The women who wrote the first edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” met at a women’s liberation conference in 1969.

They had gathered to discuss the topic of women and their bodies, but it didn’t take them long to realize they knew little about their health, sexuality or reproduction. Their subsequent efforts to find this information were unsuccessful. Even physicians were unwilling to answer their questions on issues ranging from childbirth to birth control.

An inclusive model for feminist activism

The group’s success can be attributed to the model of feminist activism they illustrate in their book.

Based in consciousness-raising, it is a model that prompts women to explore issues in the context of their personal experiences, the experiences of others and the best factual knowledge available to them. As they revised the book, the collective incorporated the voices of more and more women, and they urged their readers to consider the issues being discussed in terms of their own lives.

In early editions of the book, the collective focused on women’s health and reproduction. As they updated and rewrote the book, they expanded their coverage to include body image, agriculture and food businesses, environmental and occupational health, and violence against women, among other topics.

The authors discussed these issues in a feminist political context. And, they explained how they and others responded to the problems they unearthed.

Importantly, though, the collective did not direct their readers to a particular course of action.

Recognizing that women’s experiences differed, they offered readers guidelines for finding other women who shared their concerns. In addition, they offered a series of questions designed to help women determine the actions they might want to take.

In the 1996 edition, for example, they ask their readers to consider: “Are the women most affected centrally involved in efforts to create solutions?” They add: “Will our work give women a sense of power? Will our work help inform the public and motivate it to work for more improvements in women’s health?”

Most significantly, the collective urged readers to seek out and listen to the voices of women from different backgrounds and circumstances. They included such voices in the pages of their book.

Source/ rest: theconversation.com