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The War on Women – Sue Lloyd-Roberts

My previous book review published here was extremely negative about a particular feminist book. So, for balance, here is my review of a feminist book that I believe every socially-aware man and woman should read. 


Sue Lloyd Roberts was working on this book when she died in 2015. Her astonishing career in journalism had taken her to some of the harshest places in the world. In many of these places, she was appalled at the treatment of women and she become an advocate and activist for change in several nations, including her own home country, Britain.
Issues tackled in this book include female genital mutilation, religious abuse in Ireland, discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia, sex-trafficking in various nations, rape and sexual abuse at the hands of (would you believe?) UN peacekeeper soldiers, forced marriage and honour killings in Muslim cultures and a general mistreatment of women in India. Britain’s record of turning a blind eye to FGM and honour killings earns it a place of shame, unlike France where such things are much more likely to lead to conviction and corresponding jail time.
Sue’s daughter, Sarah, has written the introduction and BBC Chief International Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, has written a kind of journalistic eulogy to complete the book.
Unfortunately, Sarah has also written a chapter entitled “Sex Inequality in the UK” in which she itemises, sector by sector, the pay gap between males and females. Obviously there is validity in calling for “the same wages for the same job” but Sarah also talks about “the motherhood trap” whereby women take time out from their careers to have children only to find males leapfrogging them on the corporate ladder. And she laments that women are more highly represented in part-time employment. She writes “As long as society continues to believe that mothers are the best carers for their children, we are denying women the same opportunities as men.” (p267)  This tendency to downplay motherhood in favour of career recognition must be considered a serious blindspot of the feminist movement and this chapter definitely spoils what is otherwise a magnificently confronting expose of the shocking abuse that women suffer in so many parts of the world.
Apart from the relative trivialities of chapter 12, this is an outstanding book that should spark ongoing outrage at the brutal war on women that it still happening in too many places.

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Fight Like a Girl – A Truly Offensive Book

FIGHT LIKE A GIRL – Clementine Ford

This may be the most offensive book that I have ever read. The author deliberately uses the vilest, most disgusting language that she can find. Hardly surprising, though, when her purpose is clearly stated on the back cover. Regarding “all women and young girls”, Clementine Ford wants to “take the emptiness and numbness they feel about being a girl in this world and turn it into rage and power.”

It’s obviously a book addressed to females but males are ruthlessly targeted from start to finish. Ford’s online presence has already exposed her to every possible objection to her extreme misandric vitriol. Reasonable comments such as “Not all men are evil woman-haters” or “Your rage is not helping” are dismissed by a vicious cocktail of twisted logic. Generalisations from history and extreme examples from the present are used to “prove” that all men are constantly focused on asserting their superiority and maintaining a self-serving patriarchy in the world. Worldwide, it must be acknowledged that there are serious issues affecting girls and women but the suggestion that Western feminism is directing its rage in the wrong direction only spurs Ford to murkier depths of foul abuse. She seems to honestly believe that this is just another misogynist plot to derail and distract the “righteous” cause of female equality. Incredibly, she denies that there even is such a thing as misandry (hatred of men), since everything already works to uphold the patriarchy. A wild exaggeration used to support a ridiculous assertion.

Speaking of gender equality, this surely goes to the heart of the problem. Males and females are different and we should be able to celebrate that difference. But, in Ford’s view, equality has to mean sameness. In her case, that seems to mean that women should be more like men, or her perception of men at least, that is that they should be more aggressive and confrontational – witness the constant foul language.

One example of Ford’s twisted logic comes from p259. In lamenting what she sees as a prevailing “rape culture”. In response to the suggestion that women should “be careful and make sensible choices”, she writes: “Men cannot have it both ways. They can’t instruct us on how to behave to avoid danger from Bad People and then get outraged when we decide that this might include them.” Of course it’s not only men who try to caution young women about what they wear and how drunk they get in certain situations. But Ford’s statement turns thoughtfulness and genuine care for women into complicity with rape!

Ford obviously lives in a different world to me. I see a world where girls and women are constantly encouraged to achieve great things, where females outnumber males in university, where women are doing all the things that men used to do, where women are empowered and men are often confused and disempowered. But, in Christ, and in God’s Church, I see a whole subculture where women are deeply respected and honoured, not for beating men at their own game but for being who they were created to be, beautiful, loving, caring mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

This book sends all the wrong messages. There is a sadness underneath it all because the author felt worthless and hated in her early life. But turning this rage against half of the human race and seeing misogynist motives in everything men say and do is not going to help anyone.

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The birdman’s wife – Melissa Ashley

John Gould is famous for his love of birds and for the beautiful drawings that graced his folios. But his wife, Elizabeth, was the skilled artist, behind much of his success. This exquisite historical novel tells her story. Filled with minute details on matters of ornithology and taxidermy, the author takes her reader back to the nineteenth century, a time of exploration and science, but also a time when medicine still involved potions, leeches and superstition. Women were not expected to excel at non-domestic skills but John’s success and prosperity allowed Eliza the time to pursue her talent. Indeed, her talents contributed greatly to that success.
The novel begins in London, moves to Australia, and then back to London. There is not much of a storyline here. It’s the vivid description of birds, fauna and artistry that carries the book along. The narrating of several pregnancies helps to anchor the book’s heroine in the earthiness of life. She is strong but she is not superhuman. She supports her husband dutifully but, when required, challenges him in the very areas of his technical expertise.
The writing is beautifully evocative, especially in the closing pages. There is much to learn here.
Some readers, accustomed to novels that build suspense through conflict and danger, will no doubt lose patience with this book but it is well worth persevering.
Anyone interested in bird-watching must read this book; anyone with even a passing interest will surely find it fascinating.

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How far can you go? – John MacLean with Mark Tabb

This is a truly remarkable story. John MacLean was a promising athlete until a truck ran over him on the M4 highway in Sydney in 1988. The injuries were so bad that any sort of recovery seemed unthinkable but he pulled through and, over the next several years, learned how to compete in sports such as canoeing and wheel-chair events. His accomplishments were remarkable: iron-man events, triathalons, even swimming the English Channel. But through it all, he held to the goal that he wanted to walk again.
The epilogue to this book attempts to answer the question: was it a miracle that, after 26 years, he was able to walk? He doesn’t think so but maybe that depends on the definition of ‘miracle’ that is used. There didn’t appear to be any physical change to the original injury. Whether it was nerve connections finally awakening from the initial trauma, or whether it was something far more holistic, it does seem apparent that John’s determination to succeed in sport, including endurance events, was somehow responsible. He admits that there is much that he still cannot do but his focus has always been on what he might be able to do. Hence the title of the book, which was taken from a question put to him by his father.
John’s stubborn refusal to give in has carried him a long way. He has become something of a media celebrity and his foundation that helps kids with severe injuries is prospering. Along the way, he has picked up a wife and a son, both of whom have meant more to him that any of his amazing sporting achievements.
This is an easy book to read and very inspirational. Very few people could accomplish what John has accomplished but he obviously hopes that his example can help others reach for the seemingly impossible.

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Jumping at the chance – Gil Griffin

This book may be prophetic of a future trend in Australian Rules football. It tells the story of American born and bred athletes who have been finding their way to the Australian game. The story takes in Dwayne Armstrong, who was listed with Essendon in 1996, but never played at the top level, Eric Wallace, who was listed at North Melbourne but played extensively in the VFL, Mason Cox, who played senior football for Collingwood this year, and the history-making Jason Holmes, who, in late 2015, became the first born-and-bred American to play a senior AFL game when he played for St Kilda.
The book is a little patchy, and seems to jump back and forth, repeating itself in the process. But the story of the AFL scouts running combines in the USA for athletes who had never heard of the game does make for interesting reading. The book covers the massive cultural changes that the American athletes faced and explains how some of them failed to achieve their aspirations.
It’s a fascinating story and probably suggests that the future of AFL will involve finding the tallest and best athletes from wherever they might be found.