Did you watch the Half the Sky documentary on PBS? What did you think?
I wrote up some of my thoughts about the film at Muslimah Media Watch. In a nutshell: the inclusion of celebrities in the documentary was incredibly disappointing for me.
We’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding celebrification of causes and the challenges of addressing global issues from differing cross-cultural perspectives in some of our past reads, especially in Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection. While reading articles for my MMW review of Half the Sky, I came across one by Teju Cole, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” from earlier this year. Cole is a novelist, and here he responds to some of the feedback he received for his criticism of the 2012 Kony youtube video, and more broadly, about the problematic narratives Westerners construct as they “help” others:
there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.
That’s what I’ve been mulling over since watching the film on PBS (while I canned tomatoes! B. Kingsolver would be proud).