In 2020 Suffolk University in Boston will launch Our Bodies, Ourselves Today, an online hub that will present a wealth of resources—through podcasts, panels, expert research, and otherwise—that aim to inform women about their own body without hawking jade vaginal eggs. “We’re not going to be generating new information, we’re not going to be in bringing in writers and researchers,” says Amy Agigian, the director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights. “We’re putting together panels of content experts who will come up with things that are already there, and we’ll link to, annotate, and curate them.
If women’s access to abortion is revoked, and we continued to slide backward to a time when women are denied access to and autonomy over their body, WebMD, Gwyneth Paltrow, nosy period tracking apps, membership-only wellness clinics, and moon dust won’t save us. “We’ve never taken any money from any pharmaceutical companies,” says Ditzion. “It’s a hands-on basic book that women can turn to for trustworthy information for any health issues, particularly regarding reproduction and sexuality, but broadly throughout the life cycle.
Agigian and her small team will maintain the spirit of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and are working closely with the founders on what the site will be, but one thing Agigian insists is that it’s essential that this new era of Our Bodies, Ourselves be inclusive and welcoming and reflect the world that we live in. “We not only want to be sensitive, but we want to be honest and self-reflective,” Agigian says. “Our new tagline is, ‘Trustworthy, inclusive women’s health resources. ’ We are for all kinds of people. ” Even cis-men, she adds.
Politics were deeply entangled with women’s access to health services, and as was initially emphasized in the earliest editions, the book was intended to be an entry point to conversation for everyone, men and women alike. “People pass it around, share, open up conversations,” says Joan Ditzion, one of the original cofounders. “Wherever I go, there's always a story of how the book has impacted a woman's life—a woman gives it to her daughter, a friend, an aunt, a grandmother.
As one of the first tools of its kind to provide practical, evidence-based, fact-checked information and stories for women and by women, Women and Their Bodies became an underground sensation, selling over a quarter of a million copies. “Our Bodies, Ourselves as a viral success has always depended a lot on word of mouth,” says Judy Norsigian, one of the founders.
No matter the form Our Bodies, Ourselves takes now, it’s hard not to fear for its future, especially as the founders enter their seventies and eighties. “You never know, maybe there will be a new generation that wants to revisit the book or talk about it,” Doress-Worters says, while acknowledging the book’s limits. “We did this, we’re proud of having done it, we’re glad that people welcomed it and got something out of it, and when it’s over, it’s over. © 2019 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
In 2018, a year shy of the fiftieth anniversary of that first gathering, the founders took devotees of Our Bodies, Ourselves by surprise when they announced that the organization would begin to pull back from its work. “As of October 1, we will stop publishing updated print and digital health information; scale back technical assistance for global translations and adaptations of Our Bodies, Ourselves; and transfer ownership of surrogacy360. org, our website on international commercial surrogacy, to a trusted partner,” Bonnie L.
In 1972 the women incorporated as the Boston Women’s Health Collective and signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to release the pamphlet as a book called Our Bodies, Ourselves in 1973.
It’s titled “Women, Medicine, and Capitalism,” and in it one of the pamphlet’s 19 coauthors, Lucy Candib, lists the legion ways the American medical system is linked to its toxic economic one: “the prohibitive cost of medical care, the racist and inferior treatment of poor people and black people, the profit and prestige-making institution of the ‘health industry. ’” The capitalist medical care system, Candib wrote at the time, can be “no more dedicated to improving the people’s health than can General Motors become dedicated to improving the people’s public transportation.
At the same time, we have more data than ever to suggest that the medical establishment has downplayed women’s pain for decades, leading to things like the misdiagnosis or nondiagnosis of debilitating disorders and shockingly high rates of maternal mortality in black women. We are still—in 2019! —in dire need of reliable, straightforward facts about women’s health, the kind that can’t be bought or sold.
What kind of guide will girls and women turn to now? https://t.co/YQmS0yLYPF— Glamour (@glamourmag) June 4, 2019
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