Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Half the Sky

Last night my husband and I finished watching Half the Sky on Netflix.  Although in college (in the mid 1990s at BYU) I studied the topics presented in the film, I was heartbroken that some things are still so awful for some women.  I was especially struck with the beautiful faces that were put with the horrible stories; I couldn't believe that these children of God have such terrible experiences.

The film addresses six topics and their impact on, or how they're related to, women -- mainly in Asia and Africa.

1.  Rape
2.  Sex Trafficking (sex slavery)
3.  Education
4.  Maternal Mortality/Female Genital Cutting
5.  Intergenerational Prostitution
6.  Microcredit

As I watched the film, I couldn't but think of some of the parallels to our own country 150 years ago.  For example, some women TODAY have a 1:12 childbirth mortality rate.  If I remember correctly around the time of the Civil War in our country, it was 1:8 (I need to pull out the book at my mom's house that the statistic is in -- I could be wrong).  The mortality rate of a soldier was 1:20.  Can you believe your chances of survival were better as a soldier than as a woman?

Also, as mentioned in the film, males are more educated because traditional female work is more needed in the home.  The girls themselves may not be very valued, yet their care of the children and household is, so they parents keep their girls home.  Is that not the same way it was in our country a century and a half ago?  Additionally, some men don't want an educated wife, so if a girl is educated, she limits her opportunity for marriage.  I loved one quote in the film:  "Being smart lasts a lot longer than being pretty."

[graphic] The portion of the video that was completely infuriating was female genital mutilation.  Apparently, most men do not want to marry a woman who is "uncircumcised," and women who are not cut are considered unruly.  If an uncircumcised women bears a child, the child will be killed.  Not only is there an immediate risk to this practice (infection) which is done around ages 7-13?, but it interferes with childbirth.  Scar tissue is not at stretchy as un-scarred flesh and sometimes will create an obstruction to an imminent birth!  If the women happen to be in a hospital and this occurs, medical personnel can't even give a C-section without the approval of the husband, and many women and babies are lost.

[graphic] I did not know exactly what was done in a "female circumcision" and I don't care to describe it here, but you can liken it to having a mole on one's nose.  You could leave it there and not worry about it, or if you are a male in this comparison, you would cut just the mole off.  If you are a female, however, you wouldn't just remove the mole, you would remove the entire nose and stitch up the area leaving just a small opening at the bottom to let air in and mucous out.  You would not be able to experience the pleasure of smell anymore.

My husband found it interesting that to be considered marriageable, a woman had to be cut.  You could say that in that culture, it makes her more "attractive" to men.  How ironic that women in our own country feel that they, too, have to alter their appearance through breast implants, tummy tucks, and other surgeries to be attractive to men.  Really, is it that different in that regard?

It was apparent in the film that there is major conflict between and there are major discrepancies in the rights of men and women all over the world.  What I still wondered, though, was what are the feelings from one woman to another?  Do they generally look at each other as equals (equally lower class?), or is there a looking down upon one another, too?  When I did my student teaching in Western Samoa, I realized that there is quite a bond between siblings, yet not that connection from child to parent.  I believe it was because it was common for a parent to beat a child and assumed children did not want a close bond with someone who beat them?  If women are such the underdog, do they stick together?

I felt the film did a good job respecting differences in culture and not judging individuals.  I don't think after an interview, the interviewee felt he/she was made the bad guy (even when his/her life choices were obviously opposite the views of the film).  There were also a few remarks which implied the lack of respect for mothering/women's work in favor of careers and money.  Considering the circumstances, these women really could use the stability, yet I wouldn't want them to think of traditional women's work as a bad thing, either.

After studying and studying the LDS Church's Proclamation to the World on the family and trying to apply it to my life where I'm encouraged to be the primary nurturer and my husband is encouraged to provide and protect, I can see how the counsel can be even more beneficial in cultures where women are so marginalized.  The Proclamation clearly brings women and men to equal standing.  It encourages all to be educated.  It identifies women's and men's natural strengths and calls us to use those strengths together in raising a family.  It encourages us to kindly care for our children.

One of the last thoughts in the film was that like a bird, a family cannot fly if a wing is broken. I believe it was referring to the female half being broken, but I think you can also apply it to males.  If the men are not accepting of the women or are irresponsible for their spouse and offspring, then they are broken, too.  This is going to sound like a testimony meeting, but I must say that I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and living prophets who give us modern revelation on the family.  It is through this that we are empowered to be whole and complete.