Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

January 30, 2014

“Voice Male”: New Book on the Social Transformation of Masculinity

When I first started reading Voice Male magazine some years back, I felt a strong sense of appreciation and urgency about this magazine being widely read.

Here at Our Bodies Ourselves, we have long worked with male allies who share common values and goals, but too often their work has been under the radar — both both in terms of media recognition, and visibility within women’s and community organizations that would welcome them as collaborators.

We know some tremendous work is being done around issues of masculinity and, of course, in the arena of gender-based violence. Voice Male has been at the forefront of promoting these efforts.

As my colleague Jackson Katz has written, Voice Male is for the anti-sexist men’s movement what Ms. magazine has been for the women’s movement.

Now comes the new book, “Voice Male: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement,” in which the magazine’s editor, Rob Okun, introduces readers to, as he puts it, “one of the most important social justice movements you’ve never heard of — the social transformation of masculinity.”

It’s a welcome addition to the canon on gender justice. Tackling a topic as comprehensive as the pro-feminist men’s movement is a daunting task, especially when we consider the movement began in the late 1970s. Okun’s approach is both inviting and instructive.

I admit I’m biased (I reviewed the book before publication and provided advance praise), but outside reviews also have been excellent. Publishers Weekly has a good write-up, and Library Journal concluded: “A very worthwhile introduction to the profeminist movement among men. It will reward both casual readers and serious students of the subject.”

Following a forward by well-known sociologist Michael Kimmel, Okun uses the first chapter to tell the story of the movement, offering compelling highlights that bring to life its rich history. And, showing his activist roots (for many years he was executive director of the Men’s Resource Center for Change in Amherst, Mass., one of the earliest men’s centers in the country), he brings the narrative into the here and now, presenting short profiles of 20 of the most effective pro-feminist men’s organizations in North America, and a few overseas.

The next 11 chapters feature around 140 essays, articles and moving first-person stories by both men and women, some famous, some not, spanning three decades of the magazine. The writing runs the gamut — boys to men, men of color, GBTQ issues, fathering, men and feminism, men’s heath, male survivors, overcoming violence, what is healthy masculinity, and manhood after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The book includes nearly 15 pages of resources on all of these topics, and has nearly that many pages in a comprehensive index.

“Voice Male” will be eye-opening and inspiring to students in gender studies programs, and a powerful organizing tool for activist organizations. Hopefully, too, it will find its way onto the bookshelves in homes where anyone interested in social justice lives.

Please join OBOS in getting the word out about this new resource, and get a copy for every young man in your life.

September 11, 2013

New Book on Birth Control Overlooks Evidence

The new book “Sweetening the Pill: or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control” by Holly Grigg-Spall has generated a lot of discussion and critical response — with good reason.

Grigg-Spall argues that the birth control pill is actually making us sick, and feminists don’t want you to know this.

As a feminist women’s health organization that puts a premium on evidence-based information, we disagree.

As noted in the most recent edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” modern oral contraceptives, which are among the most intensely researched pills in history, are safe for most users. That’s not to say the pill is for everyone — as with any medication, some people’s bodies don’t react well — but in general the pill is an excellent option for many women.

Women who use oral contraceptives are at increased risk of having a blood clot; however, the overall risk is still very low (about six women in 10,000 over the course of a year). In fact, the risk is much higher for women who are pregnant or who have recently had a baby. In addition, the pill carries a number of long-term health benefits, including lowering the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Our Bodies Ourselves has consistently monitored the safety aspects of the pill and has been critical when the evidence has called for it. OBOS has, for example, helped to spread awareness about the safety concerns of newer drospirenone-containing contraceptive pills like Yasmin and Yaz, and has questioned the FDA’s review of these drugs, which carry higher risks for blood clots (about 10 women in 10,000 taking contraceptives with drospirenone over the course of a year) than older versions of the pill.

The National Women’s Health Network, which advocates for the FDA to take drospirenone pills off the market, has likewise has been a longtime advocate for cautious approaches to contraceptives. (Its co-founder, Barbara Seaman, literally wrote the book on safety concerns about early — 1960s — higher dose versions of the pill.) OBOS and NWHN share a common value as organizations in favor of evidence-based approaches to the risks of any drugs targeted to women.

Fortunately, numerous reviewers are calling out the problems with “Sweetening the Pill.” Lauren O’Neal writes that Grigg-Spall overlooks real benefits of the pill, while Jill Filipovic raises concerns about “scaring women away from highly effective forms of birth control with inaccurate claims.”

Grigg-Spall’s essentialist argument is also under fire. Over at Slate, Lyndsay Beyerstein asserts that “Sweetening the Pill” “offers an insultingly reductive account of what it means to be female:

“If we shut down the essential biological center of femaleness, the primary sexual characteristics, then can we say that women on the pill are still ‘female’?” Grigg-Spall muses, casting ovulation as the sine qua non of femaleness. If so, postmenopausal women, pregnant women, girls, ovarian cancer survivors, and transwomen aren’t really female.

It’s easy to write off Grigg-Spall’s inaccurate and reductionist account, but it’s worth noting that this perspective threatens to distract from the discussion that needs to be happening: Instead of promoting fear, women should be offered more evidence-based information on the benefits and side effects of all contraceptive methods, along with more comprehensive sex education and improved access to their method of choice.

To learn more about the pill, check out:

To learn more about safety issues related to pills containing drospirenone, see these previous posts:

July 22, 2013

Night Sweats: A Memoir on an Unplanned Pregnancy

Librarian Laura Crossett has just published a memoir of her unplanned pregnancy, “Night Sweats: An Unexpected Pregnancy.”

I’d recommend it on the merits alone, but here’s another reason: Laura is donating half of her proceeds from book sales to Our Bodies Ourselves.

Crossett describes her experience as a 35-year-old single woman — one month into a relationship and six months into a new job — facing a very unplanned pregnancy.

As the book description notes, her predicament is not uncommon, though her story is:

Almost half the pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unplanned. Some of them happen to married women, some to unmarried; some occur due to failure to use contraception; some due to contraceptive failure. Some happen to women who hope one day to have children; some to women who never wanted children at all.

In a political climate that polarizes around issues of sexuality and choice and a popular culture that glamorizes pregnancy and fetishizes motherhood, we rarely hear the stories of women who did not seek to become pregnant. Night Sweats is one of them.

Despite the serious nature of her situation, there are some really funny bits in “Night Sweats” that made me chuckle. Discussing how pregnancy books assume certain kinds of family structures and access to resources, Crossett writes: “It’s like 1952 in pregnancy books, only with organic baby food and no BPA.”

The book is structured around the church year of the Episcopal Church, but if you are unfamiliar with its traditions (as I am), it’s not confusing (or preachy). Crossett is very straightforward about considering abortion when she learned of her pregnancy, and it’s interesting to explore her thought process.

We know that more than 70 percent of women seeking abortions are religious, but we don’t always get to hear these everyday stories amid the political rhetoric around the procedure.

You can purchase “Night Sweats” directly from Crossett if you happen to be in the Iowa City area, or you can buy it online:

In the acknowledgements, Crossett cites “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth,” along with Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth,”as “the best books” she has read on the subject.

During an email exchange, Crossett expanded on her appreciation for OBOS’s approach: “I picked up the ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves Pregnancy and Childbirth’ book (I’ve always been a fan of OBOS), and there, finally, was a book that never made an assumption. It talked about planned and unplanned pregnancies and people of color and GLBTQ people and people with mental illness and addiction and people who’d been raped and people with partners and people without — it was just so great.”

Learn more about and read excerpts from OBOS’s “Pregnancy and Birth,” or order it online for yourself or in bulk for health clinics or groups providing health-counseling services (there’s a steep discount!). Finally, if you’re interested in directly supporting our work, please make a donation online!

June 10, 2013

“Crow After Roe” Looks at Inequities in Reproductive Healthcare

Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo, co-authors of the new book “Crow After Roe: How ‘Separate But Equal’ Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That,” joined Amy Goodman of Democracy Now last week to discuss states where laws have “practically regulated abortion out of existence.”

You can also follow their excellent reporting at RH Reality Check: Marty is the publication’s senior political reporter, and Pieklo is a senior legal analyst.

April 30, 2013

“Cracked Open”: New Book Looks at Fertility and Reproductive Technology

Our Bodies Ourselves board member Miriam Zoll has a new book coming out on May 1, “Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies.”

Zoll tells her own story of infertility and IVF treatments, and shares what she learned along the way about assisted reproductive technologies.

From the book description:

When things don’t progress as she had hoped, she and her husband enter a science-fiction world of medical seduction, capitalist conception and bioethical quagmires. Desperate to conceive, they turn to unproven treatments and procedures only to learn that the odds of becoming parents through reproductive medicine are far less than they and their generation had been led to believe.

OBOS Co-Founder and Executive Director Judy Norsigian contributed to the foreword with Michele Goodwin, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota. Learn more about Zoll and “Cracked Open” as she shares her story on the My Fertility Choices site.

Zoll is also collecting stories on infertility and reproductive technology via her website. Requests to have her come speak can also be made online.

March 13, 2013

Women’s History: The New York Times Reviews “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Our Bodies, Ourselves 1973 cover

Forty years ago today, The New York Times reviewed “Our Bodies, Ourselves” under the headline “Thinking About the Thinkable.”

It’s fascinating to see how the book was received in the mainstream press — and, in this case, how one of the most prominent book reviewers of the late 20th century, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, approached the text.

I admit I was surprised to see his byline when I looked up the review, after being alerted to the anniversary on Twitter via @Feministory.

Lehmann-Haupt was the senior daily book reviewer for the Times back then, a position he held from 1969 to 2001. But as he acknowledges up front, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see the first women’s health book of its kind reviewed by a man.

He writes that he took on the review “first, because the book looked useful and I wanted an excuse to read it carefully, and second, because those members of the movement I respect have often argued that women’s liberation means men’s liberation, and it is an argument I am willing to try on.”

His perspective is laudable, although sometimes Lehmann-Haupt seems to forget it’s not really for or about him.

The review is of the first edition published by Simon & Schuster. Prior to 1973, the book had appeared in two other formats: In 1970, a group of women printed and stapled together a 193-page course booklet, “Women and Their Bodies,” based on their own research and exploration of women’s health and social/political issues. The booklet is available online (download “Women and Their Bodies” [PDF]).

In 1971, they changed the name to “Our Bodies, Ourselves” — to emphasize women taking full ownership of their bodies — and New England Free Press republished it that same year, selling 250,000 copies, mostly by word of mouth. That edition was one of 88 books selected by the Library of Congress for the 2012 exhibit “Books That Shaped America.”

The strong demand taxed the small New England Press, which is when Simon & Schuster stepped in (read the preface to the 1973 edition).

By then the need for the book had been well established; “it doesn’t much matter whether male reviewers like it or not,” Lehmann-Haupt wrote. That does not, however, stop him from dragging out the discussion:

But do I like it? you are still wondering. Let me duck the question a moment longer by saying that since the book was written collectively — with, for example, “A Boston gay collective” contributing the chapter on Lesbianism, “In Amerika They Call Us Dykes”; and several older women helping out on the chapter covering menopause — it was never expected that everyone would be pleased with all the contents, not even the women who put the book together.

Nor does he have a problem with declaring what any “sensible” woman would appreciate:

I don’t see how any sensible woman — even an antifeminist one — could fail to be enlightened by the book’s lucidly informative chapters on “The Anatomy and Physiology of Reproduction and Sexuality,” on nutrition, exercise, venereal disease, childbearing and postpartum emotional problems; or even by the philosophy that informs them, to wit, that knowledge of one’s body is essential to control of one’s body, and that control of one’s body is essential to living in contemporary America. (As you will see if you read the book, it’s a more radical idea than it may sound.)

He makes 40 years seem like like yesterday.

And then:

On the other hand, I can imagine that some women — even halfway liberated ones — may not agree with the book’s extreme open-mindedness on the questions of birth control and abortion, or its specific conclusion that “it is a myth that the infant will be psychologically damaged unless the mother is always present.”

Let that last line sink in for a moment.

Lehmann-Haupt concludes with his “quibbles” and his findings:

I am still trying to dovetail all the talk about “living less in our heads” and responding “to our feelings” with the book’s overriding message that women must know and think about their bodies in order to get control of their lives. (I’m sure there’s a way to reconcile these two messages, but trying to find it has me climbing an epistemological wall.)

But I learned a great deal from this book that I did not know before, or had somehow forgotten. And if the authors are correct in their belief that one of the major reasons why men oppress women is because “of the male fear and envy of the generative and sexual powers of women” — and I think they are — why then it will do no harm at all for men to read “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and expend a little rational thought on these powers. Nor will it do much harm for a male to review it.

For all my quibbles, to have a man in 1973 so willing to join the feminist movement is a credit to him — and to the book.

The ninth and newest edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” published in 2011, was named one of Library Journal’s best consumer health books of the year. Find out what the fuss is (still) all about.

November 15, 2012

In the Boston Area? Come See Judy Norsigian This Sunday at the Jewish Book Fair

Photo of Judy NorsigianDo you live in the Boston area? If so, come on out this Sunday to see Our Bodies Ourselves founder and executive director Judy Norsigian at the Ryna Greenbaum JCC Boston Jewish Book Fair happening in Newton, Mass.

Judy will participate in the “Up Close and Personal” discussion session led by Judith Rosenbaum of Jewish Women’s Archive.

Naomi Wolf, author of the new book “Vagina: A Cultural Exploration” (which Jaclyn Friedman and many others have reviewed) will also participate.

The program kicks off at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, 333 Nahanton Street, Newton, MA 02459.

The cost of the event is $5 for members of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston, and $8 for non-members.

We hope to see you there!

October 23, 2012

Educate Congress – Highlights from Our Bodies Ourselves at the National Press Club

National Press Club OBOS event

Marion McCartney, Cindy Pearson, Diana Zuckerman, Judy Norsigian, Erin Thornton, Vivian Pinn with National Press Club organizer Debra Silimeo / Photo: Angela Edwards

It’s official: Washington knows we’re coming.

Our Bodies Ourselves kicked off the Educate Congress campaign Monday at the National Press Club, joined by some of the smartest and most influential experts on women’s health. The campaign aims to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to every member of the U.S. House and Senate.

Judy Norsigian, OBOS founder and executive director, spoke about the clear need to provide Congress with accurate, evidence-based information, particularly in the wake of some outlandish and indeed dangerous comments about women’s bodies.

Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, said, “What seems to be going on somewhat right now is public figures’ willingness to make statements of fact that are so badly wrong.”

Other speakers included Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families; Erin Thornton, executive director of Every Mother Counts; Vivian Pinn, former director (retired) of the Office of Research on Women’s Health and Marion McCartney, CNM, a pioneer nurse-midwife who founded the first freestanding birth center in the D.C. area.

Coverage of the event and the campaign is available from numerous media, including Washington Examiner and Agence France-Presse (love the headline: “‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ earmarked for US politicians”). Pearson also gave a great interview on FOX 5 in D.C.

We’re indebted to Malcolm M. Woods, who did a terrific job live-tweeting the event using the hashtag #OBOSCongress (tweets are still available if you want to check ‘em out), and without whom this whole event would not have been possible.

Campaign supporter and Every Mother Counts founder Christy Turlington ended up not being able to make the event, but she sent out this message in support:

Let’s Educate Congress! ”everyone deserves access 2!accurate women’s health info & sex-ed!” @oboshealth #OBOSCongress

Keep watching this blog and Twitter and Facebook for more campaign updates. We’ve already passed the 15 percent mark of our $25,000 goal to send books to all members of Congress. Huge thanks to all of our supporters!

Please consider pitching in today to help us meet our goal. We’re offering perks for donations of all sizes — but perhaps the greatest perk is knowing you, too, helped to educate Congress.

October 19, 2012

Big Announcement! Our Bodies Ourselves Launches “Educate Congress” Campaign

Remember when Christine and The Ladydrawers took a road trip to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and other educational materials to the Missouri offices of Rep. Todd Akin and Sen. Claire McCaskill?

This time, with your help, we’re sending the book to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

We’ve launched Educate Congress, an initiative to raise $25,000 to provide members of Congress with accurate, evidence-based information about women’s bodies and reproductive health — and work to ensure that related legislation is based on this information. Nothing less than the future of our health care legislation is at stake.

For as little as $5, you can help us reach our goal and receive one of the great perks, such as a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” signed by Gloria Steinem or original art by The Ladydrawers, commemorating the Missouri Sex Ed Road Trip. There are buttons, stickers, tote bags and, of course, books. And all donors make the “I Educated Congress” honor roll!

This press release has more on the campaign. Plus we have more exciting news! A National Press Club Newsmaker event will be held on Monday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. Women’s health experts will discuss the campaign and the central importance of evidence-based reproductive health policy in women’s lives. Speakers include:

• Judy Norsigian, executive director and founder, Our Bodies Ourselves
• Christy Turlington Burns, global maternal health advocate and founder, Every Mother Counts
• Dr. Vivian Pinn, former director (retired), Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health

Representatives of leading women’s groups, such as Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president, National Research Center for Women & Families, and Cindy Pearson, executive director, National Women’s Health Network, will also be available to answer questions concerning public policy and what Congress can do to improve women’s health.

In the coming weeks, we’ll cover policies and legislation related to women’s health that are not based on the best available scientific evidence (such as the controversy over making contraception available as core preventive care available without a co-pay). And we’ll discuss policies Congress should support.

Please join us in educating Congress and share this campaign with your friends. We have our work cut out for us, but together we can make a difference!

August 23, 2012

Road Trip: Delivering “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and Sex Education Books to Rep. Todd Akin

Why mail the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” when you can deliver it in person? Yes, a Chicago-to-Missouri road trip to Rep. Todd Akin’s office begins this afternoon to deliver copies of the newly revised and updated 40th anniversary edition of the landmark book.**

Seriously, who needs accurate women’s health information more than a member of Congress who thinks women can magically ward off pregnancies if their rape was “legitimate”? (So, what amazing feats have you accomplished with your uterus today?)

I’m traveling with the always awesome Anne Elizabeth Moore and a crew of Ladydrawers – Sara Drake, Rachel N. Swanson and Nicole Boyett - who are packing art supplies and snacks, making us pretty much invincible.

Our journey to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Akin’s office will kick off at Women & Children First in Chicago, where we’ll scoop up their four remaining copies of the book and combine it with other educational reading material. Then we’ll hit the highway, 55 South to be precise. Wave when we go by!

Our plan is to deliver the books in person Friday morning at Akin’s St. Louis office. Stay tuned for updates from the road, and if you’re not already following us on Facebook or Twitter, start now.

In the meantime, how can you show your support for an educated Congress that believes rape is rape, period, and all women deserve access to basic reproductive health services? Visit and join us!

**Hat tip to St. Louis Post-Dispatch Book Editor Jane Henderson, whose writing inspired this road trip.


June 27, 2012

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” Part of Library of Congress’s “Books that Shaped America” Exhibit

The original edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has been named one of the Library of Congress’s “Books that Shaped America,” a list of important works “intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives.”

As the LoC press release describes:

In the early 1970s a dozen Boston feminists collaborated in this groundbreaking publication that presented accurate information on women’s health and sexuality based on their own experiences. Advocating improved doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” explored ways for women to take charge of their own health issues and to work for political and cultural change that would ameliorate women’s lives.

If you’ll be in Washington, DC between June 25th and September 29th of this year, there will be an accompanying exhibit, part of a multi-year “Celebration of the Book.”

OBOS fans everywhere can complete the LoC’s survey about the list, your chance to pick OBOS from the list as a book that shaped America and personally touched your life.

To learn more about our history, check out this page and accompanying timeline. We also encourage fans of the work to check out our latest, 40th anniversary edition!

April 17, 2012

Support OBOS and Get Signed Copies of Our New Book and “Voices of the Women’s Health Movement”

cover image for Voices of the Women's Health MovementBarbara Seaman, co-founder of the National Women’s Health Network, noted feminist, women’s health activist, and author, died in 2008, but her work advocating for women’s health remains as an influence and inspiration.

Seaman’s influential works include her 1969 book, “The Doctors’ Case against the Pill,” which led to Congressional hearings on oral contraception and ultimately to the labeling of birth control pills, and her 2003 book, “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth,” an important work on estrogen use and misuse.

A new book, “Voices of the Women’s Health Movement,” edited by Seaman with Laura Eldrigde, has just been published. The book, the second in a two-part series, includes classic essays and contemporary works on topics including birth control, pregnancy and birth, aging and menopause, abortion, LGBT health, sex, mental health, chronic illness, violence against women, and body image.  The role of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and Our Bodies, Ourselves in the women’s health movement is also addressed.

The book features more than 200 contributors, including Jennifer Baumgardner, Susan Brownmiller, Phyllis Chesler, Angela Davis, Barbara Ehrenreich, Germaine Greer, Shulamith Firestone, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Erica Jong, Molly Haskell, Shere Hite, Susie Orbach, Judith Rossner, Alix Kates Shulman, Gloria Steinem, Sojourner Truth, Rebecca Walker, and many others, including Seaman herself.

Library Journal called it “a valuable work for anyone interested in the women’s health movement.” OBOS co-founder Judy Norsigian adds, “Barbara was one of the founding mother’s of the current women’s health movement and her prolific writings remain as testimonials to her indefatigable spirit and ability to inspire others to much-needed action.”

We are offering signed copies of both “Voices of a Women’s Health Movement” and the new edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for donations of $150 or more. To receive your copies, donate online and then email your name and mailing address to

March 14, 2012

Reading Religion and the Body and Private Bodies, Public Texts

It’s been too long since I visited The Scholar & Feminist online, a webjournal published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), but I’m glad I chose now to get reacquainted. The current issue is “Religion and the Body,” and it’s well worth a visit.

Guest editor Dominic Wetzel asks in the introduction: “What role does gender, sexuality and the body play in producing the idea that religion, and particularly politicized religion, is equal to conservatism, while secularism is progressive?”

Originally posed during a 2007 conference, “The Politics of Religion and Sexuality,” the question frames this journal issue in both expected and unexpected ways. Divided into three parts, the issue tackles Science, Bodies and the Christian Secular; Islam, Bodies, Politics; and The Art of Queer(ing) Religion.

All articles can be read free online. The issue also includes a related reading list and online resources. And don’t miss the art gallery, featuring a provocative mix of video, mixed media, cartoons and photos. I was particularly struck by “Phallometer,” a deceptively simple piece by Ins Kromminga that captures the restrictive boundaries that define one’s sex.

Plus: BCRW is hosting a public event March 21 that readers in the New York area may be interested in attending. The focus is Karla FC HollowayPrivate Bodies, Pubic Texts ‘s new book, “Private Bodies, Public Texts: Race, Gender, and a Cultural Bioethics.” From the event description:

This important and groundbreaking work examines instances where medical issues and information that would usually be seen as intimate, private matters are forced into the public sphere, calling for a new cultural bioethics that attends to the complex histories of race, gender, and class in the US.

Holloway, the James B. Duke Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University, will take part in a conversation that also includes:

* Tina Campt, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Africana Studies Program at Barnard College.
* Farah Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies and Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University.
* Saidiya Hartman, Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University.
* Rebecca Jordan-Young, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at Barnard College.
* Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University.

The salon starts at 6:30 p.m. in Sulzberger Parlor, 3rd Floor Barnard Hall. I’m seriously hoping Holloway’s book travels take her to Chicago sometime soon …

February 9, 2012

New Book: “Health First! The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide”

We’re looking forward to checking out the new book from the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Health First! The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide, which one reviewer called a great gift “for an African-American woman for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or for no other reason than ‘because.’”

According to the website:

Health First explores Black women’s most critical health challenges, connecting the dots through honest discussions with experts and the uncensored stories of real women—from adolescence through adulthood. The focus is on prevention and awareness, across generations and circumstances—from candid conversations about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS to frank explorations of Black women’s Top 10 Health Risks, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and violence.

Authors Eleanor Hinton Hoytt and Hilary Beard are doing a number of events around the country over the next couple of months – check out the schedule online.

January 4, 2012

OBOS Global Symposium Spotlights Challenges to Securing Health, Human Rights

This article was recently published in OBOS’s winter newsletter. View the full newsletter.

* * *

“I did training for more than 5,000 women across the country, and all their stories and all their experiences are in Our Bodies, Ourselves. Along with the stories and political activism, we started brokering power at the personal as well as at the political level. As of this moment, we have something to celebrate.”

Those words were spoken by Renu Rajbhandari, a prominent women’s rights activist in Nepal, during our 40th anniversary symposium, Our Bodies, Our Future: Advancing Health and Human Rights for Women and Girls, on Oct. 1. Co-hosted with Boston University, the event marked four decades of activism and celebrated our evolution from a small group around a kitchen table in the United States to a vibrant network of social change activists at the table in countries around the world.

Held in conjunction with the release of the ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” the symposium was also an opportunity to meet 12 of our global partners, including Renu, and listen to their extraordinary journeys of claiming and transforming this landmark book for the women and girls of their countries. Renu referred to the effort as a “transcreation.”

Many women talked about the cultural, political and social challenges to their activism and the relationships and networks they have built in order to effect change. (View videos from symposium, including the global panels.)

The book’s impact and legacy was described by many speakers, including local luminaries. In a video welcome, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recalled how he was 15 years old when “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was first published; it was considered “racy,” yet filled with information that made him “a better person, and certainly a better partner.”

Robert Meenan, dean of Boston University School of Public Health, offered a formal welcome, followed by an all-star cast of women’s health advocates, including Byllye Avery, founder of the Avery Institute for Social Change and the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Adrienne Germain, president emerita of the International Women’s Health Coalition. Marie Turley, executive director of the Boston Women’s Commission, brought greetings from Mayor Tom Menino, who had declared Oct. 1 Our Bodies Ourselves Day in the city of Boston.

These terrific presenters, and our energetic emcee, Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action and the Media and a contributor to the new edition, spoke about the personal impact “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has had on their lives and the important role played by organizations like OBOS in realizing health equality and human rights, while at the same time reminding the audience of the sizeable challenges ahead.

They symposium paid tribute to the 14 OBOS founders who changed the world of women’s health 40 years ago. Sam Morgan Lilienfeld and Judah Rome, sons of deceased founders Pamela Morgan and Esther Rome, shared memories of their mothers – not only as feminist moms, but as powerful and positive role models.

“My mom viewed birth as an experience that has the power to change and define the life of a woman,” Sam said, “and her spirit of embracing and celebrating these major life events, which we sometimes may welcome and sometimes greet with trepidation, is something I’ve always admired.”

In his remarks about Esther completing the manuscript of “Sacrificing Ourselves for Love” just before her death in 1995, Judah said: “Watching my mom through the final months of her life was very painful for me, but it taught me how to live.” He told the audience he had hoped that her legacy would live on, adding, “I can tell from the energy in the room that it does.”

Our courageous global partners have used “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to develop and bring culturally unique health and sexuality information to their own communities. In addition to the challenges they encounter, they also discussed their success negotiating with power brokers – from men and matriarchs in the family, to religious leaders and heads of institutions.

Their stories of transformation, in Tanzania, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Serbia, India, Nepal, Senegal and Latin America, were reminiscent of the journey taken by OBOS founders 40 years ago. The parallel between the two groups of women was palpable and confirmed that not only has the book gone global, but it continues to inspire movement building by and for women and girls in every region of the world.

Loretta Ross, national coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, closed the day, firing up the audience by reminding everyone of the very real threats to women’s reproductive and sexual rights in the United States and around the world. Even so, she said the global partners’ activism and their use of the human rights framework made her “excited and optimistic” about the future.

As the day started with reminiscences of the 1960s and 70s, it ended with a freshly-stoked fire in the belly. OBOS is at the forefront of changing the lives of women and girls and will continue this work in the U.S. and around the world — into the next 40 years and beyond.

June Tsang is the program associate for the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative