WOMEN: A World Report by New Internationalist Book

WOMEN: A World Report

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As the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-85) draws to a close, the easy recourse would have been to pull out the old feminist yardstick and measure the strides women have taken, internationally, toward equality. More realistically, this book takes the opposite tack, measuring the strides yet to be taken. The conclusion must be that while women have come a long way, collectively they have so very much farther to go. The first section is an easily digestible, if not always palatable, presentation of the statistical evidence assembled in the past decade on the position of women throughout the world. We learn, for example, that the number of countries enacting equal pay legislation has increased from 28 in 1978 to 90 in 1983. Still, in the western world, it seems that women perform three hours a week less paid work than do men, but a stunning 17 hours more unpaid, domestic work. Women, who still must do all the domestic work, are obviously deprived of the wage-earning opportunities men have. Such a comprehensive analysis of women within the work force, their place in the family hierarchy, and their political impact makes readily accessible a true picture of the role women are allowed to play in various world cultures. The inspired latter half of the book is a collection of essays by feminists, some well-known, sent to investigate the status of women in cultures other than their own. Germaine Greet, for example, reports from Cuba, where she found women struggling to fulfill extraordinary, and conflicting, demands to embody traditional flower-like feminity, while also performing as diehard revolutionaries. Nigeria's Buchi Emecheta, in the US, found that while women had triumphed in the fight for equal opportunity for education, in the end, cultural conditioning too often resulted in educated women becoming mired in domesticity and dependence in postgraduate life. From Australia, Mexico's Elena Poniatowska sent a telling analysis of the true import for women of the sexual revolution there. Taken together, the essays provide a cross-cultural sampling of societal issues pertaining to women in a form that is enlightening, unquestionably informative and, in an odd way, surprisingly entertaining.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1985
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press