Wow! As interesting as the Hunger Games trilogy is on it’s own, having just completed the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings a stabbing realization to the underlying message of the Hunger Games. (Spoiler alert if you have not read through book 3, Mockingjay).
Throughout the trilogy, Katniss struggles to understand the complacency of the capital’s citizens and the citizens of District 13, in their acceptance of inhumane treatment of citizens in the other 12 districts. She wonders how can they be so concerned with fashion and the supply of food delicacies, when so many people of the country suffer malnourishment and mistreatment? How can they watch the hunger games event each year, watch innocent children be killed and kill each other, as if it’s entertainment?
The same message rings true throughout Half the Sky, in it’s disturbing, yet realistic depiction of inhumane treatment of girls and women, in a multitude of actions, in many developing countries (although also found in more developed and western cultures too). In the Hunger Games trilogy the capital’s citizens are portrayed as a sophisticated elite class, without acknowledging the sacrifices of others to bring them such luxury. Can’t we say the same for the USA regarding mines for gold and precious stones in Africa, sweat shops throughout Asia, and sex slaves.
It’s impossible to ignore the message that we are able to block out the pain of others, suffering at the hands of other conscientious beings, while we enjoy a life of relative leisure. As if we earned this quality of life, rather than been born into it privilege. Why do we think that? Because we have a few “difficulties” to deal with?
What I love about the way Half the Sky was written, it gives an analysis of various aid programs; commenting on their flaws while highlighting the positive impact in spite of these flaws. At the same time, the authors acknowledge the need for rigorous analysis of these programs, to determine the most effective method; while recognizing that the optimal programs will vary according to region and cultural norms for that region. Some of the most successful programs are those that give the women and local communities the tools to make the necessary changes for improvement. Finally, the book ends with a few suggestions of how we can help, starting with the most simple of steps.
Maybe the authors of Half the Sky will also make this connection, if they can use the lesson of the Hunger Games trilogy, to find their own Mockingjay. Similar to celebrities who try to advocate equal human rights around the world, but instead find a captivating character that we each identify with, that relate to as ourselves, recognizing our own power to stop the torture. And our own silence as an accessory to all these crimes.
In early October, the PBS documentary show Independent Lens will air a 4 hour special on the same topic as the book Half the Sky. And here is the Half the Sky website for more information on the effort to bring equal rights and protection to women.
Reading posts by others suggests that each person can take away their own meaning for these books, based on thier personal experiences and priorities. Sometimes the main point to people is a deep love story, which I did not get at all from reading the books and listening to Katniss’s thoughts. Some see the good vs. evil, but maybe they haven’t completed the whole trilogy. I’m curious what other points of discussion people have after reading this series.