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Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Half the Sky" book response

Well, I'm proud of myself. I finished a book this month! It's hard for me to find time to read these days. Or maybe I should say I don't make time to read. I'm a firm believer that you have all the time you need to do what's important to you - although I often have to remind myself.

Anyways, this is not a soapbox post, so I'll step down now. :)

I'm especially proud because I finished reading Half the Sky and I'm halfway through Half the Church. I'm so glad, too, because it deals with such a new subject for me and I'd like to read through it twice. More about that later on.

Half the sky was a really informative read. It's no news that women are often the most oppressed demographic in developing countries. Half the Sky discusses issues like maternal mortality rates, honor killings, child brides, and many others. I've been reading so much about suffering and oppression over the last several months that I didn't think this book had much new to offer in the way of eye-opening information.

In the latter chapters, though, my mindset was really challenged. The books I've read previously (Not for Sale and Orphanology) were written by Christians, with a Christian worldview. Half the Sky is, as far as I could tell, not written by professing Christians. They are very fair, pointing out situations where religion is helpful, but also places where it is used to oppress women. A few times I found that they used  Biblical scripture out of context, trying to show how Christianity is oppressive to women. Then again, at times in history, others have misread scripture and Christians have oppressed womens. It does still happen today, but I know that the heart of the gospel message is not oppressive to anyone and there is no biblical basis for oppressing women.

There is a whole chapter that seems to be advocating providing abortions for women in poverty stricken areas, which I don't find to be the best answer, especially for women who find good health care hard to find in the case of complications. I'm sure these authors have never heard of post abortion stress, a form of post traumatic stress disorder affecting at least 80% of women who've had an abortion.

Don't get lost in the sections you disagree with, though. There is so much more to be gained, particularly, I think, from the passages I found somewhat uncomfortable.

This book definitely has a feminist tilt to it. (Keep reading please, even if you're offended! Hopefully you'll feel better by the end!)

You see, I am a somewhat stereotypical old fashioned kind of woman. The idea of being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen sounds like a good day to me.

I might even make my husband a "sammich" while I'm in there.


I am fortunate to have a husband that respects me and believes in me, and I'm part of a church that respects women and what they have to offer in ministry. I'm never made to feel like I'm less competent than a man or that it's my job to be at home serving my family. It's just what I find fulfilling; it's what I want to do. So, I am a stay at home mom. I'm thankful to have such an opportunity.

To be honest, I've always gotten the message that a good christian wife does those things, but I never really spent a lot of time questioning it because it was where I wanted to be anyway. When the discussion came up, I always said that each woman had to decide what was best for her situation.

I never really admitted (to myself or others) that I thought that 99% of women should probably be stay at home moms, and that men are almost always better at leadership/in the workplace than women.

Ohmygoodness, I sound so backwards right now. I'm still thinking through all of this, so bear with me if I come of as offensive or unclear.

Half the Sky makes so many points that made me pause. Ideas such as -

- women are statistically much more likely to spend their income to benefit their families, whereas men are more likely to spend it on personal items like alcohol (This information comes from cultures in which women are not only kept from working, but also aren't valued for their opinions on how income is spent)
- a government in which women are allowed positions of leadership is more balanced in perspective than one that is 100% male. Men and women often bring different strengths to the table.
- educated women are more likely to stay close to home and benefit their area, whereas men are more likely to move to a better area with more opportunities
- educated women raise educated children
- a society that values its women is usually much less violent than one dominated by male thought

Not that I was ever against women in politics or the workplace, and goodness knows I'm all for educating women, but I just never thought that putting women in leadership and/or the workplace was the answer to any problems. I felt that they should be in the home investing in the family.

While I was pondering all of these new ideas, one question kept running through my mind, though.

"Who is taking care of the children?"

Yes, children go to school and Dad can help out with the kids, but many of these stories involve women with demanding careers who travel abroad to complete their education, or women who run very busy ministries and aid organizations.

I haven't quite worked out how it all gets done.

I'm so glad that my friend recommended Half the Church, because it not only helps me wrap my brain around all of this, but it's written from not only a Biblical perspective and with lots of evidence of women in leadership in the Bible. It also brings to my attention that the average woman spends less than half of her life with children living at home, and some women never get married or have children at all. What of those women, if we believe that a woman's place is in her home, and that the workplace, ministry, and leadership is primarily a "man's world"? I have to confess here - I've been pretty shortsighted on this one.

What is our identity to be, and how do we play that out to best benefit society, our families, and ourselves?

I don't like admitting that I had such a narrow perspective of women, and even myself. I don't like that some of you may think that I'm now a bra-burning feminist. I do, however, want to share this with you as I work my way through it. I want to hear what you think, even if we disagree.

Then again, I'm not sure what my opinion is, so it's hard to disagree with. Huh?

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