Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

December 29, 2011

Good Journalism: The Story of a Transgender Youth and Her Family

Earlier this month, The Boston Globe published a story that deserves special mention before resuming our holiday break.

The story starts by comparing identical twins, two boys who grew up with distinctly different personalities and interests. As Bella English writes:

Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.

Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.

You see where this is going. What makes it a must-share read is the family’s forthrightness in discussing the difficult decisions they made to ensure Wyatt, now 14 and named Nicole, is able to grow up in a world in which she feels loved, safe and welcomed.

Having read so many superficial or gee-whiz stories on transgender children and adults, this one will be remembered for its honesty and emotion, especially coming from Nicole’s father, Wayne, 53. Here’s just one example:

Last winter, Maine state representative Kenneth Fredette, a Republican from Penobscot County, sponsored a bill that would have repealed protections for transgender people in public restrooms, instead allowing schools and businesses to adopt their own policies. The bill was a response to the Maines’ 2009 lawsuit against the Orono School District.

Last spring Wayne and Nicole roamed the halls of the State House, button-holing legislators and testifying against the bill. “I’d be in more danger if I went into the boys bathroom,’’ Nicole told the lawmakers, who ultimately rejected the bill.

“She knows how to work a room,’’ her father says proudly. “She even convinced a cosponsor to vote the other way.’’

In October, the family was honored for its activism in helping defeat the transgender bathroom bill. The Maineses received the Roger Baldwin Award, named for a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, from the Maine chapter of the ACLU.

Surrounded by Kelly and the kids, Wayne told the audience that he and his wife have had top-notch guides as they confronted the unknown.

“As a conventional dad, hunter, and former Republican, it took me longer to understand that I never had two sons,’’ he told them. “My children taught me who Nicole is and who she needed to be.’’

Go read the whole thing. And also see “What If Your Child Says, I’m In The Wrong Body?” — an NPR interview with endocrinologist Norman Spack, co-founder of the Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Spack has worked with 30 transgender youth (including Nicole) and their families on the emotional and medical issues, particularly in adolescence.

Gunner Scott and Craig Norberg-BohmPlus: In related news this year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed and the governor signed into law the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, extending civil rights and hate crimes protections to transgender residents of that state. At left is a photo of Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, an advocate of the bill, and Craig Norberg-Bohm, coordinator for the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe.

Both men contributed to the new edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves“; Scott’s piece, an adaptation of his remarks at the Jane Doe organization’s White Ribbon Day rally in 2010, explains how violence against transgender people is related to violence against women.

Finally, we’re looking forward to hearing more in 2012 about the forthcoming book “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves,” a resource guide for the transgender population, covering health and legal issues, along with cultural and social questions, history and theory. Check out the list of contributors and topics.

December 6, 2011

New “Our Bodies, Ourselves” a 2011 Library Journal Best Book!

Our Bodies, Ourselves CoverWe are delighted that Library Journal, a source of book reviews and professional information for librarians, has named the new Our Bodies Ourselves 40th anniversary edition one of its Best Books 2011 in the consumer health category.

Library Journal notes the incorporation of global perspectives and says the updated and revised title is “aging superbly.” Other recent mentions in the journal have called the edition “essential for public and medical libraries,” and “…still the bible for women’s health; an outstanding resource that belongs in all health collections.”

We’re always excited to get some love from the library community. In fact, the chapter on Navigating the Health Care System includes the following mention of librarians and libraries alongside other information about accessing and evaluating health information:

Increasingly, people can obtain access to research studies and other professional publications such as clinical guidelines through open access journals, through public access articles, or by requesting articles from a library. One benefit of using a library is that a trained librarian may be able to search for you or show you how to make the best use of databases. Some hospitals or treatment centers have libraries and services to help patients learn more about their condition. State universities with medical schools are often required to make their medical libraries open to the public, and the medical librarians at those institutions can offer expert assistance.

Still need to buy a copy of the new edition for yourself, a gift, or your library? Check out our information about online ordering and clinic discounts!

November 22, 2011

Sexuality, Pleasure & Safety: How to Know What You Really Really Want

What you Really Really Want book coverImagine if sex education covered not only important information about how to protect your health and prevent unwanted pregnancy, but also how to have really good sex — including how to know what you want and how to value your needs and desires along with your partner’s.

As The New York Times Magazine reported this past weekend, a truly comprehensive sex-ed class does exist — one that gives as much weight to female orgasm as to navigating complex emotional and physical terrain. Sexuality and Society is a highly regarded senior elective at Friends’ Central School, a co-ed, Quaker, college preparatory day school in Philadelphia.

Now what if there were a book — a workbook of sorts — that could be used in a class like this, and made available to teens and young adults everywhere who don’t have a progressive forum for discussing sexuality?

Luckily for everyone, that book exists.

What You Really Really Want” is the latest title on sex and sexuality by Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of the 2008 hit anthology “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape,” and a contributor to the 2011 edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” In her new book, Friedman takes on the role of your smartest, most honest, least judgmental, down-to-earth friend, serving as a helpful guide through 11 chapters on defining, understanding and owning your sexuality.

The book’s subtitle — “The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety” — explains the roadmap within. To make the most of this excursion, Friedman encourages readers to do two things: Write every day, with a pen or keyboard, and love your body — and not just in general; you should spend at least 30 minutes a week doing something that “makes you feel nothing but good.”

Jaclyn FriedmanOne of the book’s elements that readers will find particularly useful are the “dive-in” exercises that encourage thinking through how to apply what you’ve read to your own circumstances. At various times, Friedman pauses and encourages you to ask questions, assess your comfort zone, and identify the tools you need to overcome barriers to expressing your sexuality. These check-ins come across as authentic, which is difficult to pull-off on the printed page. That success is largely due to Friedman’s engaging writing style and genuine concern for women’s health and safety; she is the founder and executive director of Women, Action & the Media, which works for gender justice in media, and has been an outspoken advocate for challenging the ways society shames women.

The first chapter, aptly titled “You Can’t Get What You Want Till You Know What You Want,” opens with a discussion of influences on sexuality, from family and religion to our peers and partners. Friedman also provides a concise summary of confusing media messages that limit women to a “teeny window of ‘correct’ sexuality” combined with artificial ideals, followed by a dive-in exercise on media representations of women:

Dive In: Think back to some adolescent media crushes—that song or album you listened to over and over, the magazine subscription you thought would change your life, the book you picked up again and again, the movie you imagined yourself starring in, the video game you played and played and played, the TV show you just couldn’t miss. What drew you to these particular experiences? What, if anything, did they say to you about sexuality? What lessons did you learn from them that you’ve since rejected, and what did you learn that you still adhere to today? If you could go back and tell your adolescent self something about your media choices, what would it be? Get out your journal, and write about it for five minutes.

“What You Really Really Want” gradually shifts from looking at external influences that can prevent women from developing their own sexual identity to exploring different identities and assumptions about sexuality. Following sections on gender and sexual orientation, readers encounter this exercise:

Dive In: Make a list of all the words you can think of that you’ve used yourself or heard someone else use to describe someone’s sexual orientation. Don’t hold back—list the slang and slur words right alongside the more formal terms. Next, cross out every word that you think no one should ever use about anyone. Then cross out every word that you personally would never use to describe someone else. Then, of the remaining words, cross out every one that you wouldn’t want anyone else to use when describing you. Lastly, cross out any word that’s left that you would never use to describe yourself.

Write all of the words that are left in a new list. How do they make you feel? Do they describe your sexual orientation? Are there facets of your orientation that words don’t exist for? If you feel like it, invent a word that helps fill in those gaps.

It may seem like a lot of self-analysis, but that’s exactly what’s needed. As The New York Times Magazine article points out, teens have a difficult time articulating their own desires, in part due to the abundance of manufactured sexual imagery that creates false and harmful standards for what we (or our partners) should look like naked and how we should act.

Friedman wisely concentrates on the individual reader before expanding the discussion to include sexual partners. And even then, Friedman doesn’t offer advice on how to find a compatible sexual partner; rather, she helps the reader to define what compatability even means:

We all get dealt a different hand when it comes to what we’re capable of, and we all need partners who contribute different things. Is it important that your sexual partners are funny? Smart? Good dancers? Sweet with children? Great at communication? This is where you can get specific about bedroom skills, too: How talented does your partner need to be in the sack, and what qualifies as sexual talent to you?

Once you figure out what qualities you want in a partner, it’s time to add another layer of choosiness: How important is each quality to you? Because, let’s get real, nobody’s perfect, and you’re unlikely to find someone who simultaneously checks all of your boxes. Maybe you’d love to have a partner who is really athletic, but you wouldn’t rule out someone who was less active. On the other hand, it may be a total deal breaker if your partner doesn’t like to read. Get clear on what’s cake vs. what’s icing, and you’ll be steering yourself toward what you really really want before you know it.

Making a list for ourselves is one thing, but healthy sexual relationships require honesty with our partners about pleasure and safety.

“Talking freely about sex and safety with your partners not only makes sex more fun and relaxed—because you’re worrying less and getting more of what you really really want—but also makes it easier to tell the great partners from the ones you want to avoid before you get too hurt,” writes Friedman. “And that information means your intuition will get better and better, which means you’ll get even better at knowing your own desires and boundaries and finding people who can simultaneously respect and satisfy you. In short: It’s the best possible kind of positive-feedback loop.”

Besides offering examples of what, how and when to communicate, Friedman also provides an exercise that returns to the personal history and influences that can block us from advocating for our own needs:

Dive In: Pay attention this week to the times when you’re not speaking up. Do you want seconds at dinner but are afraid to say so? Do you actually want to wear that outfit, or are you doing it because you think someone else will like it on you? Did your friend or partner hurt your feelings, but you aren’t letting them know? Make a note each time it happens. Then, when you’ve got some time, pick one example and write about what it felt like. And then write about what it might have felt like if you had gone the other way and spoken on your own behalf.

Students at Friends’ Central School are fortunate to have a terrific teacher and a supportive educational environment that encourages exploration of these issues. Maybe, just maybe, other schools will start to follow suit. For the rest of us — and for those forward-minded sexuality classes — “What You Really Really Want” can make a lifetime of difference.

Excerpts of “What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety” are printed by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Photo credit: Mandy Lussier. This post is a stop in Jaclyn’s blog tour. Check out yesterday’s stop at WIMN’s Voices. If you’re in the Chicago area, join me on Nov. 30 as Jaclyn reads from her book at Women & Children First (7:30 p.m.).

February 2, 2011

OBOS Stories – Share Your Own!

In honor of OBOS’s 40th anniversary, we are collecting people’s stories about their first experiences with Our Bodies, Ourselves. Did you secretly read the book as a teenager? Or did your mom or cool aunt give you a copy? Did it inspire you to learn more about your own body or to get involved in women’s health advocacy? We want to hear your stories, and hope you’ll help us celebrate this milestone by sharing them with us!

To submit your own story of how OBOS has touched your life, visit

Stories will be posted to the blog; you can remain anonymous if you prefer. Check out the great stories others are sharing.

October 27, 2010

Tell Us Your “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Story

At the recent Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare Advocacy Summit and joint colloquium of the Cochrane and Campbell Collaborations (#ccckeystone), I met many interesting people with fond memories of their first experiences with the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” book. I loved hearing these stories, about how a small group of friends used the book to perform self-exams, how it motivated women to advocate for themselves or become active in women’s health and rights, and the many other ways in which the landmark book has inspired so many people.

Believe it or not, 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the first edition of the book. As part of the celebration, OBOS is releasing a new edition of the book and hosting a symposium that will bring together women who are culturally adapting and transforming “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into different formats for use in their own countries.

We’ ll be writing more about these events over the course of the next year, but for now, we invite you to share your own stories. If you have an OBOS story – however brief, or however “small” it may seem to you – please share it with us. We love to hear it, and plan to use the stories in conjunction with our 40th anniversary celebration and book release next year.

For more information on the upcoming anniversary and book, including how to support the new edition, check out our anniversary page.  Also check out our history section for lots of cool and interesting information about how the book came to be and the impact it has had over the years.

September 10, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

cover image for the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksEarlier this week, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Rebecca Skloot, author of recently published book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Henrietta Lacks was a poor, Black woman whose cervical cancer cells were taken in the course of her treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins in the 1950s. Her cells were the first “immortal” cells — cells kept alive in culture – and went on to be widely used in medical research.

Henrietta’s cells were used in the development of the polio vaccine, were sent up in early space missions, and are mentioned in tens of thousands of research papers.

Rebecca Skloot’s book chronicles the history of Henrietta Lacks and her cells (dubbed “HeLa” cells), as well as Skloot’s  journey uncovering the story.

Lacks and her family never knew about the vast body of research that was being conducted using the cells, or even that the cells had been taken and used for research at all.  She and her family never benefited financially from the selling of HeLa cells. While Henrietta is long dead, her children and grandchildren still struggle to get medical care, and do not have health insurance.

In the course of her talk, Skloot read snippets of the book and discussed questions of ethics, race and class raised by the story. She talked about whether the family should be compensated, the kind of medical care Henrietta received in John Hopkins’s “colored” ward,  and the past and current use of cells and tissue from people’s biopsies and other procedures for later medical research (which may make money for biotechnology corporations). It was really interesting, and I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in these issues.

Skloot has established the Henrietta Lacks Foundation to fund scholarships and medical care for members of the Lacks family. She also blogs about her work. The text of an interview earlier this year with Skloot on NPR’s Fresh Air is available here.

September 7, 2010

Our Book, Their Inspiration: Riffing on “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Over the years, the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has inspired more than simply an enlightened perspective on women’s health — it  has also inspired many title adaptations. To wit: “Our Bodies, Our Cars,” “Our Bodies, Our Quantified Selves,” “Our Bodies, Our Stilettos” … the list goes on.

More poignantly, Jaclyn Friedman recently broke the silence around women’s sexual freedom with a must-read post at Feministe titled “My Sluthood, Myself.”

Now comes a new sexual guidebook for the 21st century entitled (are you sitting down?) “Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.”

The satire comes to us from The Association for the Betterment of Sex, a male collective of sorts that includes comedy writers from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the publications McSweeney’s, The Onion and Esquire.

I’ll qualify this by noting I haven’t read it (review copy, hello?), but a few compelling topics include everything from outmoded masturbation slang (“Going on tour with Midnight Oil” is apparently out) to the top five pastry-related euphemisms for female genitalia. The book also lists “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” dry-cleaning services “for freshening up your vinyl fetishwear or adult-sized Tigger costume.”

For a bit of a preview, the Huffington Post has posted a slide show of favorite info-graphics from the book. You can also enjoy short bits of wisdom from the book’s Twitter feed. Most recent tweet: “Ever made love in a cranberry bog? Sound off!” (Where’s the hashtag?)

For a another satirical perspective, check out “The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex,” written by “Daily Show” correspondent Kristen Schaal and her boyfriend, “Daily Show” staff writer Rich Blomquist.

“Given the couple’s impeccable comic credentials and the evident affection they showed during a joint interview at a Midtown bar not far from the Daily Show studios, it’s no surprise that The Sexy Book Of Sexy Sex is a charming comedy love-child, mixing The Daily Show’s textbook parodies with extended prose pieces that riff on romance novels and pornographic science fiction,” writes Sam Adams in the intro to The Onion’s Q&A with the authors.

We’re used to the appropriation of OBOS for satirical purposes. It wasn’t too long ago that Steven Colbert was throwing the latest edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” on the yule log as part of the book-burning extras on his “A Colbert Christmas” DVD. And Colbert has long used a skeleton reading OBOS for his “Cheating Death” segment.

You know what they say: A sense of humor is really sexy.

Plus: Speaking of the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” book, we’re in the midst of writing a new edition — the 40th anniversary edition (!) — due out in fall 2011. Watch this space for more info on how to submit personal stories for revised chapters. You can also share your story about reading OBOS for the first time and the impact it had on you and your friends. And if you’d like to support these endeavors, you or someone you’d like to honor can be listed in the book. No kidding!

July 19, 2010

“Willing and Unable: Doctors’ Constraints in Abortion Care”

book cover for willing and unableLast week, Christine blogged about a New York Times article, “The New Abortion Providers,” that provides a detailed look at “the struggles of individual medical students and doctors to make abortion an accepted, integrated part of healthcare.”

For those interested in an even more thorough exploration of this topic, Lori Freedman’s “Willing and Unable: Doctors’ Constraints in Abortion Care” is a great resource. In fact, the Times piece mentions Freedman, in the context of a study she co-authored.

In the study, researchers interviewed 30 OB/GYNs with abortion training who said they wanted to provide abortions after residency. Once they were in practice, though, most of the OB/GYNs were not providing abortions, and the study examines the professional, personal and social reasons why they weren’t.

“Willing and Unable” provides more detail on these discussions with providers, focusing on the providers who are trained to provide abortion and not opposed to the practice — the willing — but who for various personal and structural reasons are unable to do so.

Freedman discusses the isolation of abortion into freestanding clinics, and the physicians she interviews describe the barriers to integrating abortion into normal medical care in group practices and hospitals, including group practice owners, personal attitudes, fear of stigma, financial and professional vulnerability early in their careers, HMO referral rules, and Catholic hospital networks that have made them unable to provide abortion to patients.

Ninety-seven percent of non-metropolitan U.S. counties lack abortion providers, and dedicated abortion clinics currently provide 93 percent of abortion procedures. Looking at these statistics, Freedman concludes that “threats, overt abortion prohibitions, and a medical culture of practice that distances itself from abortion” results in a “multilevel, institutionalized buck-passing that marginalizes abortion practice.”

She explains that “ultimately, willing and even highly motivated physicians find the current organization of health care all but prohibits abortion practice within mainstream medicine.”

In some cases, providers were more ambivalent and simply did not feel a degree of personal responsibility for providing abortions that would lead them to tackle certain barriers and inconveniences that could be overcome. In other cases, however, the providers would have liked to provide abortion but were prevented from doing so by strict policies and conditions of their employment or other structural barriers.

Freedman examines not only the reasons for but the outcomes of these barriers — such as cases encountered by interviewees who currently work in Catholic hospital networks and have been frustrated by their inability to provide abortions, even to women whose pregnancies were clearly unsuccessful and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Freedman makes the following recommendations for advocates to move beyond increasing access to abortion training (a key focus in previous decades):

  • Target physicians later in their careers, as they may experience less financial and professional vulnerability;
  • Work to increase the number of advanced practice clinicians (such as nurse practitioners and CNMs) who provide abortion services;
  • Call on HMOs and private physician practices to stop outsourcing abortion care to dedicated clinics and reduce the segregation of this service from mainstream medicine.

Overall, I found “Willing and Unable” to be a nuanced and fascinating exploration of the reasons why providers who are trained in and willing to provide abortions may not be doing so, which in turn contributes to the high percentage of U.S. areas with no local abortion provider.

While I have personally been more attuned to the issue of medical student training with regards to the provider portion of the access equation, Freedman’s work was quite informative in pointing out other important ways in which trained and willing physicians are currently prevented from reducing the provider shortage in the United States.

Readers may also be interested in this RHRealityCheck podcast discussion with Freedman, and two articles in the June 2010 issue of the journal Contraception by Freedman and her colleagues.

Note: “Willing and Unable” is published by my larger workplace’s university press, and I know the press’s marketing and new media staff.

October 29, 2009

Gail Collins on The Colbert Report

when_everything_changedNew York Times columnist Gail Collins appeared on The Colbert Report earlier this week to discuss her new book, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.”

in 1960, women were prohibited from serving on juries and it was perfectly legal to not hire women because of their sex. The book opens with the story of a woman who was kicked out of traffic court for daring to wear pants (and she was there to pay her boss’s ticket).

One of today’s biggest problems, said Collins, is that “half the workforce is female now, and we still haven’t figured out who’s supposed to take care of the kids.”

Colbert appeared shocked. “The women take care of the kids,” he said.

The reason, he added, is simply biological.

“I cannot produce milk. I’ve tried. It’s painful and it doesn’t work.”


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Gail Collins
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Religion

October 2, 2009

Reading List: Crash Course in Sex Ed for Adults

girls_who_went_awayFollowing up on the battle over funding for comprehensive sex education, here’s a list of 40 books and articles about sexuality that are well worth a look at any age.

Compiled by Anna Clark, who blogs at Isak, these texts cover not only the basics, but the complex policies and politics surrounding birth control, gender, race, abortion, adoption and more. From the introduction:

If we can agree that few teens learn about sexuality in an accurate, age-appropriate, and comprehensive way, then where does that leave adults who came through the same school systems they did? Many of us are still full of questions that we aren’t quite sure how to articulate. Few can claim that they’ve figured sex — and its social influence — out.

If you want to graduate to the next level of sexual health, pleasure, and social awareness, now’s your chance. Get yourself schooled with a crash course in sex ed for adults. From orgasms to organs, from contraceptives to court decisions, look to the reading list below for the can’t-miss books and articles about sex.

There are a number of titles here that I’ve been meaning to read, including such recent releases as “The Girl Who Went Away: Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade,” by Ann Fessler, and “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World,” by Michelle Goldberg. Any books on the list that you’d highly recommend, or other titles you would add?

August 31, 2009

Quick Hit: Emergency Contraception Survey is Back Up

If you tried taking the survey about emergency contraception and found it closed this weekend, it’s because the limit for the basic plan was reached.  The survey site has been upgraded, so please give it another try. Thanks!

And if this is the first you’re hearing of it, read our previous post about the book that Heather Munro Prescott, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University, is writing on the history of emergency contraception and how she could use your input.

August 27, 2009

Take a Survey on Using Emergency Contraception for Book on the History of EC

Have a few moments to take a survey about emergency contraception?

Heather Munro Prescott, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University, is writing a book on the history of emergency contraception, and she’s looking for input from women who have used EC — as well as input from their partners, health care providers and activists. Prescott is especially interested in hearing from women who used EC in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.


Yes, emergency contraception has been around for decades, though most of what we know about EC is connected to the FDA’s recent approval of over-the-counter access to Plan B, a progestin-only pill available to women as young as 17 without a prescription. It reduces a woman’s risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex (research indicates Plan B can be taken up to 120 hours after, but the pill is more effective the sooner it’s taken).

Other types of EC are described at the Emergency Contraception website, an independent, peer-reviewed resource operated by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. The website also links to Prescott’s survey.

Prescott, who  blogs at Knitting Clio – where you’ll find posts on medical historydisability studies and numerous other topics — outlined her project in an email to Our Bodies Ourselves:

This book will describe the history of emergency contraception from the 1960s until the present and place this story within the larger context of women’s health activism in the second half of the twentieth century. A major focus of the book will be the role women patients played in the dissemination of this technology. This project will show women not only as test subjects for this new method of birth control but also as active health care consumers.

In order to capture women’s experiences with emergency contraception, this project will use data from a survey administered through Survey Monkey:

While I’m covering the entire history of emergency contraception, my replies thus far have mostly been from women and men whose experience with ECP has been very recent. Therefore, I’m especially interested in getting responses from the earlier history of emergency contraception (aka the ”morning-after-pill”) in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Sounds like a great project, so if you have experience with EC, take the survey, or share the link.

July 16, 2009

New Anthology on Mothering & Hip-Hop Culture: Call for Papers

mother_knows_best_anthologyDemeter Press, the publishing division of the Association for Research on Mothering, is seeking submissions for an edited collection on mothering and hip hop to be published in 2011. The editors are Maki Motapanyane and Shana Calixte.

Previously published anthologies by Demeter Press include “Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog,” and “Mother Knows Best: Talking Back to the “Experts.”

Additional upcoming titles focus on intersections of mothering and disability, adoption and identifying as Latina/Chicana. One collection due out in 2010 that I definitely won’t miss: “The Palin Factor: Political Mothers and Public Motherhood in the 21st Century.”

Here’s the call for papers for the new book on mothering and hip hop. Contact information is at the bottom:

Motherhood is an experience that has been ever‑present yet invisible in the global music genre of Hip-Hop. Yet this aspect of women’s experiences within the movement has garnered little or no interest from journalists, writers and scholars of Hip-Hop culture. Nor do we have any understanding of how mothers who remain Hip-Hop enthusiasts negotiate their relationship to the culture of Hip‑Hop and its music with their children.

What are the spaces that motherhood occupies in Hip-Hop? Are there ways of understanding mothering in Hip-Hop along a historical continuum? What are some of the ways that motherhood complicates the very masculinist discourses around hip hop? How can we create an empowered and feminist Hip-Hop mothering, what would it look like and how would it challenge the status quo? How are mothers engaging with Hip-Hop, both locally and globally?

The aim of this collection is to give motherhood within Hip-Hop culture an intellectual point of entry into an existing field of academic debates. Themes that submitted proposals engage may include:

* Hip-Hop histories
* Masculinity
* Misogyny and violence
* Consumerism and capitalism
* The globalization and/or transnationality of Hip-Hop
* Cultural appropriation
* Political subversion
* Cultural diversity
* Feminist mothering
* Heterosexualities
* Queer identities and sexuality
* Aesthetic continuity and change
* Representation and the marketing of identities
* Other themes not mentioned here

We seek both creative and academic submissions that tackle the complex ways in which motherhood and Hip-Hop frame these and other discussions. Abstracts are welcome from a variety of academic disciplines and perspectives.

Abstracts: 250 words in length.
Deadline for Abstracts: August 1, 2009
Papers: 15-18 pages
Deadline for Papers: January 7, 2010

Please submit proposals to: Maki Motapanyane (maki AT and Shana Calixte (scalixte AT

June 15, 2009

Double Dose: NOW to Elect New President; Celebrity Weight Battles & Alternative “Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere”; “Nurse Jackie” Appalls Some Nurses; Barbara Ehrenreich on the Invisible Poor …

NOW’s Future: The 2009 National NOW Conference kicks off June 19 in Indianapolis. At issue is who will replace current NOW President Kim Gandy, who is stepping down after eight years: Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old black woman who has been one of Gandy’s three vice presidents, or Terry O’Neill, 56, a white activist who was NOW’s vice president for membership from 2001 to 2005.

Feministing’s Jessica Valenti is quoted in this Associated Press story on the election and NOW’s generational divide.

Plus: I don’t think I’ve linked yet to Katha Pollitt’s excellent piece in The Nation on feminism’s false waves. It begins:

Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes? Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone! Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it’s not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women’s movement — angry prudes versus drunken sluts — has recently taken on new life, including among feminists.

Losing Celebrity Weight Battles: When famous dieters like Kirstie Alley or Oprah Winfrey talk about being “disgusted” with their bodies, the comments have an effect beyond selling magazines.

“Kirstie looks the same as me, to the inch, height and weight,” Emily Schaibly Greene, 29, recently told The New York Times. “It took me a long time to get there, but I’m feeling good with how I look. But it’s difficult to keep liking the way I look when I’m reading that it’s gross.”

Lesley Kinzel, who writes for the blog Fatshionista, said, “When you have famous people turning their weight tribulations into mass-media extravaganzas, they’re contributing to a culture where passing comments on strangers’ bodies is considered O.K.”

lessons_from_the_fatospherePlus: Nia Vardalos, who rose to fame after starring in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” says her recent weight loss is all people want to talk about these days, pushing aside her personal and professional achievements. Her column is awesome.

And if you haven’t yet boughtLessons From the Fat-O-Sphere,” go. Author Kate Harding – founder of Shapely Prose and contributor to Broadsheet — is still on the book tour this month and is looking forward to speaking at colleges in the fall. 

Summer Reading List: From Women’s eNews: From sensational memoirs to serious sociology, check out what women are writing about and the prizes they’ve been snapping up so far in 2009. Sarah Seltzer has the goods.

Women’s Health Clinic to Close: The University of Chicago Medical Center is closing its women’s health clinic, an essential community health resource, at the end of the month. Ironically, this is being done under the Medical Center’s Urban Health Initiative; U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush has called for a congressional investigation into whether the Medical Center has engaged in “patient dumping” by steering the poor to other health facilities.

“Medical center executives have said the steep downturn in the economy has forced them to trim $100 million from the hospital’s budget to maintain running a prestigious hospital, research center and medical school. They also have said the Women’s Health Center, which cares for thousands of Medicaid patients, is a money loser,” reported the Chicago Tribune last month, in a story on protests against the closing.

Plus: While looking up information about the closing, I came across a 2008 New York Times story on Michelle Obama, who at that time was on leave from her job as vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Stories like this made me wonder what she could/would have done about the closing:

When the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, became available, researchers proposed approaching local school principals about enlisting black teenage girls as research subjects.

Obama stopped that. The prospect of white doctors performing a trial with black teenage girls summoned the specter of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the mid-20th century, when white doctors let hundreds of black men go untreated to study the disease.

Too Poor to Make the News: Over on The New York Times op-ed page, Barbara Ehrenreich has written the first in a series on how the recession affects people who don’t neatly fit the downwardly mobile narrative: the already poor.

“This demographic, the working poor, have already been living in an economic depression of their own,” writes Ehrenreich. “From their point of view ‘the economy,’ as a shared condition, is a fiction.” She continues:

The deprivations of the formerly affluent Nouveau Poor are real enough, but the situation of the already poor suggests that they do not necessarily presage a greener, more harmonious future with a flatter distribution of wealth. There are no data yet on the effects of the recession on measures of inequality, but historically the effect of downturns is to increase, not decrease, class polarization.

The recession of the ’80s transformed the working class into the working poor, as manufacturing jobs fled to the third world, forcing American workers into the low-paying service and retail sector. The current recession is knocking the working poor down another notch — from low-wage employment and inadequate housing toward erratic employment and no housing at all. Comfortable people have long imagined that American poverty is far more luxurious than the third world variety, but the difference is rapidly narrowing.

Edie Falco as Nurse JackieHealth Care & the Arts: NPR interviews Anna Deveare Smith about her show “Let Me Down Easy,” which is based on interviews with doctors and patients (previously discussed here). Her newest role: artist in residence at the Center for American Progress, which Smith will use as a perch for studying changes in Washington. Smith also plays a doctor in the new Showtime series “Nurse Jackie.”

Speaking of “Nurse Jackie,” David Bauder of the Associated Press notes that the ethically challenged nurse at the head of the show (wonderfully played by Edie Falco) has appalled some nurses — but is that a bad thing for Showtime? Well, no.

Apologies from California: I meant to post this next one when it first came out, but I still think it’s amusing — San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford would like you to know California is really, really sorry about the whole Prop 8 thing.

Meanwhile, tony Greenwich, Conn., has become wedding central for same-sex New York couples who no longer have to drive as far as Massachussetts. California sure could have used money spent on wedding bliss.

May 28, 2009

Raising Money for Hebrew and Arabic Versions of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” One Step at a Time

Last month, a marathon in Tel Aviv drew runners raising money for a number of different causes — including an adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Sophie Walsh, a clinical psychologist who moved from London to Tel Aviv in 1994, ran in support of Women and Their Bodies: The Women’s Association for Health Action and Responsibility. Founded in Israel in 2005, Women and Their Bodies (WTB) is an Israeli-Palestinian initiative that is adapting “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into Hebrew and Arabic.

“This version will be up-to-date for this decade, making it available to all women in Israel regardless of their native tongue,” Walsh told the Haaretz newspaper.

The OBOS global translation/adaptation program was recently featured in On the Issues magazine. The story explains how each international project is specific to the community’s health needs and social and political conditions.

We haven’t discussed the Israeli-Palestinian project in detail here before, so here’s some news about the effort.

WTB has more than 40 Hebrew and Arabic chapters in progress, and the goal is to publish the Hebrew edition in 2010. The Arabic edition will appear first online and as booklets — two of which will be published by the end of the year — with a book publication date to be announced soon.

women_and_their_bodiesThe organization is working with Jewish and Arab groups to localize the material and has collaborated with numerous women’s and human rights organizations. WTB has also recruited teams of volunteers, Hebrew and/or Arabic-speaking, between the ages of 21 and 65, to conduct interviews for the personal narratives present in every chapter.

A graphics committee is charged with making sure that the book’s images are representative of women’s bodies in the Middle East and include women of varied religious and ethnic backgrounds. According to WTB’s 2008 annual report, dozens of women have already volunteered images, including those shown here.

In addition to the Arabic and Hebrew publications, WTB is creating an online action and resource center, with links to women’s organizations and blogs providing updates on health legislation.

The organization also runs community outreach workshops on women’s health rights and sexuality. Facilitator Suzaan Abu-Waasel led a workshop on women’s body image and empowerment for the older women’s club at the Arab Jewish Community Center in Jaffa. Here’s what she said at the end of the session:

Asking the women aged 45-60 to put their social commitments aside and focus on their own bodies and wellbeing, was an extremely challenging task. Much patience is needed to raise taboo topics.

Many of the participants focused on good parenting, or their relationships with their in-laws; the concept of taking care of ones’ self was rather alien at first … I am thrilled to tell you that their group coordinator now reports an overflow of critical discussions.

It costs approximately $5,000 to produce each chapter. If you and a group of friends or an organization want to sponsor a chapter in the Hebrew or Arabic adaptation, you can make a secure electronic donation, or write a check to “Women and Their Bodies,” and mail it to 34 Kfar Etzion St. Jerusalem, Israel 93392.

Smaller sums go directly to support sections of chapters, such as the narrative collection, or the linguistic editing in the chapter of your choice.

For a U.S. tax deduction (minimum $100), make out a check to “New Israel Fund.” Write in the memo line that it is a donor advised contribution to Women and Their Bodies – Fund ID #5459, and mail it to NIF, 1101 14th St, 6th Floor, Washington D.C. 20005-5639.

Let us know if you want additional information about this or other OBOS adaptations. Projects are currently also underway in China, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, Tanzania and Turkey.