women.
I get very frustrated when feminists show off how imbalanced they are by completely shifting the focus on women's rights, women's power, women's strengths and slamming men as superfluous and idiotic.
Listen to how the authors describe the marriage of one woman who started a home business and became successful:
Eventually thirty families were working for Saima, and she put her husband to work as well - "under my direction," she explained with a twinkle in her eye...She doesn't even pretend to be subordinate to her husband. He spends his days mostly loafing around, occasionally helping with the work but always having to take orders from his wife. (p.186-187)
So the solution is to encourage women to take over the world? Isn't the power just as imbalanced now? If the world is ever truly going to change and eliminate oppression, we have to realize that every person is important and we are all equally precious in God's eyes.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Women AND men are important. Women AND men are valuable. Men are worth educating. Men are worth being taught that they should cherish women. Please, educate the women, but send in some gutsy honorable men to educate the cruel men about how to treat women.
As the mother of all boys, I get very worked up when boys and the very different way that they are made are marginalized and disdained. I do believe that feminism has done some great things, some things that the church should probably have been more in the forefront about changing. I'm very thankful for some of their successes - voting, my college education, the right to use contraception as a married woman without prosecution, the privilege of having a female doctor, to name the biggies. But feminism has also done some damage. One of the biggest mistakes is in convincing women that they don't need men and that they are actually better and more intelligent and valuable than men. Trying to shift the "balance of power" has only led to a different power imbalance and a different person bearing the brunt of a negative perception.
Even if we, as Christians, say we believe in a Biblical perspective on gender, if we all looked closely enough, we'd see the attitudes have crept into our own thinking. The perception of men being weak and dumb and the idea that they should be "put in their place" is all around us. Just look at the men in "Everybody Loves Raymond"; Raymond is always an idiot and his wife is always talking down to him. She clearly wears the pants and the implication is that he's not smart enough to lead anyone. How often do we make decisions without consulting our husbands because we just "know better"? How often do we push our husbands away in regards to parenting decisions or homemaking decisions because we're the woman and he would just have a dumb idea? Do you raise your eyebrows when he improvises an interesting solution as though it was an idea straight from the cavemen? None of us are immune to it. And when we start to become immune to the superiority complex, we stop seeing our husband as a glorious image of God, just the way he was made.
I hope no one hears me downplaying the oppression that many women around the world face at the hands of men. It's wrong and I applaud all those who are working to make a difference and change lives. I love when I hear about companies like Open Arms or Trades of Hope who are working to create jobs for refugee women so they don't feel pressured into prostitution (as a sidenote, I own one skirt from Open Arms and I love it!). But this mindset that says men must go lower so women can go higher? Wrong. We can still do better.
What do you think? Have any of you read Half the Sky?