Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Means of Reproduct...
Michelle Goldberg
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  820 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
A groundbreaking new work on the global battle over reproductive rights by the author of The New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming

Award-winning journalist Michelle Goldberg shows how the emancipation of women has become the key human rights struggle of the twenty-first century in The Means of Reproduction. Deeply reported across four continents, the book explores issu

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated (first published February 20th 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Means of Reproduction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Means of Reproduction

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Colleen Clark
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathleen O'Neal
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
May 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeff Sharlet
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chrissy Hart
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michelle Goldberg's history of the family planning in the U.S. (and, by extension, globally) is thorough, well-researched, and presented in a way that is accessible and interesting given the somewhat dry nature of aspects of the topic.

She does an excellent job of interweaving related areas of discourse (e.g. the intersection between over- and under-population concerns, women's rights, and family planning/abortion policies).

For anyone broadly interested in feminism, gender equality, reproductiv
Good information, but found the book a bit dry and hard to keep motivated to read.
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This had lots of good information about reproductive rights on a global scale but failed in the delivery. It was dense and depressing and the chapters felt disjointed from one another. I feel like it could have benefitted from humanizing the information more than simply delivering it like a list of statistics.
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
Bob Anderson
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of reproductive rights from the 1950's to now. The author tells the story from both the high perspective of the UN and international activists and stories from on the ground how reproductive rights actually look like in a country. Goldberg shows how the spread of reproductive rights began with efforts to control population, became explicitly pro-woman and how conservatives caused a backlash against reproductive rights.

The author makes a persuasive case arguing that inc
Zhang Jingjing
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex
  • When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
  • Abortion & Life
  • The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service
  • A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice
  • Virgin: The Untouched History
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • The Boundaries of Her Body: A Shocking History of Women's Rights in America
  • Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
  • Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women's Reproduction in America
  • Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
  • Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences
  • The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women's Rights and How to Fight Back
  • I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage
  • The Feminist Promise: 1792 to the Present (Modern Library Chronicles)
  • Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire
  • Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe V Wade
"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
More about Michelle Goldberg...

Share This Book

“Women's rights must not be treated as trivial adjuncts to great questions of war and peace, poverty and development. What's at stake are not lifestyles but lives.” 0 likes
“In our new world, patriarchy isn't only unjust. It is maladaptive.” 0 likes
More quotes…