The end is nigh for ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’

Every streak must come to an end and so the end has come for “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The bible of women’s health is going out of print and its website will no longer update.

The book was born from the work of a dozen women who had met at a women’s liberation conference at Emmanuel College in 1969, the Boston Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert wrote Friday. It began as a 35 cent pamphlet but became one of the most influential books of the century.

Passed down, often wordlessly, from mother to daughter, the book provided women intimate insights into their own bodies and presented forbidden topics, from menstruation to masturbation, complete with illustrations.

“We didn’t have the Internet as we know it today,” said Jaclyn Friedman, the feminist author, who is 46. “If I had questions about my body, before I went to the doctor, I went to ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves.’ It was so comforting to have. It was totally nonjudgmental.” And, she noted, its encyclopedic range covered everything from pregnancy to mysterious aches and pains.

“It treated them equally without shame and equally seriously. I just felt like the book took me seriously, took my body seriously, and believed that I could understand things about my body also,” she said.

Years after she discovered the book, Friedman got to contribute to it. She had published the 2008 book “Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape” with coauthor Jessica Valenti, and was emerging as an authority on sexual consent.

“It was such a crazy honor,” Friedman said. “It felt like being invited into the collective knowledge of feminism.”

“We came to the painful conclusion, after several years of struggling financially, that we don’t have the resources and infrastructure to continue our main programs using paid staff,” a statement on the group’s website said. “We take great pride in the transformative impact that our publications and advocacy have had in the lives of millions of girls, women, and their families in the United States and around the world.”

“Maybe it is time for the third wave of feminism to come along,” trauma researcher Judy Herman said, “and create the next generation’s version of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves.’ ”

  • Kassie

    Judy Herman needs to get with the times. Fourth wave feminism started around 2010, so I don’t think we need to wait for “third wave feminism to come along.”

    As for why this isn’t really needed, as a third wave feminist, I’d say, most of us don’t feel uncomfortable talking about this stuff anymore. Even in 1996 when I first encountered Our Bodies, Ourselves it felt a little dated. I think people like me have no issues talking about specific weird things our bodies do and don’t need to turn to a book when we can turn to my friends or google. I follow a few Reddit subreddits about women’s issues and occasionally a younger woman (or man) will ask a question that they seem embarrassed or curious about and they will get tons of factual, straightforward answers.

    • Al

      I have my copy of Our Bodies ready to go because, even though we’re trying our best to raise open, affirming, positive girls, they might have questions they don’t want to ask me and they might not feel comfortable asking the other adults in their lives. More information on this front can’t ever hurt.

      And like hell I’m letting them on the internet before they’re 35 to ask these questions.

      • joetron2030

        My wife bought a copy recently for our daughters (one teen and one tween). Not because she’s unwilling to answer questions about sex, etc. but because our girls are such voracious readers.

        She decided that this would be a much better source than the Internet. They’re always free to ask us (OK, really her) questions if they need clarification on anything they read.

        We’ve always been as open as is age-appropriate with them about human sexuality.

    • Kat S.

      I think we’re getting there, but we have a long way to go yet. I passed down my 2000 version of Our Bodies, Ourselves to my cousins under the table in the mid-2000s, when it became clear they had questions no one was willing to answer for them. The internet was very much around, but it had- as it still does- a lot of misinformation, and its not always easy to tell what’s quality.
      It can also accidentally give you only part of an answer. OBO was sourced, positive, and comprehensive. And didn’t appear in your search history.
      I’ve owned the 70s version, the 90s, and the 2000s, and I agree they get dated. I just think there’s absolutely a place for a new one.

  • chlost

    This book was passed around by the women in my college in the early 70’s. It was groundbreaking in so many ways. I am surprised that it has been able to continue this long, given the internet and sex education curriculums, which we did not have back then. Thank you to all of the women who were a part of this.