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A response to the 7/17/05 NY Times essay from the Our Bodies, Ourselves editorial team

To the Editor:

As the editorial team for the new edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, we appreciate Alexandra Jacobs’ nostalgia for earlier editions. However, her essay (“A Feminist Classic Gets a Makeover,” July 17) misrepresents the current book. Jacobs confuses style with substance when she implies that our use of punchier graphics and crisp bios makes us less committed to raising consciousness and combating injustice than before. 

It’s true that the new edition has a hot pink cover. (If we can reclaim the word queer, why not the color pink?) And yes, the book acknowledges that (gasp) many women want to get married – sometimes to each other. But such facts do not dilute our critique of the social, economic, and political inequalities that affect women, not only in the world at large but also in our most intimate relationships.

In one of several mischaracterizations in the essay, Ms. Jacobs seems to miss the big picture (literally) when she skewers a photo of a woman and her husband “tangling in the surf, ‘From Here to Eternity’-style.” She fails to mention that the woman has quadriplegia (her wheelchair is visible in the background) and the caption challenges the widely held assumption that people with disabilities are asexual. Similarly, Ms. Jacobs laments that we no longer include a home birth photo that she liked, but does not acknowledge that it was replaced by a more current image. The new photo shows a woman at home in labor in a pool of water, surrounded by her caregiver and loved ones – underscoring the importance of continuous support during childbirth.

With each new edition, Our Bodies, Ourselves evolves to stay relevant and accessible to its readers, while continuing to feature frank talk, comprehensive information, and suggestions for how women can work together to improve our health and the health of our communities. We hope that the voices and images included in the latest edition and its companion Web site speak to today’s girls and women in the same way that the photos and poetry of the ’70s resonated with Ms. Jacobs when she was growing up. The package may be different, but the messages remain the same.







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