Edited by Minky Worden, Seven Stories Press, 2012
Reading the Forward by journalist Christiane Amanpour and the Introduction by editor Minky Worden, I was concerned by what struck me as a very bourgeois perspective from both, and worried that there was some border line Arab bashing in the Intro. But even in the midst of what I was worried about as potential Arab bashing, Worden made a point of writing, “conditions for women and girls have actually deteriorated since Saddam Hussein’s ouster.” taking away from any sense western Imperialists may still have that the war was a liberatory action. Worden goes on to give examples of men of color working for women’s rights, and people of color eradicating sexist practices such as foot binding in China. Worden writes about domestic violence in Europe and rape in the U$, and also gives what I consider the appropriate context of how women have fought for generations in the U$ and many other countries for their rights.
As I started to read the actual chapters, any lingering concerns I had about even latent xenophobia were dispelled pretty quickly. There is an over arching liberal/bourgeois perspective, with pretty much every author equating the work of governments with that of civil society, if not simply writing about top down answers to the problems outlined.
Without a doubt I think the book is a great resource for data regarding the state of women’s rights globally now. The basic formulae of most chapters is to start with the story of a female that has survived something horrific, followed by statistics and/or history to help contextualize the story. Descriptions of what Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and/or governments are doing and/or should do from the author’s perspective follow, and possibly a story of how the survivor was faring at the time of the writing to round out the story. People’s humanity is never lost in the numbers. The authors are good about citing sources, so there’s plenty of follow up research that can be done.
Topics range from historical pieces about governments and NGOs taking on the struggle for women’s rights at least in theory to a theoretical pieces such as one about Islamic Law written by an Iranian and Muslim lawyer, Shirin Ebad; but most are as I outlined above taking on issues such as the gendered impact of war, women’s rights from Saudi Arabia to Latin America, self organization of migrant domestic workers, human trafficking and post-trafficking abuses, and rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an issue that there has been a near media blackout about in the U$ corporate press.
In fact, Ch. 11, Confronting Rape as a Weapon of War in the Democratic Republic of Congo is possibly the longest account I’ve ever seen on the topic and the war. Some of the statistics such as how with an estimated five million dead, this is the deadliest war since World War II, has confirmed my suspicion of there in deed being a media blackout in the U$. With its undeniable scale, why is it reported on so little? I doubt it’s just racism, I’m sure it has something to do with a certain metal, Columbite-tantalite or coltan, mined there for computers and what not. Also, when writing about other conflicts when rape was used as a weapon the author, Anneke Van Woudenberg, made a point of naming tow European conflicts.
In Acknowledgments, Worden writes how the title comes from the Nicaraguan author Gioconda Bellie had called women’s rights “the great unfinished revolution of our time.”, and how the book was named before the Arab Spring broke out. It was well worth reading, as long as you can tolerate very statist perspectives in the midst of some great grass roots and/or personal stories which permeated the various chapters.