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A powerful, urgent and timely polemic on why women still need equality, and how we get there It is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. It blights first and developing worlds, rich and poor women's health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and security everywhere. It is no exaggeration to describe it as an 'apartheid', but not limited to one country o A powerful, urgent and timely polemic on why women still need equality, and how we get there It is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. It blights first and developing worlds, rich and poor women's health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and security everywhere. It is no exaggeration to describe it as an 'apartheid', but not limited to one country or historical period. Gender injustice, Shami Chakrabarti shows, is an ancient and continuing wrong that is millennial in duration and global in reach. As we move forward in the twenty-first century, a time of crises the world over, Shami Chakrabarti lays out the huge challenges we face with honesty and clarity. We have not yet done enough to create a more equal world: one where women and men share power, responsibility and opportunity. One that is potentially happier and more peaceful. One where no life is wasted, and everyone has a chance to fulfil their potential. Instead, we've been playing around at the edges. What's needed now is radical change. From the disparity in the number of births to issues of schooling, work, ownership, faith, political representation and international diplomacy, Of Women outlines what needs fixing and makes clear, inspiring proposals about what we do next, putting women's rights at the centre of the progressive political agenda.


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A powerful, urgent and timely polemic on why women still need equality, and how we get there It is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. It blights first and developing worlds, rich and poor women's health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and security everywhere. It is no exaggeration to describe it as an 'apartheid', but not limited to one country o A powerful, urgent and timely polemic on why women still need equality, and how we get there It is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. It blights first and developing worlds, rich and poor women's health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and security everywhere. It is no exaggeration to describe it as an 'apartheid', but not limited to one country or historical period. Gender injustice, Shami Chakrabarti shows, is an ancient and continuing wrong that is millennial in duration and global in reach. As we move forward in the twenty-first century, a time of crises the world over, Shami Chakrabarti lays out the huge challenges we face with honesty and clarity. We have not yet done enough to create a more equal world: one where women and men share power, responsibility and opportunity. One that is potentially happier and more peaceful. One where no life is wasted, and everyone has a chance to fulfil their potential. Instead, we've been playing around at the edges. What's needed now is radical change. From the disparity in the number of births to issues of schooling, work, ownership, faith, political representation and international diplomacy, Of Women outlines what needs fixing and makes clear, inspiring proposals about what we do next, putting women's rights at the centre of the progressive political agenda.

30 review for Of Women: In the 21st Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book would serve as a great intro to much of the gender injustices occurring globally if you're just dipping your toes into feminism, but I personally didn't discover anything new. I kind of expected more of a human rights lawyer angle that followed on from 'on liberty', which was present but not to the extent I was hoping for when I placed my pre-order. Not for me unfortunately!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charley Cook

    Of Women is Chakrabarti's fact full book all about the injustices that women face from fetus to death. This book mainly focuses on the facts and figured surrounding certain pressure points facing women in societies around the world today. From the preference of the sex of a baby to female genital mutilation it covers many hard hitting subjects. Whilst most non-fiction books about feminism cover similar subjects with slight variations there is one significant difference Of Women has against its ge Of Women is Chakrabarti's fact full book all about the injustices that women face from fetus to death. This book mainly focuses on the facts and figured surrounding certain pressure points facing women in societies around the world today. From the preference of the sex of a baby to female genital mutilation it covers many hard hitting subjects. Whilst most non-fiction books about feminism cover similar subjects with slight variations there is one significant difference Of Women has against its genre friends. Of Women is the most fact filled book of feminism I have come across in all my reading of feminist non-fiction. The facts and figures are, at most times, extremely effective in getting their point across. At many points in the book you stop and listen just to absorb the staggering numbers. The down point to this is that it can often feel impersonal, like a leaflet given to you with the brutal facts but none of the story that comes with a human interaction. This is a fantastic read for someone wanting to start with their journey in feminism who perhaps wants some facts and figures to back up their feelings of injustice. As someone who regularly keeps up to date with the feminist talk points I knew well of many of the subjects talked about but I definitely learned a few things in my reading. So if you don't mind a book with a bit of in your face facts and reminders of just how cruel the world can be to girls I would recommend this book highly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    My main issue with ‘Of Women’ is that it reads more like a series of statements than a coherent tract on the role of women in the 21st century. Chakrabarti is a gifted orator and debater but a less-skilled writer, her prose style is too full of the worst traits of journalese and at time academia to really properly convey the impact of her message. Chakrabarti separates the main issues eight main issues which are impacting on the equality of women within the modern world, including education, heal My main issue with ‘Of Women’ is that it reads more like a series of statements than a coherent tract on the role of women in the 21st century. Chakrabarti is a gifted orator and debater but a less-skilled writer, her prose style is too full of the worst traits of journalese and at time academia to really properly convey the impact of her message. Chakrabarti separates the main issues eight main issues which are impacting on the equality of women within the modern world, including education, health and reproduction and land ownership. She does often make convincing arguments against many orthodoxies; whether it be arguments against transgender people from certain aspects of contemporary feminism, or the need for school syllabuses to be geared more towards providing positive role models for subjects in which women are commonly under-represented, such as STEM sectors. She is makes a series of very valid arguments for the provision of free child-care to better enable women to progress in the work-place, reforms to land ownership in certain parts of the developing world to prevent the negative impact of women and the need to include and improve sex education in school curriculum, there is little that is original in her arguments, however well-meaning and persuasive and the book often feels like a recycling of political views and opinions. But perhaps that is, as Shami herself points out, the whole point behind the book; it is not a direct expression of Shami’s own views, but rather a collection of views and opinions from a wide variety of sources an individuals on how to better improve the role of women in the modern world, voices which, if it wasn’t for individuals like Shami, may never have been heard or promoted.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Of Women: In the 21st Century, by Shami Chakrabarti, published just over a week ago, argues that the fight for women's rights is the fight for all our rights, men or women, girls or boys. It warns of the urgent, global need to recognise a woman's right – any woman, every woman – to live an unmolested life equal in quality to, and as rich in opportunities, as that of her male counterpart. She argues that the fight for women's rights is the fight for everyone's rights because everyone, male or fem Of Women: In the 21st Century, by Shami Chakrabarti, published just over a week ago, argues that the fight for women's rights is the fight for all our rights, men or women, girls or boys. It warns of the urgent, global need to recognise a woman's right – any woman, every woman – to live an unmolested life equal in quality to, and as rich in opportunities, as that of her male counterpart. She argues that the fight for women's rights is the fight for everyone's rights because everyone, male or female is born to a woman, and if a mother is denied her right to a life free from violence, a life with healthcare, education, housing and social opportunities, then the chances are high that her children will be denied these things too, and especially in their important formative years. It's easy to think that in the UK a least, the big fights are long over, and that we can all live fairly peacefully and happily ever after. Women have had voting rights for a century; women are just as entitled to own property; women are in jobs of political power, of academic prowess, and of corporate weight. In fact, sometimes it's easy to believe, or at least hope, that with all the progress made in the last century, we can finally take a well-deserved rest on our laurels before we tidy up the loose ends of women's healthcare, childcare, equal pay, and real and perceived threats of violence. But if we believe this, Chakrabarti urges, we need to take a closer look, and a more global one. Chakrabarti's book is a serious, scholarly and expansive one. It is littered liberally with generous mentions of great feminist writers and their works, and it approaches each sector of feminist thinking in a clear and sober but heartfelt way. She examines a woman's lot from a global perspective, and the horrors faced by our fellow female human beings who live in less wealthy, progressive and enlightened countries, where female children are killed outright or through wilful neglect by one method or another without consequence, and where girls' bodies are routinely slashed, sliced, and carved up in the name of tradition. It is heavy-going material at times, often frightening and dark. But Chakrabarti also highlights projects and drivers of change and hope – and in this sphere, it is the less wealthy countries, the countries where women's rights are woefully absent, that some imaginative and effective projects and initiatives are taking place: [I]n places like Kyrgystan in the eastern reaches of the former Soviet Union [...] twenty-year old student volunteers have been found to be the most effective communicators to talk to fourteen and fifteen year olds about pregnancy, STIs, contraception and sexuality. [...] Education as a Vaccine (EVA) works in Nigeria ... [where it] created an anonymous question and answer service delivered via telephone, text message, email and social media in order to provide young people with a means of discussing and learning about sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. The service has proved incredibly popular with users ranging between the ages of ten and thirty. Chakrabarti's book differs from much mainstream feminism: the solutions she presents are not exclusively aimed at women, nor solely for the betterment of women's lives. She argues that in changing attitudes and encouraging responsibility, education, thought, discussion, and respect, both men and women will benefit. In fact, much of the book is concerned with an achievable vision of a fairer and more comfortable society for all its members. This outline is necessarily a rough diamond rather than a polished fait accompli – the book is one of eye-opening facts and ideas, not a policy document or manifesto – but it succeeds in getting across the reasons why it is worth pursuing attitudinal shifts, and how we might go about kick-starting change and promoting its momentum. Positive action is high on her list of methods, along with greater enforcement of already existing laws (such as those around equal pay), and encouraging people's inclusive contribution to their own society. These are not new ideas, but they are ones worth repeating until they take firm hold – and Chakrabarti's writing is clear and persuasive enough to perhaps persuade a few more people that inclusivity, tolerance and respect brings tangible rewards. Of Women is as much about social evils for both men and women, as it is about social evils perpetrated solely on women. She is wholly inclusive: what affects women affects everyone - plummeting levels of affordable homes, fit for purpose homes, social housing, unemployment, poverty, the wealth gap, inadequate education opportunities, social funding neglect that creates masses of homeless people and back to which can be traced the Grenfell tower block disaster. She is clear that many of the problems affecting women and girls so too affect men and boys, though in different ways that require different, but concerted actions – which problems ultimately cause even greater and more entrenched societal problems. Chakrabarti states what should be obvious even in a money obsessed world – if the basic needs of a large portion of the population are neglected and left unmet, disaffection spreads, which is the blue touchpaper for social unrest. Chakrabarti's answer to the issue is forging a society that first gives high quality educational opportunities to all its people, and ensures that the basic needs of food, adequate housing, and social opportunities are met. Of Women is thoroughly researched and minutely observed – in fact Chakrabarti has lived many of the ideas in this book through her work with Liberty, an advocacy group promoting civil liberties and human rights, for which she was the director for thirteen years. Though it is quite academic in parts, it will appeal to anyone who is intelligently interested in the casual daily erosion of the self-respect and core identity of billions of people simply because they were born into an unlucky sex. Books about the rights of, and abuses against women are, of course, often preaching to the converted. Misogynists are unlikely to pick up and read this book with an open and curious mind, and those who have the power to effect change are equally unlikely to simply do so upon recommendation, even when that recommendation comes from someone articulate, educated and politically experienced. But change is effected by the weight of opinion, and Of Women: in the 21st Century is a welcome and well-argued addition to the popular debate. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    The struggle for gender justice asks for a social engagement of a completely different order. It is not a 'single issue'. It cannot be separated from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense, nor from fundamental rights, both civil and political, social and economic, at home and abroad. It cannot be achieved within our comfort zones or by talking only to people like ourselves. To read this book is like re-reading de Beauvoir's classic The Second Sex and what's depressing is th The struggle for gender justice asks for a social engagement of a completely different order. It is not a 'single issue'. It cannot be separated from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense, nor from fundamental rights, both civil and political, social and economic, at home and abroad. It cannot be achieved within our comfort zones or by talking only to people like ourselves. To read this book is like re-reading de Beauvoir's classic The Second Sex and what's depressing is that however much has changed about our world (the internet, Twitter, Trump), many of the basic inequalities are still in place. Chakrabarti, however, is more upbeat than I am in this impassioned polemic - sadly, though, I suspect she's speaking to the converted. It's difficult to imagine a misogynist, self-proclaimed or not, picking up this book; just as it's difficult to imagine the passively political or even the vaguely-interested deciding that this might be worth a read. Which is a shame since one of the things that Chakrabarti brings to the table is a clarity of expression, an accessibility in her arguments, and a good number of facts, statistics and numbers to give substance to her discussions. For all that, there's nothing new here, however much I enjoyed her analysis of Trump's behaviour with female politicians, for example, or her assessments of the (mis)representations of women in media and culture. I like, too, that Chakrabarti tackles head on debates about feminism and trans/cis communities, and doesn't ever overlook the way in which feminism has a wide remit of generalised equalities that encompass masculinity, race, class, wellness, education and economic status. The writing is both impassioned and also personal (I loved the moments where we hear about Chakrabarti's own family, upbringing and experiences) but, of course, if it were easy to legislate, demonstrate or otherwise radically overturn global misogyny and gender inequality, we'd have made more process than we have. Like initiatives, though, like Everyday Sexism, it's this kind of drip-feeding of information, protest and informed discussion that we have to rely on. I hope this is a book which becomes widely read, debated, openly discussed and which readers pass on to their families, loved ones, friends, acquaintances and, especially, to the younger generations growing into an inherited unfair world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Mersey

    I suppose it was inevitable that at some point renowned human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti would want to say her piece on gender issues. Of Women (review copy from Penguin) is that book: a take on modern, intersectional feminism, grounded in the language of human rights. Of Women is a classic articulation of the principles of third-wave feminism, allowing for and embracing the ideals of diversity and individuality, in a way that accommodates differences of emphasis and culture. As you wou I suppose it was inevitable that at some point renowned human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti would want to say her piece on gender issues. Of Women (review copy from Penguin) is that book: a take on modern, intersectional feminism, grounded in the language of human rights. Of Women is a classic articulation of the principles of third-wave feminism, allowing for and embracing the ideals of diversity and individuality, in a way that accommodates differences of emphasis and culture. As you would expect, this is a book that is very strong on the interaction between gender issues and other protected characteristics, and with a strong global focus. The whole is backed up with a strong evidence base and good argument. Although each chapter is focused on a particular theme (home, work etc), Chakrabarti draws out the inter-connections between these issues well. Where Of Women is weaker, though, is in its solution to many of these issues. Chakrabarti identifies the way gender issues harm men as much as they do women, but offers little in the way of solution. And apart from some brief reflections about her own family history of migration and her mother, there is little here that is personal. And at times Chakrabarti descends into the party political in a way that serves to undermine the arguments that she is making. This is a book that articulates the arguments and evidence for third-wave feminism well, but adds little that is new to the public discourse. Goodreads rating: 3*

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cassidy (Reminders of the Changing Time)

    Review available at http://bit.ly/31Oo3ah Review available at http://bit.ly/31Oo3ah

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gem ~ Bee

    Another informed and well argued book covering feminism, the current issues & battles for equality and the importance of diversity in society. Divided in to chapters covering feminism in areas such as health & reproduction, work, wealth & religion this covers world matters and is well detailed but presented in an easy to read and interesting approach. It's a great basis for introducing feminist concerns and provides current examples. Another informed and well argued book covering feminism, the current issues & battles for equality and the importance of diversity in society. Divided in to chapters covering feminism in areas such as health & reproduction, work, wealth & religion this covers world matters and is well detailed but presented in an easy to read and interesting approach. It's a great basis for introducing feminist concerns and provides current examples.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    If you're looking for a brief breakdown of contemporary issues regarding gender equality that is explained and backed up with uncountable statistics/laws/conventions and presented in a relatively apersonal style (my suspicion that Chaktabarti had studied law was correct), this is a read for you

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    “It is autumn again. That shouldn’t matter and yet somehow it does”, starts Of Women and instantly I love this notion that we are involved in our world and its cycles far more than we imagine or than is mentioned. The weather and its personal associations becomes more relevant as Chakrabarti later on writes of how bailiffs are not meant to kick people out of their homes when it’s raining. I thought of this as I listened to a council meeting on our upcoming budget where our Finances Director Denis “It is autumn again. That shouldn’t matter and yet somehow it does”, starts Of Women and instantly I love this notion that we are involved in our world and its cycles far more than we imagine or than is mentioned. The weather and its personal associations becomes more relevant as Chakrabarti later on writes of how bailiffs are not meant to kick people out of their homes when it’s raining. I thought of this as I listened to a council meeting on our upcoming budget where our Finances Director Denise Murray and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig talked about bringing bailiff services in-house in a way of providing a more ethical service for families. They were shunning the inclusion of private companies who were just in it for the money. There was also an ever-increasing need for bailiffs. Our council is battling the effects of austerity and the 90% reduction of our central government fund that helps us pay for local services such as roads and schools and charities and children in care and children in nurseries and community police officers and a myriad other functions. Bristol has to find a way to make up for £108 million of further cuts over the next five years and this is a direct result of government policies. Yet, Of Women doesn’t deal with that. The inequalities, subjugations and suffering of women are presented as some kind of inevitable vague structural outcome that is as amorphous as it is unnamed. Sales tax on tampons is criticised and yet the process and policy of its imposition — it is in fact the lowest possible taxation the governments in power could impose after EU regulations on tax had been settled — are not mentioned. I am surprised at how disappointed and impressed I am by Of Women at the same time. It’s a tough task to cover every theme that affects women and Chakrabarti does a pretty good job of identifying those at least. Each topic could be a book all of its own and the issues are in danger of being oversimplified when managed within only a few pages. She also includes some personal observations and also statistics from international bodies in order to encompass the whole world. This isn’t easy and either the ignorant or hypocritical nature of the assessments come shining through when she can state that the failure of Clinton (H) to come to power was the result of sexism and that much of the developing world’s problems come from poverty and inequality, without equating US imperialist tactics with the cause and effect of these situations. In the metaphorical activist’s handbook, the weakest call to arms is that of ‘someone should do something‘ and unfortunately, Chakrabarti’s inability to delineate the forces that have led to women’s inequality, and more importantly to class inequality, leads us directly to this statement. Someone; somewhere. The great invisible forces that she does not name are neoliberalism, the patriarchy, and US imperialism. Chakrabarti laments the housing sector, the lack of mental health support, the elimination of free school meals and the school and social situations for many girls and women but does not state that neoliberal policies are specifically designed to strip money away from public services in order to benefit corporations and the 1%. We have to rely on Oxfam, among others, for a better attack on neoliberalism,. Those who advocate for the strictest neoliberal policies are the Conservative government and before them the coalition government (and ‘New Labour’). The austerity program that slashes spending on public services, directly contributes to women’s inequality and yet Chakrabarti’s only mention of the Conservatives is to point out what a great friend Baroness Warsi is and how she has written about Islamic feminism. Nevermind that Warsi voted for tuition fees and for raising the amount to be paid. Nevermind that tuition fees disadvantage the caring professions and the women who are more likely to study locally rather than be able to travel. Chakrabarti even mentions with no apparent sense of contradiction that in the movie I, Daniel Blake, with which Ken Loach quite explicitly calls out the ‘conscious cruelty‘ [YouTube] of the Conservative Government policies, a woman has to decide between food for her children and sanitary products for herself. The call for better public services is made through Of Women over and over again: “Worldwide, women have even greater need of safe streets, public transport, adequate social and affordable housing, policing and access to real justice”; “Work in the caring professions should be better valued and remunerated and we should aspire to greater gender balance therein”; “we need to the see children, the elderly and the disabled as our shared societal responsibility”; “Police and law enforcement authorities around the globe should be better resourced”; “the struggle for gender justice asks for a social engagement of a completely different order. It is not a ‘single issue’. It cannot be separate from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense.” Chakrabarti says “Gender injustice is structural, social and economic” but does not refer to what those policies are and how to overcome them. We come away thinking ‘something needs to be done by someone‘ but she provides no roadmap for how things got to this state and, therefore, there is no implication for further action. This is really a work of pointing out inequalities and then stepping aside and saying ‘nothing to do with me’. The most damning part of the book, for me, was the lack of discussion on Hilary Clinton’s role while in power. When a woman can attract “upwards of $225,000 for a speech to Goldman Sachs” then she is not just an ordinary woman who is the victim of sexism. Journalist John Pilger writes on the fake feminism of Hillary Clinton, and this is ever more relevant in Of Women, because it has a worldwide approach. Chakrabarti tries to cover all women. In The New York Times, there was a striking photograph of a female reporter consoling Clinton, having just interviewed her. The lost leader was, above all, “absolutely a feminist”. The thousands of women’s lives this “feminist” destroyed while in government – Libya, Syria, Honduras – were of no interest. Chakrabarti writes about Isis and the oppression of women and yet as we read from Pilger: The leaked emails of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, revealed a direct connection between Clinton and the foundation and funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East and Islamic State (IS). The ultimate source of most Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, was central to her career. [emphasis mine] The article by Pilger is worth reading in full, as are his other works. The role of a woman who had a hand in destabilising the Middle East and causing untold suffering for millions of refugees is left out of Of Women. Instead, we hear just of the refugees who face sexual abuse and danger in their passage out of their torn countries. The author talks of mothers putting young children in boats to get them out of the country, without knowing if they’ll ever see them again, but not once does she talk about the causes that led to these refugees. This is an appalling and offensive omission. Chakrabarti talks about poverty in Colombia without mention of US imperialism’s hand in wreaking havoc in that country. There is no sense that female inequality has a structural basis from her writing, and this lack of engagement with context limits what we think we can do. If inequality just happens, rather than is a byproduct of policies worldwide that seek to destroy public services and infrastructure in pursuit of profit for the 1% then there is nothing we can do. We can wait for the affirmative action lists and hope that men stop hitting women after being educated for a few years. Of Women fails women in a way that the world has failed us since politics/Politics began. Our private struggles are not linked to politics at the structural or public level. Conservative and neoliberal policies and US / UK imperialism harm women all around the world. We need better ways of saying this and better methods to combat it. My solutions are simple; information and engagement with political processes starting at the lowest levels. Then vote the Tories out and — after the Labour Party are in power — get the Greens in. [I’d say vote Green right from the start but people don’t have enough faith yet.] Then we can have equality. The Labour Party’s support for neoliberalism gave us the Tories’ version of austerity although now apparently Corbyn will change that. We’ll see. All I know is that the policies that put people on the street are those same policies that put refugees on the boats and let them drown as they crossed. Oxfam and much of the world has a name for it but Of Women does not.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lilithcarter

    If you can deal with an angry voice and loads of data on women equality then you will enjoy the first 30-35% after that it gets less angry but we need to be angry at all the injustice towards women. I think this book would a good place to start if you are just getting into feminism, it didn’t give me much new information, since I’m always reading about the subject, but I can see how this book can start a young person into women equality in the 21st century. Loved the book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kilby

    While, in general, this is a fairly basic introduction to feminist thought, the conclusion is a particularly powerful manifesto for a 21st century feminism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    Shami Chakrabarti has undertaken a serious task - to discuss the women's position(s) across the globe in the 21st century in more or less 200 pages. Her approach is to divide the book into 8 parts that would touch upon different issues from representation, reproduction to religion. Because the book is short but problems lengthy, one should not expect detailed exploration of anything. Yet, she is generous with statistics that are used to illustrate her points regarding women's situation in, for e Shami Chakrabarti has undertaken a serious task - to discuss the women's position(s) across the globe in the 21st century in more or less 200 pages. Her approach is to divide the book into 8 parts that would touch upon different issues from representation, reproduction to religion. Because the book is short but problems lengthy, one should not expect detailed exploration of anything. Yet, she is generous with statistics that are used to illustrate her points regarding women's situation in, for example, workplace or regarding their health and reproduction; while statistics are a valuable resource and point for departure, they still should not be taken for face value as it is not always clear what has been counted. I do not want to doubt the reliability of UNESCO or UN but I would have liked more contextualisation and critical engagement. In other words, Chakrabarti does not really seem to explain why we have these numbers besides the underlying premise that women are oppressed and disadvantaged because statistics show so. Surely, as I mentioned, the book is short and it might be naïve of me to expect engagement with theory but I do think that it would have made it more comprehensive if a bit longer. Also, I would like to stop for a moment and discuss one of Chakrabarti's proposals to achieve greater gender equality. It is quotas. It seemed to me that this suggestion for her seems a rather simple and straightforward solution to 'fix' women's situation, at least partially. To me, this is a deeply troubling matter. Would quotas actually help to reduce discrimination against women or would it perpetuate further beliefs that women need assistance if they are to achieve anything outside their 'natural' home domain? Would more women in power help to address existing problems women face? In other words, do you need to be a woman to talk and support the issues of women? Can you be a woman and be ignorant? Maybe we need to talk about intersectionality here. Moreover, maybe the problem is not that women do not choose, let's say, STEM subjects but that the 'soft' subjects are not valued in our societies, though, I would argue, are essential? While most of the ideas discussed in this book were known to me, I still noted some things: chhaupadi (Hindu practise of isolating menstruating women that still seems to be practised in rural Nepal) or Viceland's documentary 'Woman'*. Also, the book is super accessible so it is a decent introductory text but I would recommend reading it with bell hook's 'Feminism is for Everybody**'. I think it would make a nice combo of feminist theory + current women's situation. bell hooks is awesome. 'I believe in a world and society where people should be as reasonably protected as possible from threats of the financial, elemental, violent and health-related kinds.' (p. 121) * in case you're interested too, there the link to save time my link text ** dunno why I gave the book only 3 stars. I always think of it when I think of accessible feminist texts. Must have been young and stupid. I'm changing it to 4 as otherwise I cannot give 3 to 'Of Women'

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Plowright

    In the Introduction to her book ‘Of Women’ Shami Chakrabarti poses the question “will the recent resurgence of interest in the women’s cause become part of a wider struggle for social justice or fragment into a ‘niche’ or ‘single’ issue and be left behind?” In her Conclusion, a little under two hundred pages later, she answers her own question thus: “the struggle for gender justice … is not a ‘single issue’. It cannot be separated from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense, nor In the Introduction to her book ‘Of Women’ Shami Chakrabarti poses the question “will the recent resurgence of interest in the women’s cause become part of a wider struggle for social justice or fragment into a ‘niche’ or ‘single’ issue and be left behind?” In her Conclusion, a little under two hundred pages later, she answers her own question thus: “the struggle for gender justice … is not a ‘single issue’. It cannot be separated from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense, nor from fundamental rights, both civil and political, social and economic, at home and abroad.” This response is open to criticism from two opposite directions. Firstly, Chakrabarti’s assumption that ‘single issue’ causes are doomed to at least relative failure seems perverse, especially coming from the former Head of Liberty. What, for example, was the campaign to enact national prohibition in the United States, if not a single-issue cause? And what was the Women's Social and Political Union’s campaign for the vote, if not a single-issue cause? Furthermore, is it really the case that “the struggle for gender justice” must be part of a broader battle for equality? I wonder if Chakrabarti realises that Emmeline Pankhurst’s last year saw her stand as a Conservative candidate for parliament. Last but not least, if Chakrabarti is really serious about a broad progressive coalition isn’t there a case for lamenting Hillary Clinton’s defeat of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination at least as much as Trump’s defeat of her for the presidency, especially given that Sanders represented the closet parallel in mainstream American politics to Jeremy Corbyn? Contrariwise, Chakrabarti can be criticised for failing to be sufficiently inclusive in her clarion call to progressive inclusivity insofar as there’s nothing in her book to suggest that her progressive coalition should include those whose politics are green, unlike Naomi Klein in her recent book ‘No Is Not Enough’ (which I’ve also reviewed on goodreads). Thus whilst there’s a great deal of talk of home, work and educational environments there’s not even a passing reference by Chakrabarti to environmentalism, although defending Mother Earth against rape by capitalist interests should not really be that great a stretch. Or is Chakrabarti happy to relegate green concerns to ‘single issue’ status? This is not to say that ‘Of Women’ is a bad book. On the contrary, Chakrabarti has much of interest to say on a wide range of gender-related issues including abortion, domestic violence, stereotyping, sanitary products, sex education, equal pay and child care. She is particularly to be commended for approaching the issue of gender injustice in global terms. Having said all that, this is a book which impresses more by the breadth than by the depth of its arguments.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Of Women is best described as a detailed examination of what it looks like to be a woman alive in the 21st century. Shami Chakrabati constructs a diverse picture of the experience of women across the world, examining work, birthing issues, education, faith, politics and more. The book itself feels very current and I was pleased to read it so soon after publication. Chakrabati discusses the British General Election in 2017, Trump and other ongoing issues, using examples from across this year. One Of Women is best described as a detailed examination of what it looks like to be a woman alive in the 21st century. Shami Chakrabati constructs a diverse picture of the experience of women across the world, examining work, birthing issues, education, faith, politics and more. The book itself feels very current and I was pleased to read it so soon after publication. Chakrabati discusses the British General Election in 2017, Trump and other ongoing issues, using examples from across this year. One particularly highlight was the section discussing the interaction between Trump and May, in comparison to Trump and Merkel earlier this year. Thankfully this book does not just focus on the situation for women in western societies. Instead, Chakrabati goes to great length to give a broad perspective of what life is like across the world. Chakrabati celebrates the small progresses that have been made across the world, but shares stories and statistics that, in places, make grim reading. Of the research she undertook, she writes, “It has been a sobering, sad and at times even enraging experience to read and hear of the lot of too many women and girls and boys and men the world over.” This decisive passion for equality and diversity is convicting. In addition, the notable degree of balance that Chakrabati holds is here evident. This is about humanity and she is ever willing to discuss the difficulties men have where necessary. It’s hard to not disagree with Chakrabati and her well researched writings – we have not done enough to create a more equal world for men and women. The text is enhanced by stories from Chakrabati’s own life. At times it does feel as though what is being communicated is a lot of information, with the ‘what to do about it’ message not fully arriving until the conclusion. This, perhaps should be seen as a place where Of Women thrives. It paints a very detailed picture. Indeed, information and education are often what is needed to cause people to understand and respond and ultimately for society to move forward together. As a man I know it is vital for me to read and listen to these stories and statistics. I would therefore deem this book to be a significant read both now at the end of 2017 and on into the future. A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Shami Chakrabarti is passionate, and indeed angry, about the need for gender equality in her book Of Women: in the 21 Century. She examines the effects of gender injustice on a wide variety of issues in many parts of the world. In parts it reads like a dry academic textbook, packed full of statistics and wide ranging examples of gender injustice on a global scale. It becomes more personal however, when she writes about her own experiences her family and her background. She covers a broad overview Shami Chakrabarti is passionate, and indeed angry, about the need for gender equality in her book Of Women: in the 21 Century. She examines the effects of gender injustice on a wide variety of issues in many parts of the world. In parts it reads like a dry academic textbook, packed full of statistics and wide ranging examples of gender injustice on a global scale. It becomes more personal however, when she writes about her own experiences her family and her background. She covers a broad overview of many issues, rather than an in depth study, including violence against women, abortion, sanitary products, childcare and sex education and topics such as faith, the concept of home and displaced persons, health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and insecurity in the 21st century. There are so many issues for just one book of just 229 pages and it is depressing reading for the most part, even though she suggests a number of initiatives to improve matters. However, she remains optimistic, concluding that she believes that ‘far greater equality for women and men is realistically within our reach and well worth the stretch.’ I don’t think it is that easy and will need more than a ‘stretch’. There is an extensive list (for each chapter heading) of ‘Further Reading and Viewing’ at the end of the book, but I think it would also be helpful to have an index to the wide ranging issues covered in this book. Shami Chakrabarti is a former director of Liberty (2003-16), is Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, a member of the House of Lords, and the author of On Liberty, a book about human rights violations published in 2014. My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    There might not be much that is new in this book as some reviewers have said, but it is an excellent introduction to feminism in the current political climate. I personally found some of the statistics quite surprising and learned much from the clear narrative developed by Ms Chakrabarti. The book is divided into chapters by theme and each covers various political and geographical areas. I had no idea that as late as 2017, 86 per cent of people employed in the American private sector have no acc There might not be much that is new in this book as some reviewers have said, but it is an excellent introduction to feminism in the current political climate. I personally found some of the statistics quite surprising and learned much from the clear narrative developed by Ms Chakrabarti. The book is divided into chapters by theme and each covers various political and geographical areas. I had no idea that as late as 2017, 86 per cent of people employed in the American private sector have no access to paid maternity or paternity leave, and therefore one in four new mothers are back at work within two weeks of giving birth. This is in America, a supposedly well developed nation. But the UK can't sit back and gloat given our poor performance on equal pay. This is still news because of what is coming out at the BBC. Ms Chakrabarti does not shy away from difficult topics like religion and health. She is saddened and angered at the increasing media attention on the burka, the niqab and the hijab with possible bans, saying, "You may argue that you are criminalising the symbols of women's oppression, but you are in fact criminalising the woman and perhaps even ultimately forcing her to choose between your official prison and the informal prison of her own home." This is a well written, well researched pulling together of many disparate strands and it is a very enlightening read. Even if you think you know about women's oppression, seeing all the data in the same place so starkly will open your eyes in some way. I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

    It’s interesting, if I truly just took this book by itself, I wouldn’t exactly learn anything new because I’m doing a masters in gender so I feel like I’ve studied in depth most of the structural issues Shami has mentioned however, it is the way she writes. I could flip to a page and adapt it into a speech to rally people to understand what issues both women and men face across the world. She writes so eloquently, so articulate in explaining some complexities in a simple yet beautiful manner. In It’s interesting, if I truly just took this book by itself, I wouldn’t exactly learn anything new because I’m doing a masters in gender so I feel like I’ve studied in depth most of the structural issues Shami has mentioned however, it is the way she writes. I could flip to a page and adapt it into a speech to rally people to understand what issues both women and men face across the world. She writes so eloquently, so articulate in explaining some complexities in a simple yet beautiful manner. In that sense, there’s so many “yes!” moments, she writes with a balance, she writes passionately and the care seems to give this book a certain aura. I appreciate the nods she gives to certain writers, lawyers, politicians but also reminding the reader to ensure that they don’t take the agency from the “ordinary person” who needs “help”. There’s always a caveat to a passionate speech, also “but...this happens too” which is extremely important not to be exclusionary, which is clearly integral to current human rights. It opens the debate to involve everyone, no matter what race, religion, sex, gender, class. That for me is important. To conclude, she writes “it cannot be separated from politics and economics in the deepest and broadest sense, nor from fundamental rights, both civil and political, social and economic, at home and abroad. It cannot be achieved within our comfort zones, or by talking only to people like ourselves.” - she finishes with intersectionality, which is the starting point for all conversations about this world. Check your privilege at the door.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aisling

    This is a powerful read, even for the most fierce of feminists (and I count myself among them). There was nothing here that was entirely new to me, but Chakrabarti places a world of agony in a series of well-proportioned, themed essays which break the reality down with a mix of real life stories, statistics and research. It's an accessible read, but maybe a little tinged with the sting of academia, but it's not less powerful for that. I enjoyed reading this precisely because it stepped outside t This is a powerful read, even for the most fierce of feminists (and I count myself among them). There was nothing here that was entirely new to me, but Chakrabarti places a world of agony in a series of well-proportioned, themed essays which break the reality down with a mix of real life stories, statistics and research. It's an accessible read, but maybe a little tinged with the sting of academia, but it's not less powerful for that. I enjoyed reading this precisely because it stepped outside the basics of western feminism and reached for something more. Commentary on sex-selective abortions, widow inheritance in the developing world, rights of trans women (so often denied) and an examination of feminism in the major world faiths were all really refreshing. The book can't cover everything, of course- women having access to adequate sanitary products and the developing world commercial enterprises to create such a future, aren't discussed, nor does the author consider environmental feminism and the long term future. Again though, this isn't a criticism, more a note that the book could easily have a series of sequels covering the lesser known realities of just existing as a woman in the 21st century. The author's writing demonstrates a lot of optimism for the future she wants to build, one where quotas become unnecessary and the equality we seek delivers the best possible life for everyone. You can't help but be carried on the wave of her positivity.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    I was sent a copy of Of Women: In the 21st Century by Shami Chakrabarti to read and review by NetGalley. I have always admired and respected Shami Chakrabarti and enjoyed watching her debating on programmes such as Question Time. I personally believe that she is someone who should be listened to as she speaks wisely and knowledgably about all things human, political and of course human rights. I had not actually read any of her writings and was a little worried that Of Women might be a little dry I was sent a copy of Of Women: In the 21st Century by Shami Chakrabarti to read and review by NetGalley. I have always admired and respected Shami Chakrabarti and enjoyed watching her debating on programmes such as Question Time. I personally believe that she is someone who should be listened to as she speaks wisely and knowledgably about all things human, political and of course human rights. I had not actually read any of her writings and was a little worried that Of Women might be a little dry and hard to digest because of the subject matter. How wrong could I be! I was interested, shocked, appalled and heartened by turn. Even the statistics did not leave me cold! This is a well-researched and very readable book highlighting the many aspects of life concerning women across the world. I cannot believe that in the twenty first century that many of the archaic attitudes and customs inflicted on women of all nations and walks of life are still so prevalent. Shami not only highlights the need for feminism within our own knowledge of the term – e.g. with equality and equal pay, but within the realms of basic human rights. While the main focus of the book is of women, as of the title, I challenge anyone of any gender to read it and not be appalled by the state of the world we live in and want to change things for the better. Good work Shami!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Raj

    Unlike Chakrabarti's last book, On Liberty, I'm struggling to find a central thesis to this book. It takes as its premise that gender injustice is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. The eight chapters describe the position of women in different fields of life, including the home, reproductive rights, schooling, conflict, and faith. I ended up reading the book quite slowly as it felt denser and less engaging than its predecessor and never felt that it had the clarity of thought or of Unlike Chakrabarti's last book, On Liberty, I'm struggling to find a central thesis to this book. It takes as its premise that gender injustice is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. The eight chapters describe the position of women in different fields of life, including the home, reproductive rights, schooling, conflict, and faith. I ended up reading the book quite slowly as it felt denser and less engaging than its predecessor and never felt that it had the clarity of thought or of purpose of 'On Liberty'. The problems that she articulates are all well understood and I didn't feel that she offered anything new to the discussion, nor do I feel that solutions were offered. I'm not sure that many of the conclusions that she does reach were wildly original - the chapter on faith concludes that change has to come from within faith communities, for example. Apologies for returning again to her previous book, but I thought 'On Liberty' was a great book and, alas, this didn't live up to it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Erskine

    Every now and again we all need a wake-up call. My husband bought me this book on International Womens’ Day: a dispassionate assessment of modern inequality. It’s a great read, never worthy or dull. Shami Chakrabarti has a fine mind and a punchy prose style. She cuts to the chase, gets to the nub of every issue. No handwringing, no flannel, the analysis is razor sharp. From transgender rights through “judicial legitimacy and public trust”, “Dowry – the insidious, misogynist, patriarchal politics Every now and again we all need a wake-up call. My husband bought me this book on International Womens’ Day: a dispassionate assessment of modern inequality. It’s a great read, never worthy or dull. Shami Chakrabarti has a fine mind and a punchy prose style. She cuts to the chase, gets to the nub of every issue. No handwringing, no flannel, the analysis is razor sharp. From transgender rights through “judicial legitimacy and public trust”, “Dowry – the insidious, misogynist, patriarchal politics of wealth”, the “one hundred million missing women”, “chhaupadi” to the annual licence for domestic violence in Russia, her focus is always on human rights. “Of Women” shines a light on the cruel consequences of entrenched ignorance. Objectification, commodification, subjugation and mistreatment of women demeans and degrades us all - men and women alike. Until we “give sex and gender less prominence and a more equal consideration alongside other aspects of humanity and personality”, nothing will change.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Johnson

    Real Eye opener. This book makes you realise that no matter what section of society you look at, everywhere you will find inequality bestowed upon women. The book is structured in thematic essays, which is great for breaking down and providing nuanced answers to specific areas of inequality. For me, the chapter on insecurity (particularly pages on marital rape and domestic violence) were dark, but insightful. Best of all, the book is written in such a way that you start to see how these different Real Eye opener. This book makes you realise that no matter what section of society you look at, everywhere you will find inequality bestowed upon women. The book is structured in thematic essays, which is great for breaking down and providing nuanced answers to specific areas of inequality. For me, the chapter on insecurity (particularly pages on marital rape and domestic violence) were dark, but insightful. Best of all, the book is written in such a way that you start to see how these different thematics are intertwined with each other (e.g. The misrepresentations of women during education can correspond to the economic inequalities a women may face later in life through her unvalued labour of unpaid care). My only critique is the subtle dropping of party politics into this. It is understandable, but feminism in and of itself should be non-partisan, and this book does on the whole make that case... Just with subtle interjections of left-right divide.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    A fact-filled in-depth description of the position of women in society, which I feel would be good for those relatively new to the topic. Having been a feminist for forty years or so, I was rather excited to be reading this but in the end I was slightly disappointed in it. Yes, there were plenty of topics covered, but it felt more like a rather dry report than an interesting study. I confess to feeling a similar sense of disappointment when reading a previous book by the author, On Liberty. I als A fact-filled in-depth description of the position of women in society, which I feel would be good for those relatively new to the topic. Having been a feminist for forty years or so, I was rather excited to be reading this but in the end I was slightly disappointed in it. Yes, there were plenty of topics covered, but it felt more like a rather dry report than an interesting study. I confess to feeling a similar sense of disappointment when reading a previous book by the author, On Liberty. I also felt that there was not too much more to the book than one would pick up from reading a broadsheet daily. I applaud the intention of the book and the author writes clearly, but I confess that I struggled to finish it. Many thanks to the publishers for an ARC in return for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Busa

    This book is well written and all the author's arguments make sense, however, I think that Shami is too limited in her vision on how to create an equal and just society. Her strategies for empowering women would seem to treat equality as a zero sum game where men, the world over, are and will lose their jobs to technology and women. I don't think that your average man would have much of a care about this if it wasn't for one of the last great taboos of the modern age - heightism. If you are a sho This book is well written and all the author's arguments make sense, however, I think that Shami is too limited in her vision on how to create an equal and just society. Her strategies for empowering women would seem to treat equality as a zero sum game where men, the world over, are and will lose their jobs to technology and women. I don't think that your average man would have much of a care about this if it wasn't for one of the last great taboos of the modern age - heightism. If you are a short man without well-paying work, what are you to do? I found nothing within the pages of this book that made me confident that this issue is even on the radar of Shami and the other great reformers of our modern age. I see no reason why gender conditioning in school-age children, affirmative action and other temporary strategies for female equality and what I'll term intra-male equality cannot run in parallel. Hopefully, a revised edition will address this.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nabila

    It’s a bit like preaching to the choir, if you pick this book up, the likelihood is that you have some sense of the inequality that exists. There is nothing that really comes as a surprise, depressing as that may be. What I thought was lacking or an opportunity missed, was practical ways in which the reader could choose to overturn these imbalances. Given the authors career as the head of Liberty and a current Labour peer, I would have thought she would be well placed to suggest ideas. So a conc It’s a bit like preaching to the choir, if you pick this book up, the likelihood is that you have some sense of the inequality that exists. There is nothing that really comes as a surprise, depressing as that may be. What I thought was lacking or an opportunity missed, was practical ways in which the reader could choose to overturn these imbalances. Given the authors career as the head of Liberty and a current Labour peer, I would have thought she would be well placed to suggest ideas. So a conclusion which just summarises the previous chapters and makes sweeping statements of how things should change without suggesting how, was disappointing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    A passionate analysis of the position of women in society across the globe that considers what changes need to be made to reduce inequality and human rights abuses. There are some disturbing statistics – from numbers of girls denied access to education to sexual assault statistics. Shami Chakrabarti, as former director of Liberty, a barrister, and Shadow Attorney General, is well positioned to put forward meaningful arguments for the necessity for change. This is a thought-provoking work with th A passionate analysis of the position of women in society across the globe that considers what changes need to be made to reduce inequality and human rights abuses. There are some disturbing statistics – from numbers of girls denied access to education to sexual assault statistics. Shami Chakrabarti, as former director of Liberty, a barrister, and Shadow Attorney General, is well positioned to put forward meaningful arguments for the necessity for change. This is a thought-provoking work with the data to back it up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A brilliant introduction to gender inequality that offers thought provoking insights. This book has helped me to feel empowered as a women to take a stand in promoting women’s equal rights and motivated to play a part in addressing some of the injustices outlined. The only downside in this book was the number of statistics from different countries which are sometimes difficult to hold in mind. Sometimes the language can be a little technical and lacks flow, but overall an excellent book that I w A brilliant introduction to gender inequality that offers thought provoking insights. This book has helped me to feel empowered as a women to take a stand in promoting women’s equal rights and motivated to play a part in addressing some of the injustices outlined. The only downside in this book was the number of statistics from different countries which are sometimes difficult to hold in mind. Sometimes the language can be a little technical and lacks flow, but overall an excellent book that I would wholeheartedly recommend to others.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim Finn

    It is unclear to me who the book is aimed at. It is so light touch that even a casual reader of feminist/women studies such as myself found very little new information in the book, and I would imagine more committed readers would find it to be no more informative than a Guardian newspaper editorial. The book jumps around a great deal too, covering broad topics in very few pages and conflating a quite a number of policy asks for a short book. I think time would be better spent reading a more thoro It is unclear to me who the book is aimed at. It is so light touch that even a casual reader of feminist/women studies such as myself found very little new information in the book, and I would imagine more committed readers would find it to be no more informative than a Guardian newspaper editorial. The book jumps around a great deal too, covering broad topics in very few pages and conflating a quite a number of policy asks for a short book. I think time would be better spent reading a more thorough analysis of the policy points with less 'filler' popular topics forced in.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Thought provoking, Shami Chakrabarti's treatise "On Women" explores the inequalities present across the globe today. I found myself agreeing with most of the points she makes, however by her own admission, only the privileged, educated women on the planet will get the chance to read and consider the issues as Chakrabarti writes them. One would hope that she as a politician will be able to push this message out across multiple media as it's a subject important for all.

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