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REVIEWS

A debut sociological work explores the gender discrimination faced by women today. It’s hard to change any system in which one party has strong advantages over the other. The global patriarchy is perhaps the most widespread and intractable of these systems, as Mukasa points out early in her book: “One group, the men and boys, seem to have all the fun, advantages, and privileges. The other group, women and girls, silently suffers with all the difficulties and gets ever-fewer opportunities in society.” With this work, the author hopes to reveal to readers who haven’t been paying attention the tremendous inequality that exists between the genders in terms of wealth, opportunity, and quality of life, from blatant differences like wage gaps to less obvious ones like time poverty. She analyzes the way gender discrimination manifests in areas like education, employment, and entertainment, but also how it relates even to such fundamental issues as food security, energy, and sanitation. She focuses on contemporary Africa, where modern and traditional notions of gender roles 


Continue to exist side by side. Using numerous charts, quotes, fables, and uncredited illustrations, Mukasa identifies how this injustice touches not only the lives of women and girls, but also those of everyone in society. The author’s prose is direct and conversational, eschewing complex sociological jargon in favor of folksy descriptions of the culture’s ills. “Men learn to batter women into silence,” she writes in her chapter on cyclical violence. “They talk to themselves saying, ‘Batter her every day and every week! Batter her every month! Batter her year in and year out!’ ” There is something of a scrapbook quality to the work—Mukasa relies a bit too heavily on inspirational quotations, which are not well differentiated from her own text—and she leaps from topic to topic in a way that sometimes feels disorganized. Even so, her points are generally spot-on, and her discussions of masculinity— and even of domestic violence against men and boys—will be as relevant to male readers as they are to female ones. Though the author writes specifically on Africa, she could be talking about socially conservative societies around the world. An illuminating, homespun critique of the global patriarchy from an African perspective.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In Gender is a Choice, Grace Alice Mukasa, a native of Uganda passionate about gender injustice and women’s rights, aims to inspire readers to change their attitudes. Mukasa witnessed firsthand systematic discrimination against girls and women in Uganda. Now an international development director with a master’s degree in gender and development, she encourages others to be “disrupters” of the biased cultural norms to help transform the lives of the most vulnerable.  


Mukasa’s early chapters, in particular, heavily quote humanitarian words of wisdom from dozens of influential and revered people, including Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Sylvia Tamale (a Ugandan professor and human rights activist). She also intersperses statistics and details on gender discrimination wrongly considered socially acceptable in the family, school, workplace, community and medical settings around the world.  Later chapters offer stories of women hurt when denied rights. For example, young teen Modesta was forced to marry an older man and developed serious health issues after five quick pregnancies. Denied birth control because her husband didn’t approve of it, she became pregnant once more and died at age 20 during childbirth. Each chapter concludes with specific calls to action. Readers are encouraged to actively participate by thinking about ways specific socialization has affected their own lives and then are asked to “[s]elect and outline your personal path to contribute to gender equality.”  This is a thought-provoking work, but it also presents some reading obstacles. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations are scattered throughout, but the tiny dialogue within some of them is difficult to read. There also are typos (twice Barack Obama is spelled Barrack). And while informative details abound, the heavy-handed use of others’ quotes dropped into the main narrative disrupt the author’s own thoughts, resulting in a less-than-smooth read. Revisions to address the issues above would make this a more appealing release. Nonetheless, readers will find interesting information throughout. Also available in hardcover and ebook. 

BLUEINK REVIEW

Gender Is a Choice is a passionate African feminist manifesto. Grace Alice Mukasa’s spirited and interactive Gender Is a Choice focuses on gender roles and understandings in various African countries.

 

Taking a strong stance in favor of greater gender equality in arenas from business to education, including home duties and marital roles, the book begins with background on the ways that gender impacts people’s lives. It specifically concentrates on how children are socialized and how they begin to see themselves in particular adult roles. 

 

The text also touches on gendered violence, power structures, and political participation, which is particularly low among women. It examines who performs agricultural duties and sanitation practices, and discusses inheritance and reproductive health services, too. Mukasa’s experiences in forming a business and leadership institute are covered as an example of empowerment and how gender equality could look for others. Finally, the book delivers a longform example of a family in which the mother is beaten down by her competing needs to play the “good wife and mother” and the need to work outside of her home, wherein the father takes many years to realize that there is room for him to change the dynamics.

 

The book’s organization is haphazard. It addresses this wide variety of topics without a clear progression or path from topic to topic. Each section is written with clarity, though, and arguments are backed up by Mukasa’s development experiences and by academic research, government reports, and popular resources. Quotes from public speakers are included but are formatted in a confusing, noncontextualized way; they interrupt the flow of the book. Some sections, including one on self-actualization and 
reaching your full potential, are better suited to other genres. The workbook questions also seem out of place. Other sections, including those focused on how modernity has affected city and country life in Africa, showcase a valuable perspective on women’s rights. Some of the most interesting sections focus on the strides made toward women’s rights in Africa versus areas where patriarchal values continue to preside. Sections that highlight specifics, including the fact that women cannot receive inheritance in many communities, demonstrate the need for gender equality. The work moves at a pleasant pace, written in an accessible way that is both detailed and clear. Gender Is a Choice is a passionate African feminist manifesto that draws upon both research and personal experience. 

CLARION REVIEW

Gender Is a Choice: Inspired, Proactive, and Self-Actualised is a work of non-fiction that concerns themes of gender identity, equality, diversity, and human rights, and was penned by author Grace Alice Mukasa. This highly evocative and important work uncovers the gender biases and discriminations that still exist in our modern world, and discusses ways in which we can combat and dismantle harmful identities and ideologies in order to rebuild and establish true gender equality. Utilizing her own context of African gender culture as a prime example, the author goes on to explore such topics as male-female relations, socialization, and dynamics of power which makes for some eye-opening and compelling reading indeed.

Author Grace Alice Mukasa has crafted a work that everyone would benefit from reading, whether they think they are affected by gender inequality or not. The smooth, confident prose is exceedingly well written to produce a confident exposé and argument against continuing injustice in the modern world, which will surely be eye-opening to some and affirming to others. The variety of topics discussed are well-chosen, and the examples from the author’s own culture serve to prove points that are both specific and universal. The research and ideas presented are well-grounded in gender studies up to this point, and the new ideas presented are both inspiring and educational for those moving towards a brighter future. Overall, I would recommend Gender Is a Choice: Inspired, Proactive, and Self-Actualised for all readers to open their minds to this important and pressing issue.

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