God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Recently a lot of time and money was spent by the media to cover a storm that never amounted to the disaster the press was predicting. For days the only thing viewers could see on the TV news was coverage of some high winds and some flooding. This was a problem for the people who lived on the East coast; I’m not denying that. But why are the American people being distracted with stories about minor inconveniences to their comfortable lifestyle due to a temporary power outage when there are millions of women living in shameful conditions with physical harm being done to them, and even death, unless someone rescues them? Why isn’t there any coverage on the truly serious horror that millions of women worldwide face daily in the form of honor killings, sexual slavery, and genital cutting?
There are many reasons why people will not deal with this problem, starting with the fact that humans have forgotten that they are, men and WOMEN, created in the image of God. I would like to address that in another blog posting. But this time, I would like to review a book that I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in doing something about the problem. I have several reservations for Christians that I will mention at the end of this review.
The authors, Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn have done women a great service by describing the problem and then listing practical ways that we can get involved in helping to turn the tide of abuse against women.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, (Vintage Books, New York, 2010).
The title is taken from a Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky.”
The authors are the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. They won this for their coverage of China as New York Times correspondents.
While in China, they witnessed the atrocities at Tiananmen Square. The whole world was shocked at the massacre of the four to eight hundred people. This seemed to be the most flagrant violation of human rights and was covered by every newspaper on the planet.
But a year later, Nicholas and Sheryl came across some studies that showed that tens of thousands of others were having their human rights violated every year. No one was reporting this story. The fact is that thirty-nine thousand baby girls die in the first year of their lives annually in China due to the neglect of their parents only because they are girl babies. Nicholas and Sheryl began to wonder if their priorities about the stories they were covering were a bit skewed. Thus began their work in uncovering and reporting the abuses against women and girls worldwide. One result is this very helpful book.
In the book, they choose to tell a lot of anecdotal stories. This is not because they ignore the statistics. The numbers of women being harmed is overwhelming, perhaps too overwhelming. They believe that one reason that we don’t hear stories about the abysmal treatment of women is because it is happening thousands of times every day. It is “old news” and considered boring. Many people feel that they can never do anything about such a huge problem, so why try. The media would rather focus on single disasters.
What Nicholas and Sheryl have done is to tell the stories of real women, leaving out no details, no matter how horrific. You can’t help but sympathize. They have made the problem real and personal. Readers will find themselves wanting to go and help. You know by the time you finish the book that you can do something to help. No, you won’t change the whole world, but you can certainly change the life of at least one girl or woman. This is one of the best things about the book; the authors alleviate the feelings of helplessness to do anything about the enormous amount of atrocities against women.
Another valuable aspect of the book is the appendix. In it there are listed around fifty organizations that help women. There is a brief description of what each one does, including which part of the world where they are working. Opportunities for help range from getting educated, donating money, and even volunteering.
You can’t read this book without being changed in your appreciation for the problem of inhumane treatment of women, and being challenged and inspired to do something about it. You will be encouraged that you can help and I hope you will.
There are just a few observations that I would like to make as a Christian.
First, while religious groups are given credit by the authors for what they are doing, the Scriptural reason for why we should treat women with respect is not stated. The authors seem to want to avoid any religious controversies. I don’t think that they are born again Christians, and so I understand that. But those of us who are Christians need to remember that women are made in the image of God. As Christians, once we are aware of the horrible treatment of women because they are female, we need to repent of our neglect of the problem and then get busy and do something about it. Millions of dollars are spent on Right to Life campaigns and facilities to rescue the unborn. This is wonderful. Now, how about the Church waking up and spending money on helping victims of sexual abuse?
I appreciate that the authors want to empower women by helping them to help themselves. They stress this as the best way to help women. I think that it is only part of the way to help women. Something needs to be done about the men who perpetrate these crimes. Perhaps the authors are hoping that others will address those aspects of the problem. As Christians, we can help by voicing the Biblical admonitions against sin. Sin is not a politically correct issue, but we must be willing to preach about it as we spread the good news of the Gospel. It is a sin for men to treat women disrespectfully. It is a sin for men to believe that women are something less than human. We are all made in the image of God and deserve to be treated accordingly.
Another issue where I disagree with the authors is in their “whitewashing” of Islam. It is interesting that in one place they say that Muhammad is responsible for a step forward for women. I don’t know how they can read the writings of Muslims and say that with a straight face. In other places the authors admit that “cuttings” of girls is predominantly in the Muslim countries. So, they contradict themselves. This is a shortcoming that is not going to solve any problems in the long run. Conspicuous by its absence is the history of freedom for women in predominantly Christian nations.
Still one more caution that I would like to make for Christians is that abortion seems to be acceptable to the authors. As Christians, we must come up with some other methods to help women that don’t involve making the helpless, unborn infant pay the price. I would caution readers to find out which organizations listed in the appendix participate in the practice of abortion before sending them any of their money. I commend the authors for listing so many different groups. One wonderful Christian-based organization that is listed is International Justice Mission (IJM).
Since the media, and apparently most church pastors, won’t talk about the widespread dehumanizing of women around the world, including here in the United States, I am very glad that Nicholas and Sheryl have written this book. They have personally been involved in helping women for many years now. I pray that we Christian women who have been blessed so much in our country will extend our love and aid to those less fortunate. There is no excuse now, with the help given in this timely book everyone can participate in the rescue of at least one woman or girl.