Read This Excellent Critique of Half the Sky

10/08/2012 1:06 PM |


I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for Nicholas Kristof’s documentary Half the Sky. Kristof has long been a controversial figure—some see him as a writer bringing attention to important global issues, others as an attention grabber with a white savior complex. At Racialicious, Sayantani DasGupta brilliantly teases apart the complicated threads of Kristof and his movie:

For example, would Kristof, a middle aged male reporter, so blithely ask a 14 year old U.S. rape survivor to describe her experiences in front of cameras, her family, and other onlookers? Would he sit smilingly in a European woman’s house asking her to describe the state of her genitals to him? Yet, somehow, the fact that the rape survivor is from Sierra Leone, the woman being asked about her genital cutting is from Somaliland, seems to make this behavior acceptable in Kristof’s book. And more importantly, the goal of such exhibition is unclear. What is the viewer supposed to receive, other than titillation, and a sense of “oh, we’re so lucky, those women’s lives are so bad”? [Racialicious]

Go read all of it! It is very very very smart. I think it’s easy for people in the Global North to say “at least he’s trying to help,” but the issues are more complicated than that, and it does everyone a disservice not to think more deeply about what his kind of help accomplishes.

One Comment

  • Kristof is not a leftist, and Half the Sky is not written from a left/feminist perspective. Neverthess, I’m glad it was written and I’m glad that the PBS documentary was made because it is focusing more attention on global human rights abuses that target women and girls.

    To be sure, as a democratic socialist feminist with an MA in anthropology I have differences with his overall perspective. Still, I ultimately think that his work will do more good than harm.