Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The Women Of The World The Newsweek editor looks at how women helped bring about peace in Liberia; how they're changing the state of marriage throughout Asia; and the rise of Christine Lagarde to the top of that notoriously male-dominated institution, the International Monetary Fund.
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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The Women Of The World

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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The Women Of The World

Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The Women Of The World

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


Hi, Tina.

TINA BROWN: Hi, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine. And you've sent us some readings on the changing role of women - which, I guess, for a very personal reason has been on your mind lately.

BROWN: So one of the women who's coming in, and who is really one of the women who inspired me in the first place, is this incredible Liberian activist, Leymah Gbowee. And she's published a book this week about how she was raised in this small neighborhood in Monrovia, and her life was torn asunder by civil war. And for the next 14 years, she's a displaced person living in refugee camps and trying to have a makeshift life as this fighting goes on and on and on, until she takes action.

INSKEEP: Well, there is the point. Because in this book, "Mighty Be Our Powers," you have the story of a woman who is a victim, as you describe her there, but also is insisting on being an activist and pushing things to change.

BROWN: But when they push her to one side, she does something that is unthinkable in African culture. She says, I didn't have a plan, but I started taking off my clothes. My thoughts were a jumble. These negotiations had been my last hope, but they were crashing. In threatening to strip, I summoned up a traditional power. In Africa, it's a terrible curse to see a married or elderly woman deliberately bare herself. For this group of men, to see a woman naked will be almost like a death sentence.

INSKEEP: I guess this explains why this book, "Mighty Be Our Powers," which you published, the subtitle says that she changed a nation at war through sisterhood, prayer and sex. We're getting around to why sex got into the subtitle there, I guess.

BROWN: Well, indeed. I mean, one of the things that Leymah did was that she actually helped to lead a sex strike, where the women of Liberia basically withheld sex from their men to show that they would not be a party to what was happening. And although the peace did not happen that day - she did that in July - it did turn the tides. The convention went back in, and really did start to talk about peace in a serious way.

INSKEEP: So that's a reading on the changing role of women in West Africa, in a West African nation that was deeply, deeply troubled. You've also sent us an item from The Economist, about the changing role of women in Asia. And its headline: The Flight From Marriage. What's that mean?

BROWN: Well, what it means is that in these new, changing economic times, with globalism and with increased economic advantage, which is good, there's also - has a corollary of problems, transition and difficulties. And it talks about how in Asia now, there is the rise of the golden misses. And these are the girls who are educated, emancipated, but finding themselves without husbands.

INSKEEP: Most shocking information in here for me had to do with China, where there is an excess of men and a relative shortage of women - because of a preference for boys and their one-child policy, and everything else. You would think that any woman who is available would be snapped up. And yet there seem to be a large number of women in their late 30s who are single or never been married.

BROWN: There's a lot of danger now coming up for women in these countries where they went for the selective abortion, because there's going to be such a shortage of women. Women are going to have to bought, found, coerced. And this is going to become, I think, another major problem with regard to sexual trafficking and a lot of violence against women.

INSKEEP: You have also sent us an article from Vogue Daily, that well-known financial chronicle, about Christine Lagarde, the new head of the IMF, who's thinking about what she thinks is perhaps a shortage of women in that financial institution.

BROWN: But she tells, in this piece, the rather nice story about how when she was interviewed, you know, there were 24 men in the room and just her. And she had to kind of go around in a kind of speed date, to kind of show her qualifications for taking over the IMF after Strauss-Kahn had messed up. But, you know, I think Lagarde really feels that, you know, men have had their way to sort of make things work, and seem to be failing catastrophically.

INSKEEP: The Vogue Daily article also suggests that she has been subtly criticized for seeming a little bit too elegant, maybe too focused on fashion. But I guess the fact that she posed for photographs for Vogue suggests that she's not too concerned about that.


BROWN: Well, women can never win, you know. I have to say that I think Legarde, if you're ever going to have a model of sort of elegance in office, she really has it because she wears these kind of crisp, business-like suits. And there's no sense in her of a kind of vanity of appearance. It's business-like but it's super elegant, and she has real charisma when she walks into a room.

INSKEEP: Super elegant discussion from Tina Brown, of The Daily Beast and Newsweek. Tina, always a pleasure.

BROWN: Thank you.

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