Half the Sky – Women Still Aren’t EqualPosted by: Bryanne E. Salazar on January 14th, 2013
A male friend recently told me I sound like I hate men. As the wife of a Marine and mother to two teenage sons, I am far from a man-hater. When I pressed this friend for details, he said, “You always post things on Facebook about female empowerment; or how men in other countries are victimizing women. I mean, come on already.”
What I took away from that discussion was two-fold. First, some people (not just men) feel uncomfortable when someone they know speaks openly about gender-based oppression and violence. Second, people aren’t talking enough about this important issue. To me, empowering women and girls is not a taboo subject that can only be spoken about in a room of hairy-pitted feminists. It’s a subject that needs to be a part of our everyday vernacular, and one that I am very passionate about.
A few months back I had the life-changing opportunity to watch the documentary, “Half the Sky”. The film is based on the book of the same name, by journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. In less than three minutes, I was mesmerized by this film and the message it imparted. In a nutshell, without any glossing of words, “Half the Sky” is about ending the oppression and exploitation of women and girls worldwide. Their focus is on raising awareness and fighting against child-sex slavery, rape, maternal mortality, female genital mutilation, limited access to education and healthcare, and the lack of business opportunities for women. These are not simply “women’s issues,” these are human rights issues.
I have to believe in the deepest part of myself that there is not a single reader out there that disagrees with these concepts. I have to believe that every person, regardless of their age or income, education, or gender, believes that women and girls deserve to have the same opportunities and rights as men. I mean, that’s exactly why we Flicksters are here – to empower one another with our wisdom and our tips, to uplift and encourage one another as we walk through this life together. So it always, always shocks me, when someone says to me, “Come on already.”
In the book, “Half the Sky,” there are countless stories of women and girls who were once victimized, who later turned their pain into healing by helping others. One of the stories, that of a young Pakistani girl named Mukhtar Mai, made a painful impression on me. The young girl suffered in a way many of us can hardly fathom. First, her younger brother, a twelve year old boy named Shakur, was kidnapped and gang raped by a group of heterosexual men from a local clan called the Mastoi. I learned through the reading that rapes committed by heterosexual men against young boys are not uncommon, and are not as socially unacceptable as the rape of a female. To cover up their crime, the Mastoi then publically accused Shakur of premarital sex with a girl from their own clan. An assembly was called and Mukhtar tried to apologize to the elders – knowing that her brother did nothing wrong, but it was of no use. The judgment for Shakur’s so-called crime was that Makhtur herself was sentenced to be gang-raped by four Mastoi men.
In Pakistan, a girl’s