Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Bodies, Ourselves

40 years old!  It's hard to believe that 40 years ago, a group of women got together and wrote a small pamphlet which helped alter women's awareness of their bodies.

Titled appropriately Our Bodies, Ourselves, this booklet dealt with subjects that were taboo in the early days of women's liberation.  It talked about human sexuality in frank straightforward terms.  It gave detailed descriptions of the types of birth control available.  And it used rudimentary drawings to show female anatomy.

Hard to believe that such information was revolutionary, but it was.  I bought one of the first versions of this booklet--a newsprint paper version that did not hold up well to constant consultation.  Then I got an upgraded version with a more substantial cover that helped the book weather all the use.

I soon got one to give to my sister, who is 12 years my junior.  As I recall, my sister took her copy and disappeared into her bedroom for hours.  Since at that time, she was a teen, no doubt she too was learning things she had not known about her body, herself.

When I had a daughter, and when she was a preteen, I gave her a copy.  She too took her copy and disappeared into her bedroom for a time.

One of the things my parents did absolutely right in raising me was to always be very straightforward when it came to talking about human sexuality.  This booklet was written in that same vein--straightforward information.  Truth is always better than myth.

As our children were  growing up, my husband and I likewise were very straightforward with them.  Inevitably, both our son and our daughter, as they grew up, asked the inevitable questions:  "How did I get to be born?"  Many parents have that experience--it is even the subject of comedy.  Mothers or fathers tongue-tied, unable to tell their children in direct language about human sexuality.

Well, that was not us.  We always used correct terms, completely avoiding euphemisms.  I recall one day when a neighbor several houses up the street from us asked me if we had told our son "about sex."  Of course, I said, why?  Because, she said, their son (about the same age as our son) had asked them something he learned from our son.  Well, I said, haven't you talked with him? Oh, no, she said, he's too young.  My response--if he's asking his friends, he's not too young.

So, many many thanks to the women of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective.  I just hope that we don't lose all the gains of women controlling their bodies, their selves, in the next 40 years.


Anvilcloud said...

Huge changes in our lifetimes, and the clock ain't going back -- at least not f=much and for not long -- no matter how hard some try.

Peruby said...

Sad about those neighbors. I have always been very frank and honest with my daughter.

My Mom did not even want the word mentioned. I had to learn a little from my sisters and the rest...well..wherever.

possumlady said...

I bought one of the first books for myself in the mid to late '70s when I was a teenager. My mother would never talk to me about these things and I won't even go into some of the weird rumors that were floating around about sex when I was in grade school. The book got passed around to my girlfriends.

They had a nice piece about the anniversary on NBC nightly news last night. They asked a number of women how the book had changed their lives. All were positive except one woman from some "family" organization. She thought it was sad that they made it all about sexuality and didn't write about what woman needed to know, mainly having loving relationships with their husbands, etc.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel that women are drinking the Koolaid when it comes to maintaining the gains of being able to have control of their own bodies. And don't even get me started on today's "fashions" for young girls as well as women. (Oh yeah, I do need the quotation marks there!)

NCmountainwoman said...

Amen to that! When my daughter was in first grade she sat beside a little girl who knew every "dirty" word for the female genitalia. My daughter would come home and ask me what the words meant. When I told her, she simply said, "Then why didn't she just say vagina?" I replied, "Maybe she doesn't know the right word. Perhaps you should just tell her."

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I remember when this book first came out. It was well know in Boston when I was there.

It seems it was all a part of the women's liberation movement. Just a few years later when I was in New Haven I had a group of women, inspired by the book, meeting in the church libary. I walked in on them one day to find them all with a mirror in their hands viewing their nether regions.
"Oops. sorry ladies." I learned to knock after that.

It is too bad that sex education is still inadequate for many women and men.

Ginnie said...

I read this with interest and was pleased to see that your very last sentence was exactly what I was thinking as I read. 40 years went by so fast and we need to be very diligent in the next 40 !! There's a lot of scary "far to the right" stuff out there that scares me.