Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reaction to Half the Sky; Guilt and Passion

(Read this post on my blog)
I’m on a self-imposed guilt trip right now. I just finished Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky. I have to say, it was literally life-changing. Not only is it extremely well written, it’s informative and intriguing. I’ve spent every lunch break for the past two weeks poring over its pages, and tonight I sat in the bathtub until the water was cold, reading. Now that I’ve reached the end and the appendix pages, which offer a plethora of outreach programs, I feel like I need to do something. I had a vague idea of some of the problems addressed in this book, but the in-depth personal stories make me more aware and more passionate. 
Tomorrow my best friend is leaving for South Africa to work with orphans for a month. Why aren’t I doing something like that? I love my job at the library, but it feels so mundane when women are dying every minute from preventable causes. I feel like I need to take this awareness and react. I mean, obviously I’m reacting right now. I just want more action in my reaction. I feel so ineffective.
After I finished the book I logged onto Plan International, one of the sites recommended in the book. I looked into sponsorship a ten year old girl in Pakistan named Mariam. It’s $30 a month and I would be able to write letters to her (which is what I really want to do the most). But when asked for my credit card information, I hesitated. Why? It’s not at all that I don’t trust the site. It looks legit and I believe wholeheartedly in its purpose. But I asked myself, can I afford to do this? It’s a commitment, and I would feel terrible if I went back to school in September and decided that I could no longer spend the $30 a month to send Mariam to school. I’m already guilting myself before it happens… and yet here I am now, feeling terrible for not signing up to sponsor! 
I think about how much I spent today. I got my paycheck, so I was feeling braver than usual. I spend $5 on an ice cream at lunch with my co-workers. On my way home I stopped at Walgreens and spent $27 on makeup, nail polish, and headbands that “needed” restocking. Then I put $40 of gas in my car, and tonight I spent $10 on a CD on iTunes (which, in my defense, I rarely do). See, here I am, torn. I could have sponsored over two months for this girl already with what I spent today. How American. I’m embarrassed to write this and see the numbers.
Whatever I decide to do, I know now that I need to be an advocate for oppressed women. Today I had the opportunity to leave my house and go to work, on my own. I am fortunate enough to be able to buy ice cream and wear makeup, and I have the fiscal ability to put fuel in MY OWN car. I even have the luxury to lie in a bathtub for 90 minutes and read about women in far away places, while I listen to my laptop and text on my Blackberry. The most dangerous thing I did today was drive on a five lane highway.
I have so many things that millions of people do not, and my awareness of that makes me so much more appreciative. A friend told me today that I’m different. Why should I be? I don’t want to be a minority in this effort, and I don’t need to be special. New Hampshire is a wonderful environment to grow up in, but sometimes I worry that the shelter of this place is breeding ignorance. Living in a state of oblivion doesn’t make the problems go away. These should not be FOREIGN issues, or just women’s issues. Henrik Ibsen says it perfectly: “I am not even quite sure what women’s rights really are. To me it has been a question of human rights.”

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