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Joseph Kaminski

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November 23, 2017

Half the Sky: Emancipation, Rights, and Educating Women


Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is an intriguing book – published in 2009 – that became the perfect candidate for a contemporary movie on ‘rights’. Essentially, the film (and book) showcases the stories of women of all backgrounds from across the globe in an attempt to showcase “gender-based crimes” that are still very well present in our twenty-first century. When it comes to women’s activism in America, the so-called “third wave” of feminism is oftentimes shut down in modern day media and journalism. However, it is very important to realize that women’s issues are still a rather fundamental part of our global society despite major gains received through the first and second waves of the feminist movement.

Half the Sky has several overarching themes – from forced prostitution, rape, and genital mutilation to education and gender roles in a modernized society. I essentially took the concepts one by one and was able to bundle them into essentially what our most recent readings considered as fundamental for women’s activism. The difference between women’s rights and women’s emancipation should be brought up in any film or book dedicated to identifying the struggles of women globally.

To connect it to another source, Lerner’s “The Meanings of Seneca Falls”, it appears to be that many of our “third wave” or “modernized” women’s activism is stemming from the emancipation part of women’s “rights”. But, in modern day America where women have the so-called “civil rights”, it can be difficult to understand the perspective of a woman living in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia – where they are oppressed on a daily basis through both lack of rights (the civil rights of being able to publicly claim political, social, religious, or cultural opinions) and emancipation (the ability to be freed from the non-autonomous boundaries that revolve around their sex).

One of the most important discussions in Half the Sky would have to be the sources of education. We’ve recently entered the 19th century schism of education platforms for young women in American society. Education for women has been seen as taboo throughout the timeline of American history. The film showcased how an implementation of better education for females can help any of the overarching themes of oppression (trafficking, prostitution, etc.) in developing or under-developed nations such as Vietnam, India, Kenya, and Afghanistan.

Most of [these] women/young girls did not obtain an education and some had been abducted from their families. WuDunn and Kristof; Nicholas and Sheryll. Half the Sky.

The above quote, taken from the actual book, ties in all of the eventual film’s controversies. Had education been more prevalent in the under-developed and mostly patriarchal countries that these women lived in, the events that plague women globally might have a chance to shrink. It’s pretty shocking to look back and think about how advanced our society could be today had we not shut out 50% of the population from higher leveled academic thinking simply because of their gender.

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