The Women’s Atlas

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‘A life-saver and page-turner... This will add to everyone’s knowledge and power. Nobody should be without this book.’ Gloria Steinem

An invaluable feminist resource, hip cultural conversation about feminism, and example of cutting-edge data visualization, this beautifully designed new edition of Seager’s award-winning atlas matches the mood of the moment­ with bold, vivid infographics to illustrate the status of women worldwide and the diversity of their experiences.

Joni Seager has written a visually stunning survey of up-to-the-minute global data redefines what is meant by an atlas. Comprehensive and accessible, her incisive prose combined with the creative use of illustration, charts and infographics portray as never before how women are living across continents and cultures—the advances that have been made and the distances still to be travelled.

The result is the most up-to-date global analysis of key issues facing women today: gender equality, literacy and information technology, feminism, the culture of beauty, work and the global economy, changing households, domestic violence, LGBTQ rights, government and power, motherhood, and more.

  • In 2018 Iceland was the first country to make the Gender Pay Gap illegal
  • 58% of young adults newly infected with HIV are women
  • In the last three years, four countries have removed criminal laws against gays and lesbians: Mozambique, Seychelles, Nauru and Belize
  • 40% of women in South Africa will be raped in their lifetime
  • Feminist ‘right to pee’ movements are challenging the lack of public toilets for women in many countries
  • A woman is murdered by her intimate partner every 3 days in France and Japan, and every 30 hours in Argentina
  • In 2008 Rwanda was the first country to elect a majority-women government (56%)
  • The rate of breast cancer in North America is almost double that of Africa 
  • At current rates, boys and girls around the world will have equal access to education by about 2030
  • Maternal mortality is decreasing in most developed countries except in the USA where it’s increasing, especially for Black women
  • 520 million women can’t read this

Shiny New Books

25 February 2019
On this book there’s a quote from Catherine Mayer, Co-Founder of the Women’s Equality Party: “The most important book that will be published this year” and it’s probably one of the most important books to be published EVERY year. All the information we maybe turn our faces away from, not wanting to think about it, all the inequality and inequity, all the dreadful ways people are treated, whether, in fact, they’re women, LGBTQI, non-gender-binary, trans, poor or refugees is presented here in clear, all-too-easy-to-read graphics, beautifully presented and backed up with solid research and referencing. It’s not an easy book to read per se and it’s not a laugh a minute, bringing Christmas cheer to all, etc., but it’s a very important read indeed. Described in the introduction as “a feminist remapping of the world through the lens of taking women’s experiences seriously,, although it’s an annual publication, it seems very, very relevant this year. It’s a survey of the most up-to-date statistics available on a huge number of measures affecting women, from life expectancy to poverty, health to cosmetic surgery, ability to vote to years in school, participation in sport to dowry killings. The information is set out in wide sections which have an avowedly feminist stance (“Keeping women in their place”; “Body politics”) and flow neatly from one to the next. Most of the information and measures are about things you kind of know in the back of your head but don’t (want to) think about and don’t know in detail, although of course with some surprises. But it’s sobering stuff when it’s laid out in front of you. You could say, as I implied above, that this should be a book about general inequality. However, there’s a quotation in the introduction from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which makes it clear why the specific concentration on women was chosen originally:
to choose the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. IT is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.
The book encourages an intersectional and world view. It very carefully covers the experiences overtly of women who are not white, cis-gendered, straight and middle-class (although some of the experiences are of these people, who constitute my demographic group), thus answering one of the main criticisms of the feminist movement, especially at this time of identity politics. As much if not more attention is paid to marginalised women, women from the global South, women of colour and of varied sexualities in the global North, too, and nothing is ever taken for granted, but everything is explained and given examples. No particular countries are concentrated on either, but a good balance, although obviously some issues, such as the control over women in places such as Saudi Arabia and the massive racial inequalities in North America, crop up over and over again. It’s hard to describe the graphics in words, but they’re big, bold, easy-to-read and varied throughout the book, with inventive ways of recording numbers on every page. There’s a long and non-standard running track showing women’s participation in various sports was introduced at the Olympics (1900 for tennis and golf; 1984 for the marathon; 2016 for rugby). Compacts, eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks show the big business of beauty; pots and bottles the toxic substances in beauty products. Little razor blades represent the prevalence of female genital mutilation in a hard-hitting graphic. Some of the statistics are truly horrifying: 40% of women in South Africa will be raped. 520 million women can’t read (women’s literacy rates are almost always lower than men’s). 58% of young adults newly infected with HIV are women. In the Afghan penal code, a man convicted of an “honour” killing after finding his wife committing adultery cannot be sentenced to more than 2 years’ imprisonment. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a lovely list of the pioneers in “Beyond the binary” including Bolivia with its Gender Identity Law, Australia where you can choose X for your gender or sex on birth certificates and passports, and India and Nepal which both have an official third gender recognition. Pioneers are often recognised in other graphics, too: a big effort is made to celebrate progress as well as to record awfulness. The sources are all well and clearly presented in the back of the book in nine pages of closely packed text, and there’s a good and clear index to this book that’s not an easy read, but an essential one, for all genders and all ages. Joni Seager is a professor of Global Studies in Boston and a feminist geographer and global policy expert, who is a consultant to the United Nations on gender and environmental policy. Mention should also be made of Myriad Editions, the publisher, who she thanks in her introduction: they’re a women-run small publisher.
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Yahoo Lifestyle

14 February 2019
This reference guide to the status of women around the world published an updated edition this year, essential for those looking for statistics to back up their arguments. Its stark facts and inviting graphics torpedo myths about certain issues being limited to developing or Third World nations, comparing practices and numbers on all populated continents. (For example, when the book was released in early November, the proportion of women in government in the US was approximately the same of that in Kyrgyzstan.) It shows how and where we’ve seen social advancement, where it’s sorely lacking, and in what ways it’s wildly unbalanced based on country, race, or sexuality. If you’re looking for the story of women, you can’t get more global than this.
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Brit + Co

14 February 2019
Seager has already released four editions of her comprehensive guide to the status of women across the globe; this updated fifth edition shares the most recent statistics, rendered textually and in easily interpretable graphics. Chapters cover everything from “body politics” to “property and policy,” and connections are drawn in surprising and often disturbing ways for anyone who may have constructed a complacent or simple narrative about how the world works for women. “In the world of women, there are few ‘developed’ nations. Looking at the world through the experiences of women raises questions about the validity of conventional distinctions between ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ countries: women hold virtually the same proportion of representation in elected governments in Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, and the USA; the indifference of the state to the murder of indigenous women in Canada, Yazidi women in Iraq, and maquiladora women in Mexico offers a sharp rebuke to the notion of the modern state; married women in South Korea, the UAE, and Malawi all need their husbands’ approval for an abortion. These may seem to be cheap shots – glib comparisons that don’t acknowledge the real advances in women’s lives. But for the women living under these realities, it is glib to say that things are getting better for women somewhere else. A rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats. Women do not automatically share in broad social advances — unless there is a commitment to ensure social equity.” Seager takes us through how discrimination is measured, and which countries have segregated workforces and “marry-your-rapist” laws. She deals with equity and intersectionality in all its forms, going “beyond the binary” and trying not to create a monolithic message. If you want to remain informed for yourself or find material for the most hard-hitting debate, The Women’s Atlas will provide it in spades.
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