Archive for the ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ Category

September 1, 2011

Wonderful for young women then and now…

by Diane Kirse

I am 56 years old.  When I was growing up my mother, who was a widow, never ever discussed sex or anything related to sex with me. I did get help however from the first edition of  “Our Bodies, Our Selves.”  It was a groundbreaking book for its time and I have tried and tried but cannot find my first copy, which I kept for years.  Just know that your work was wonderful for young women then and now. Keep up the good work.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

August 29, 2011

Celebrate With Our Bodies, Ourselves: 40th Birthday Cabaret Show in Cambridge

Our Bodies, Ourselves Turns 40!Ready to party in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Our Bodies, Ourselves? Then get ready for a cabaret fundraiser on Thursday, September 22, at OBERON, the second stage of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, Mass.

“The show features women in charge of their bodies, their creativity, and their self-expression,” said Our Bodies Ourselves board member and cabaret producer, Nancy Allen, “but it is primarily about having a great time and celebrating a milestone in women’s health history. This cabaret show is not just a fundraiser for a good cause, but also a fun and entertaining evening out for anyone who loves women.”

Cabaret acts include acrobatics, belly dance, burlesque, live music, hula hooping, tap dance, poetry, and comedy. Local comedian Robin Maxfield will emcee the event. Performances include:

* Four-part harmonies and acoustic music from adam&eve
* Dance performances by Vadalna Tribal Dance Company and Boston Tap Company
* Comedy by Jenny Zigrino, Marcy Goldberg Sacks, and Rachel Kahn
* Gender-bending and gender-blending clowning of Johnny Blazes
* Poetry and spoken word by Lady Rose and UnAmerika’s Sweetheart Karin Webb
* Partner acrobatics from Marci Diamond & Teresa Kochis of the Boston Circus Guild
* Burlesque performances by Sugar Dish (The Slutcracker, Babes in Boinkland), Mary Widow (Black Cat Burlesque), and Rogue Burlesque
* Jazz vocals of Lilly Bordeaux
* Rosie the Riveter-themed hula hooping by Little L and Lolli Hoops of the Boston Hoop Troop

“We’re thrilled that such a diverse and talented cast of performers will be donating their time for what is sure to be a great show,” said Allen. “They will make our birthday one to remember!”

Co-producer and fellow Our Bodies Ourselves board member Heather Nelson said, “Many of the performers told us how much impact the book had on their lives, their health, and their self-confidence. For many women and men, Our Bodies, Ourselves has had a lasting and life-long impact. And that is worth celebrating.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and show is at 8 p.m. Tickets and more information are available at the OBERON website,  All proceeds and ticket sales will go directly to Our Bodies Ourselves.

The 40th Birthday Bash is one of several anniversary-related events including: A global symposium, “Our Bodies, Our Future: Advancing Health and Human Rights for Women and Girls,” on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Boston University (there is now a waiting list only for this event); the release of the ninth edition of the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” book, which will be available for sale at the cabaret; and a video project that includes stories from women and men describing the impact of the book on their lives as well as their thoughts on the history and future of women’s health. Learn more about how to share your story — on video or in print.

And stay tuned for information about the book tour, which will include Boston, San Francisco, and D.C., among other cities.

July 28, 2011

Meet the Newest Members of the Women’s Health Heroes Hall of Fame

Update Sept. 7Blog series by and about OBOS’s global partners launches today!

In 2009, Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) launched its first-ever Women’s Health Heroes Awards to honor women and men who have made championing women’s health their life’s work. Since then, 40 individuals and groups have been inducted into OBOS’s Women’s Health Hall of Fame, selected from hundreds of nominations.

This year is a special year for OBOS; 2011 marks 40 years of activism in the United States and the evolution of OBOS into a vibrant international network of social change activists. Our network partners in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe bring health resources based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to their communities and fearlessly advance the health and human rights of women and girls in their countries. They often do so at grave personal risk in some of the most socially and politically charged regions of the world.

They are our heroes, and they are the newest inductees into OBOS’s Women’s Health Heroes Hall of Fame. We’ll post more about each group here on the blog later this summer. Until then, here’s a brief look at why we celebrate them:

  • Alternative Culture Publishing (Korea) for leading public discourse on sexuality and prioritizing the needs of young Koreans.
  • Anveshi (India) for reminding us that solutions to the health crisis in that country must be situated within a unique and complex fabric of family… caste … class … community… and state.
  • “For Family and Health” Pan-Armenian Association (Armenia) for bringing affordable – and free – reproductive care to women and girls across Armenia.
  • Cairo Women’s Health Book Collective (Egypt) for going where few have gone with the first Arabic edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” taking on issues taboo in conservative Egyptian society.
  • Chinese Women’s Health Network (China) for standing up to government regulation with an underground adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” after its first edition was censored.
  • Gender Alliance for Development Center (Albania) for reaching youth with information and skills they can use to make safe reproductive and sexual choices.
  • Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et les Lois au Senegal (GREFELS) for empowering women to understand and care for their natural bodies in Senegal, a country where beauty is often defined by largeness and fair skin.
  • Mavi Kalem (Turkey) for ingeniously using in-person and online platforms to engage and mentor young activists in the region.
  • National Women’s Studies and Information Centre (Moldova) for envisioning and helping lay the groundwork for a national struggle for human rights.
  • Network of East-West Women (Poland) for nurturing one of the largest and most respected networks of human rights activists in the region.
  • The “Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas” collaboration for articulating unique and common ground in the experiences of Latinas across the Caribbean, North, Central and South America.
  • Sanlaap (India) and Manavi (United States) for responding to violence in South Asian communities in both countries and creating a Bangla “Our Bodies, Ourselves” – a first for Bengali literature!
  • Shokado (Japan) for reclaiming language and sexuality for all Japanese women and girls by coining new terms for body parts previously written with Chinese characters that convey shame.
  • Tanzania Home Economics Association (Tanzania) for developing a Kiswahili resource based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” that will reach the entire East Africa region.
  • Tibetan Nuns Project (India) for protecting, educating and empowering Tibetan nuns fleeing persecution and living in exile (and poverty) in India.
  • Women and Their Bodies (Israel) for pioneering a peace-building initiative between Palestinian and Israeli women that is publishing Arabic and Hebrew adaptations of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
  • Women for Empowerment, Development, and Gender Reform (Nigeria) for bringing health information based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to 1.5 million women, girls and men.
  • Women’s Health Education Network (Thailand) for noting there is no word for “sexuality” in Thai and having the courage to talk about it.
  • Women’s Health Project (South Africa) for boldly tackling the impact of apartheid on women and girls in its “Women’s Health Handbook.”
  • Women’s Health Promotion Center (Serbia) for giving voice and visibility to women and girls brutalized by ethnic conflict and resulting sexual violence.
  • Women’s Health Initiative (Bulgaria) for confronting stigma associated with childlessness in a pro-natalist society and demanding supportive infertility treatment for women who desire children.
  • Women’s Health in Saint Petersburg (Russia) for helping to establish the first family planning center in Russia and youth clinics that use the Russian adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” as a key resource.
  • Women’s Rehabilitation Center (Nepal) for refusing to back down on its demand for reproductive rights in the recently democratized country’s new constitution.
  • Women Unlimited (India) for being one of few South Asian feminist publishers and for publishing an “Our Bodies, Ourselves” edition for women and girls across the region.

It is impossible to capture the diversity of our network partners, the richness of their vision and the magnitude of their impact in a short post. We invite you to meet some of these courageous women at the free symposium on Oct. 1, celebrating OBOS’s 40th anniversary and honoring our network partners. View more event details at

Ayesha Chatterjee is the assistant program manager of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative.

July 25, 2011

It reminds me to trust my body…

by Leah Rubin

I bought the 1992 OBOS edition for $2.98 in 1998 in Greenwich Village.  For years I wanted to buy the book and finally it has traveled with me from sea to shining sea.  No book compares.  It reminds me to trust my body, to not become indoctrinated by medical professionals and more often than not western connotations of labour.

Having always been confident in my body, today I read the chapters on pregnancy and this book re-established my confidence in myself and my ability to make decisions about my body.  Whilst other versions may be more up-to-date, my 1992 edition is as valid in 2011 as it was then and no website or alternative medical journal or reference book could offer me more reassurance than the pages of this book.

I am shocked by how many women to this day still know so little about their bodies.  I am 39 weeks pregnant and the chapters on pregnancy, labour, and giving birth have given me the confidence to get ready for this birth as a single female. I am finally ready to let my body tell me what it needs. Thanks for making this book a part of my life!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

July 21, 2011

Share Your “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Story and Win a Free Book!

We’ve been gathering stories all this year (read ‘em!), and we’d like to expand the incredible story collection to include videos. Here’s your chance to tell audiences about your OBOS experience.

The details:

1) Record your video response.

2) Answer one or two of these questions:
• When did you first find out about or read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? What did you learn from reading it?
• What impact has “Our Bodies, Ourselves” had on your life?
• How would you say “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has impacted women’s lives/rights? How has it impacted the way men and women relate to each other?
• What role do you think “Our Bodies, Ourselves” should play in the world today?
• What is the biggest challenge for women’s health today?
• Where do you think women’s health stands today compared to 40 years ago? What has changed? Where do we go from here?
• What crazy/unexpected/funny/revealing thing did YOUR mother (aunt, sister, etc.) say to you because of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”?
• If there was one thing you could say to people watching this video about the importance of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” what would it be?
• OR, come up with your own question!

3) Wish us a happy birthday!

4) Send us an email at so we can send you a release form and information about uploading your video to our dropbox account.

Only videos with accompanying release forms will be shown online and at OBOS’s 40th anniversary symposium in Boston on Oct. 1 (read more about the symposium here — you’re all invited!).

Don’t want to go on camera? We’re also continuing to publish written submissions from women and men (check out this new story from a father of two young girls who describes being “paradoxically humbled and empowered” by “Our Bodies, Ourselves” when he was in college).

All video and written submissions will be entered into a drawing for a free, signed copy of the newly revised ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” due out on Oct. 1. Previously submitted stories will automatically be entered. Three winners will be announced on or around Oct. 1, 2011.

Questions? Email Thanks for considering this, and please share the news!

July 15, 2011

You’re Invited! Women’s Health & Human Rights Symposium

Share it, save it, and come join us Oct. 1!

OBOS 40th Anniversary


It began with a small group of women
and one stapled book in Boston in 1971.

Since then, Our Bodies, Ourselves has inspired women’s health
and human rights movements in 25 countries.

Please join us as we celebrate the work of
our courageous global partners,
launch our 9th U.S. edition,
and honor 40 years of activism on behalf of women and girls.

Our Bodies, Our Future:
Advancing Health and Human Rights for Women and Girls

Saturday, October 1
Boston University, Tsai Center for Performing Arts

Register online (free, but space is limited)
Or call 617-245-0200 ext. 10

Featuring women’s groups around the globe that have developed health resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves; contributors to the new U.S. edition; public policy and human rights experts; and special guests.
Reception immediately following symposium.
More information:

July 12, 2011

Relying on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Educate Students — and Himself

by Paul Noble

As a 19-year-old sophomore at Beloit College in Wisconsin, I became a resident assistant. At Beloit, at least when I was there, RAs weren’t simply the dorm cops they were at other schools; Beloit’s resident assistants were in a kind of peer review/leadership program. RAs selected and supervised each other. We were required to provide a host of resources to residents, including counseling and social, emotional and educational programming.

Among our basic tenets, we believed in the power of co-ed dorm living, and we encouraged parents and students to avail themselves of its many advantages. We found, for example, that there were significantly fewer fights, vandalism incidents, and unwanted pregnancies on co-ed floors than on single-gender floors. The vast majority of our students saw wisdom in that, the annoyance of knocking on the bathroom door notwithstanding.

Our Bodies, Ourselves 1976 editionI was thrust into this RA program as a 19-year-old suburban boy who’d attended an all-male Catholic high school and grew up in a staunchly pro-life home. Probably because I was a theatre minor, I was assigned to take over mid-year for the RA of the Arts Co-Op – needless to say, a houseful of free thinkers. The RA selection process had been fairly intense, and there were several days of training before the semester began. The only resource given new RAs that wasn’t written or patched together by one of our staff, however, was a brand new copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Perhaps the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective donated them for that purpose. Perhaps Beloit College had the foresight to go out and buy them for us. In any case, there was no explanation of how a book “by and for women” would be useful to me as an RA. I shrugged and assumed the mystery would be revealed in the reading. Wasn’t college just a series of mysteries revealed? I took it home over the holiday break and promised myself I’d at least look at it.

I did just that. I started by looking at it. The pictures, mostly. I remember thinking how frank they were, how real the people looked, how—is that what I think it is? As I began reading, I started in the section on masturbation. Catholic, you know. I proceeded, I’m sure, through all the sexual bits in the order of their fascination to me. And then I just read. And read. And read some more.

By the time the winter break was over, I’d read all but one of the major sections. Thoroughly. Had made notes in the margins. And let’s see … how to put this without sounding silly: I was changed. I didn’t lose my virginity until a month later, in the same awkward, forgettable way most kids do, I guess, but something about having explored that book made me more … whole. More thoughtful. More conscious. I remember feeling equally a pride in the things I now knew, and a certain shame for the many misapprehensions I’d long held. I felt paradoxically humbled and empowered by “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” even if it wasn’t meant for me.

I suppose I was even more transformed by the afternoon I spent three months later: Driving a resident to the nearest clinic, sitting and talking quietly with her in the waiting room, waiting for her, and then driving her back to the dorm. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I could have been very helpful, even to that desperate young woman who felt she had but one option, if I hadn’t read “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Today, I’m 46 and the father of 2-year-old twin girls. Someday, when the time is right, my wife and I will introduce our daughters to an edition of the book that has no doubt come a long way since then. Their father certainly has. Thanks, OBOS.

Paul reading to his daughters

Paul Noble has taught English for 24 years at Oak Park and River Forest High School. When his daughters allow, he also acts professionally in Chicago, or rewrites the occasional, nagging short story.

* * *

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

July 8, 2011

The New “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Cover is Here …

OBOS 2011 Cover

Click the photo to view a larger image.

Generally speaking, we don’t get all that excited about book covers. Words and images may entice you to pick the book off a shelf, but covers don’t usually have their own story to tell.

That’s why we’re so thrilled to introduce the new cover of the ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The cover features 52 (!) women, from young to old, who have been influenced in some way by reading “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

How did this cover come to be? In preparation for the 40th anniversary edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” we posted a call for photos of readers. We heard from women all over the United States and as far away as Tanzania — where a locally produced health resource based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” is used to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates.

Many recalled receiving “Our Bodies, Ourselves” from a parent, sibling, friend or teacher. Some readers also submitted their stories to the blog (read them here; you can also submit your own).

We received hundreds of submissions and sent the photos that met size/quality requirements to the publisher, Simon & Schuster. Its art team went to work on a design that would incorporate as many photos as possible and reflect both the diversity and the connectedness of readers’ lives and experiences.

OBOS readers provided the inspiration. One woman wrote with her submission: “I first picked up ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ for a human sexuality class in college. Since then, the book has been my ‘go to’ book. Even in a time when I can just plug in questions into Google, it is so much more meaningful when I can open a book that I know has touched the lives of many women. That common experience means so much more than a search engine.”

That theme is also highlighted in the cover quote by none other than Gloria Steinem: “Within these pages, you will find the voice of a women’s health movement that is based on shared experience. Listen to it — and add your own.”

We note in the book’s introduction that this revised and updated edition includes the voices and perspectives of more women than ever before. A month-long online conversation about sexuality and relationships involving more than 30 women turned into the Relationships chapter. Stories from OBOS’s global partners who are working to advance women’s health and human rights in their own communities — reshaping health care policy in Nepal, for instance, or distributing HIV-awareness posters via canoe in rural Nigeria — are interwoven throughout the text.

More information about the focus of this edition is available here. The book also features recommendations from a number of new reviewers, including Loretta Ross, Miriam Zoila PérezTavi Gevinson (the first teenage reviewer!), and Nancy Redd.

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” will be released Oct. 1 (it just became available for pre-order). We’ll set something up online by then so there’s a place to do what Steinem suggested: Add your own voice and share your story.

June 15, 2011

A tool at my fingertips

Submitted by: Janee Moore

Janee Moore“Our Bodies, Ourselves” means being empowered to make decisions about my own body. To have a tool at my fingertips that allows me to help myself and other women make healthy decisions while loving our bodies.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 15, 2011

A wonderful resource for women

Submitted by: Maraina Hirut Montgomery

Maraina Hirut MontgomeryOBOS is simply a wonderful resource for women around the nation. The stories, advice and inspiration that each issue possesses speaks to me in just the right language and urge me to take accountability and to get active!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 14, 2011

Timely information to women

Submitted by: Morissa Rice

Morrisa RiceOBOS is a great avenue to provide timely information to women about their overall health and how we should take care of our bodies. I believe in promoting physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 14, 2011

the book that finally answered so many questions

Submitted by: Vanessa Antrum

Vanessa AntrumOBOS means information to me. Years ago, I remember purchasing the book that finally answered so many questions for me I couldn’t believe it. I brought one for my friends because I wanted them to have the same knowledge base of questions we dare not ask others.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 14, 2011

An amazing resource to have…

Submitted by: Denise Larocque

Denise LarocqueI think this book is an amazing resource to have, as an Aboriginal Traditional Midwife in progress I have opened it many times. As for personal use I felt relieved when I could read about lesbian issues and menopause questions.I looked up contraceptive pros and cons and find its content helpful in empowering women to take the first step in their own health, because it is their bodies, and so it’s only proper that they know it best.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 14, 2011

40 years of making a difference

Submitted by:  Emily Frost-Leaird

Emily Frost-LeairdI use OBOS in my community college women’s health class and I continue to be amazed by how inspiring and meaningful the text is to the students. Thank you for 40 years of making a difference in womens’ lives!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.

June 14, 2011

Body, mind, and soul

Submitted by: Heather Reiners

Heather Reiners

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” means empowerment, learning honestly about my body and knowledge to make decisions that are meaningful to me. As a women’s studies major just graduating this May OBOS has supporting my life’s mission in bringing education to girls and women on not only their bodies, but their ’body, mind, and soul’!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.