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The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  706 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
In this groundbreaking work of investigative journalism by the author of the New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming, Michelle Goldberg exposes the global war on women's reproductive rights and its disastrous and unreported consequences for the future of global development

Women's rights are often treated as mere appendages to great questions of war, peace, poverty, and e
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published February 20th 2009)
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Tired of hearing about the magic sperm rejecting powers of women's bodies? Want to smack people who simply say "she should keep her legs closed"?

Read this.

A few months ago, my local NPR hosted a radio program about proposed changes to PA's abortion law. These changes would've included a vagina ultrasound as well making the woman carry around a picture from said ultrasound. The woman on the NPR show pointed out that in countries where men control reproduction that abortion is not really an issue
Jun 05, 2011 Jan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Goldberg's book is an overview of the international battle over women's reproductive rights throughout the last 50-60 years.

The author clearly has a bias on this issue. She clearly thinks that reproductive rights and family planning are good and necessary. She is clearly pro-choice, pro-birth control, and anti-oppression. I happen to agree with her. However, I greatly admired that, despite her bias, she always included the arguments and reasonings of the people on the other side of the fence. I
Mar 26, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
A good companion piece to Half the Sky, I dog-eared so many pages that I had to stop before the entire right corner of the book was folded down. I suppose I had some idea about a lot of the ground it covers, but never to the point where it really hit home exactly what is at stake.

It starts out with the infuriating consequences that crop up when abortion is criminalized. The fact that women have died of ectopic pregnancies and incomplete miscarriages because doctors can't intervene before the fe
Sep 12, 2014 Molly rated it did not like it
This is a work of clunky and malicious propaganda. Anecdotes and misinformation are slapped together in a crass, manipulative pr style lamenting that Hitler and Sanjay Gandhi's "excesses" discredited eugenics. Under the flimsy veil of feminist concern for reproductive freedom, Goldberg launches a creepy white supremacist revival of eugenics mythology, bemoaning that there aren't enough "Europeans" but there are too many of everyone else. While the book purports to be a kind of history of "overpo ...more
Colleen Clark
Aug 21, 2012 Colleen Clark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, women, population
A first rate book covering the population crisis, women, sex, and reproduction from the 1960's to the present. Reporting from around the world - North, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe. Topics covered include birth control, abortion, sterilization, female "circumcision", women's rights etc etc. Chronologically Goldberg reports from the 1960's to the 2000's - the involvement of the US and the UN; the politics and the changing social conversation within the US and around the world. ...more
Jun 19, 2009 Polly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
A very interesting, though somewhat irritating, look at the history of reproductive rights for women over the past 50-60 years. It's extremely well researched, and irritating only in that Goldberg introduces us to scholars and NGO workers and then, many pages later, refers to them by last name only (with no context). I finally gave up trying to remember who was who.

The book concludes with some very powerful statements. "In a perfect world, the prospect of Malthusian doom would not be required to
Dec 29, 2011 erin rated it it was amazing
An excellent tour of the many, many factors that play into the global evolution of reproductive rights as women's rights as human rights. The author goes beyond the ubiquitous abortion-versus-religion to explore everything from the motives and ramifications of government population policies that try to both increase and decrease fertility rates, to FGM, to imbalanced sex ratios, to the Vatican's token role in the UN that would be absurd if it weren't so effective.

Throughout, Goldberg maintains a
Mar 21, 2015 Nikki rated it liked it
Overall The Means of Reproduction is well-written and informative. I think the opening chapter was jammed pack with information and expected you to have background information on South American issues that not many people are likely to have. This made the book have a shaky beginning for me and I worried that the entire book would be an attempt to jam as much information as possible into the pages, readability be damned. However, after this shaky beginning I found the topics and historical connec ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Alyssa rated it it was amazing
Disclosure: Michelle Goldberg and I both have the same literary agent; I write this of my own enthusiasm for the book Goldberg has produced. This is a must read for anyone concerned about global stability or human progress. The Means of Reproduction takes a tough and fascinating look at the global struggle to advance women's reproductive rights and the countervailing movement to restrict them. I've often found the jargon and clinical language of the global reproductive rights movement bewilderin ...more
Emily Jane
May 24, 2009 Emily Jane rated it liked it
Like a lot of what I read, I heard about this one from an interview of the author on NPR. The thing that caught my ear was the mention of a woman who had willingly undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) as an adult, part of her full acceptance of into her ancestral Sierra Leonean tribe, despite having been born and raised in the United States.

Back in college, I did a major report on FGM and have been fascinated by the practice ever since. I was 17 and had never known much outside my WASP-y ho
Jul 20, 2011 Roger rated it liked it
A complex subject because of the varied facets of historical subjugation of women and womanhood. This is not just a book about abortion rights,pro or con, in fact it often goes beyond the typical liberal thinking of sexual equality, not that the typical conservative thought will be happy with this work either; to talk of sexual equality is to talk of children and family as well as individual women; in fact in M. Goldberg’s treatise, it is to address these rights not as an adjunct to the great t ...more
This global bird's-eye overview of the reproductive health and rights movement manages to cover a lot of ground while still making sense of seemingly disparate women's rights issues such as resurgent abortion criminalization movements with female genital cutting (the secret ingredient is patriarchy!). I especially appreciated Goldberg's insight into the early population-control movement and how unsung feminist heroes like Adrienne Germaine and Joan Dunlop helped morph it from its coercive, pater ...more
Sep 16, 2010 Alena rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
Non-fiction book by Michelle Goldberg about the history and current situation of women's rights, especially reproductive rights, around the globe.

All around good and informative and at times depressing read. Sheesh, what's wrong with you, world? It's sickening how many decisions about women's lives are still made by men. Both inside families and in governments, NGOs and whoever else feels they should chime in. Not that I was surprised.

It's a good read, the style is accessible and the amount of i
Jun 01, 2012 Gina rated it liked it
This book covers reproductive rights throughout the world and covers very, very complicated issues related to it: the problems of population growth/decline, how women and their sexuality are viewed in different societies, education, and women as financial burdens (in India, girls are not as desirable because their parents must pay increasingly expensive dowries to the groom's family when their daughters marry). It was interesting to see how all of these different issues affected ideas about repr ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Katie rated it really liked it
Read a library copy - I need to buy this so I'll have the fascinating statistics close at hand. Goldberg does an excellent job of exploring the global movement of population control. She zeroes in on several important aspects, from the early days of the UN and USAID's work on family planning in developing countries, to unbalanced sex ratios in India. Interviews with people on all sides of an issue keep the material engaging. The "deceptively simple" conclusion - empowering women with education, ...more
Sep 13, 2009 Marge rated it liked it
This is a copy of someone else's review, but I had to use it becase it says exactly what I wish I could put into an intelligent review.

"This was a book that I might refer to as a vegetable of nonfiction—a healthy book to have read, but often hard to get through due to the dry prose style. Goldberg writes about a variety of issues that relate to women’s health—abortion, population control, etc.—and describes how culture wars between the East and the West, the First and Third World, and, in some c
Kathleen O'Neal
Jun 30, 2013 Kathleen O'Neal rated it it was amazing
The best book on global reproductive freedom I have ever read. The author does a great job of explaining the fissures between the population control movement and those who want to empower women to make the best reproductive decisions that they can for themselves. This book truly helped me to realize for the first time that rather than an East-West split on human rights issues, there are civilizing and savage forces in all societies and that those who care about human rights must be the allies of ...more
Aug 28, 2009 Danie rated it it was amazing
I read this book for the Womens Way book prize award that will be selected this fall and could not recommend it more.

This book does an excellent job of presented a LOT of information but making it extremely accessible to the reader. Goldberg takes us around the world, looking at family planning and reproduction policy and how it affects both women's health and reproductive issues, but also the balance of power and the economic development of those countries. She goes to great lengths to find al
Zhang Jingjing
Jan 04, 2016 Zhang Jingjing rated it it was amazing
A book contains so many things that I'm really interested into, feminism, reproduction, globalization, how to see the conflicts between tradition, culture and changing society and values, what do we talk about if actually we don't have any choice, is there a place where people can have unlimited freedom without hurting other people, how to see the developed world's low fertility rate and its policies to limit the immigration, cultural relativism or cosmopolitanism?

This book doesn't necessarily
Jeff Sharlet
Feb 21, 2009 Jeff Sharlet rated it really liked it
The Means of Reproduction is a bold and vital book, a story about life and those who twist that word to front for agendas of sexual control around the world. We're lucky that we have Michelle Goldberg, a brilliant and clear-eyed journalist, to bring us news of how the struggle over reproductive rights has gone global, as the American Right teams up with reactionary forces abroad. Goldberg calls it one of the most important fights of our time; after you read The Means of Reproduction, you will, t ...more
Bob Anderson
Apr 09, 2015 Bob Anderson rated it it was amazing
Goldberg’s survey of women’s power and rights in the modern era is fascinating and engaging, with a wide variety of subtopics and focuses that keep the pace moving and give readers of many interests something to dig their teeth into. The horrifying first chapter zeroes in on abortion politics in Nicaragua; the case of Rosa, a very young girl who was impregnated secretly by her stepfather and who the authorities denied an abortion, introduces the role of the Vatican in shaping regressive policies ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Eve rated it liked it
Good information, but found the book a bit dry and hard to keep motivated to read.
This is a must-read book for EVERY woman, and for any one who cares about the fight for women's equality around the world. I have always known that the anti-birth control, anti-abortion movement wasn't just about religion or about "protecting life" - it was also about controlling women. But what I did not realize was how much of this anti- movement was tied up in the fear of white, Christian men becoming out-numbered by the populations of Africa and Asia, particularly if they are Muslim. It's ra ...more
Aug 15, 2009 Miriam rated it really liked it
Golberg is a smart and entertaining author; she manages to skim the history of US and Global policy on reproductive rights in a cogent compelling way.
The book starts out with the most controversial subject- the history of abortion and wrestles through a myriad of sticky issues surrounding it like cultural relativism, poverty, and neoimperialism.

The book starts ends up on much more neutral territory- which seems like a backwards structural strategy for attracting or persuading disparate readers
This book was a very interesting take on the international woman's right's movement. Most books I've read have focused the struggle on the US, but this book really brings into view the larger picture.

Goldberg starts by going into the history of the global reproductive rights movement, which really grew out of a desire to stem population growth back in the 1950s. The US was actually a large proponent of helping other countries to better plan their families, and so started funding for contracepti
Jul 03, 2009 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Everyone needs to read this book. First of all, it's an eye-opening history of how America used to shove family planning down the throats of the rest of the world (we forget that this was a bi-partisan, anti-Communist motivation for many years.) And then we suddenly turned around and said, "no more condoms for you." You also get to learn from this book how the family planning issue came to dominate the Vatican, and how womens' rights is the answer to BOTH high birth rates in some countries and t ...more
Feb 05, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
I really struggled with my rating of this book. While I may not agree with all her theories or conclusions (or even her tone at times), it was such an interesting read. The first few chapters were difficult to plug thru but after that, wow...what learnings about women in the world! The most interesting chapter to me was Missing Girls about the distorted male/female ration in India and reasons behind it. The book really made me THINK about politics, religion, sexuality, cultures, population, huma ...more
May 11, 2016 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goldberg puts forward a global look at women's health and details how women's reproductive choice is tied to their social freedom and empowerment. Though she obviously has a biased agenda, she does a fair job of introducing the opposing arguments. Though it sometimes became bogged down in its own detail, the book is a thorough survey of recent events in women's health and where to go from here.
Apr 09, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: women, get-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eleanore M.
Sep 22, 2015 Eleanore M. rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book... I picked it up after having read Mara Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection (which I had a mixed reaction to). Goldberg approaches the topic with sensitivity and an outstanding amount of research, and she does her best to account for cultural differences throughout the book without ever condoning the abuses against women wolrdwide.
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"Michelle Goldberg is a journalist and the author of the book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. She is a former contributing writer at and blogs at The Huffington Post. Her work has been published in the magazines Rolling Stone and In These Times, and in The New York Observer, The Guardian, Newsday, and other newspapers.

Goldberg earmed a Master's degree in journalism fr
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