Today we feature the first of a 2-part guest post from Catherine Chandler, Program Officer and Lecturer in the University Honors Program. When she isn’t staring at art or volunteering in the local LGBT community, Catherine’s academic interests include funereal art of late antiquity and the middle ages; religious and magical iconography and their relation to religious practice; Mariology in the middle ages; and gender and sexuality in art and art history.
“Half the Sky” is everything I thought it would be but little else in its topics, scope and quality of writing. The authors present a call to arms, numerous heartbreaking and inspirational stories and some concrete suggestions as to how anyone can help the situation of women across the world. Before reading the book I was already convinced of a crisis in the state of women, but this book did nothing to present proof or to propose viable solutions even to me, a sympathetic reader. The authors generalize from interviews to paint a painfully true portrait, but without an argument or convincing evidence the means to their end are sloppy.
Ethics, culture and the very roots of gender bias are mostly ignored in “Half the Sky”. The intellectually curious reader wonders what it is that makes communities victimize women. While too large a question to be settled in any single book, it merits discussion as the root of the problem addressed. However, the book hardly considers these issues of interest in the quest to tell stories and convince readers to help somehow.
The call on page 88 for universities to require students to visit “the developing world” is downright troubling. Universities cannot mandate moral outrage, nor should they. Students come voluntarily to universities to engage in academic discourse, and what they do with the knowledge, understanding and skills they learn is up to them. Their beliefs and values are their own, and to attempt to force caring only trivializes the suffering of the developing world as a learning experience for privileged American youth.