Our Bodies, Our Blog

Adapting “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Brazilian Portuguese: The Translators’ Experiences


“[H]aving the opportunity of translating … “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Brazilian Portuguese … brings me a profound sense of accomplishment, since there is not such a complete book on women’s health in Portuguese with so much information and so many references…. When we translate, we must consider the cultural identity of the women we are talking to, the means of reaching them, which information they need to have safer and more conscient lives. Each translation choice is also a political choice, inspired by reflections on the topics covered in the book: life and women’s bodies, women’s lives.” – Débora Andreza Zacharias, graduate student in Applied Linguistics at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil


In 2019, several organizations in Brazil came together to translate and adapt “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into Portuguese. The new group, which include members of the Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saúde (CFSS), participants in the Research Group on Translation Studies at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and students and members of the translation team at Universidade de Campinas (Unicamp), is translating the English edition and adapting it to meet the needs of women in Brazil.

Participants in the Research Group on Translation Studies at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)

Thayna Pinheiro, a student at UFRJ, explains the beginnings of the project:

During one of our lessons about Translation Studies we came across a book called “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” …  None of us had heard about it, but we were really interested in it and decided to find out more about the book. We were all amazed by how interesting and complete the book is and we thought it would be great to have a similar book in Brazilian Portuguese. That was our motivation to start this project and collaboratively translate [the book].

Louise Hélène Pavan, a graduate student in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp, talks about reading the personal stories “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and recognizing the need Braziian women have for better information and support: 

To realize that those many stories, frequently repeated on a daily basis, could be brought to attention and also to see that it was possible to improve the access to information about body care, medical issues and sexual health made me understand the importance of this translating project, especially in Brazil, where the access to a high quality education is often restricted to privileged socioeconomic groups.

According to Thayna, “Many of the topics tackled by the book are still taboo here.” Giulia Mendes Gambassi, another graduate student in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp, notes that there is a lack of sex education in most Brazilian schools, even in high quality ones. She adds that despite having access to a good education, “a significant part of the information that I found … was a novelty to me.”

members of Coletivo Feminista who are working on a Portuguese adaptation of "Our Bodies, Ourselves"

Coletivo Feminista members working on the Portuguese adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” from L to R: Bia Fioretti, Raquel Pereira, and Luiza Cadioli

The translators worked in teams, to help each other understand both the meaning and the context of the text.  Eliane Albuquerque, a student at UFRJ, explains the importance of this process:

One of the most powerful aspects of working on the project was the commitment of the organizers to collaboration, both so the students could share their experiences and so they could discuss the issues that arose as they translated. 

We had regular meetings, in which we could discuss issues on terminology and adaptations necessary to make the book true to our culture and society. We had frequent discussions on theoretical texts on feminist translation and the influence of globalization on translation, which served to undergird academic discussions pertaining our translation project.

For some of the students, this was their first experience translating as a group. According to Marcella W. Stefanini, a graduate student in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp:

The translation of one of the chapters of the book Our Bodies Ourselves was a very enriching experience, especially because it was a teamwork. The possibility of exchanging thoughts and doubts with the group and coming up with solutions together was very significant for me, as a translation student who doesn’t have much practical experience.

One of the challenges facing the translators was difficulty finding Portuguese words that were not gendered. Maria Gabriela Patricio, a student at UFRJ, talks about “realiz[ing] the extent to which Portuguese is a sexist language” and says that the “biggest challenge was overcoming that sexism.” Louise Hélène Pavan further explains:

One translating challenge that presented itself … [was] the dilemma on how to translate the term “health-care provider,” which appeared innumerous times in the text. The linguistic reality of the Portuguese language did not allow us to associate gender neutral articles to nouns and therefore “health-care provider” would be characterized either as a male or female professional.

Marcella expands on the gender issues and explains how working collaboratively “allowed us to reflect on linguistic issues that are only possible through translation, such as the issue of gender, which in English is often not marked, but is so in Portuguese. In this sense, the translation of words like ‘doctor’ and ‘health care provider’ needed to be considered in order to promote gender inclusion.”

Many of the translators talked about what they personally learned as they worked on translating various chapters. Gislaine Cristina Assumpção, a graduate student in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp, was one of the translators of the Violence Against Women chapter:

I confess that I was very uncomfortable when I started to read, and then translate. As a woman, I felt like the text was a little bit mine, too. I put myself in the place of those women who gave their testimonies, who reported the difficult situations they went through and I got emotional at several times. Like most women, raised in a macho society, I had no idea that sexual violence is not just about forced penetration. It’s much more than that.

Pérola Farias, a student at UFRJ who worked on translating the Sexually Transmitted Infections chapter, says:

As someone who has never had a sex ed class and doesn’t have a lot of experience herself, I’ve learned not only how to prevent STIs, but also how to recognize them…. I have also read every report the Brazilian Ministry of Health has put on the most common STIS in Brazil. Reading about several statistics on the different communities that make my country made me think about what those statistics say about our society. The source text written in English has the American relationship with health, race, and class, interwoven within it, and while translating and adapting the chapter, I couldn’t help but think a lot about those subjects and how to best represent the Brazilian relationship to them, while also questioning it and calling for help when needed.

Giulia Mendes Gambassi, another graduate student in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp, says:

I’ve learned a lot about my body and my health whilst reading and translating this content. That said, it’s important to emphasize the social relevance of this project, that has been consolidated with a diverse team, always keeping in mind that this translation project is not only about language but also about the female body and all the stereotyped aspects that follow it, gender identities, taboo and social inequality.

Maria Gabriela Patricio, another student at UFRJ, talks about what she learned as she worked on the translation:

This was my first experience translating outside a classroom … and it made me realize that translating is about making other people, who perhaps don’t have that much of acquaintance with the language in which the source text was written, have access to the material. For this reason, I found translation to be something very human, which can offer valuable information to the world.

Louise Hélène Pavan summed up her experience as a translator and why it was so important to her:

Participating on the volunteer translating project of the book Our Bodies, Ourselves was to me a form of resistance. Resistance facing the current challenges which women face day after day; resistance by bringing to society’s attention themes that are considered taboo; resistance by committing to share scientific knowledge.

The full Portuguese adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” will be published in three volumes. The first volume, with eleven chapters, including body image, abortion, birth, sexually transmitted infections, perimenopause and menopause, is set to be released in late 2020.

The project coordinators have gathered together the experiences of many others who participated in the Brazilian translation project. You can read them in this booklet.

Para mais informações, veja OBOS Brasil“Nossos corpos por nós mesmas”: um projeto de tradução feminista.

My Body, My Choice: Aesthetic Flat Closure after Mastectomy

By Guest Contributor |

by Kim Bowles

In 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. After careful consideration and lots of research, I decided against getting breast implants or other conventional reconstructive surgery, because I wanted to get back to my normal life as quickly as possible. I told my surgeon that I wanted to “go flat” and put my request in writing, providing him photos of the kind of flat chest I was hoping for. 

When I woke up from surgery, I was horrified … More

Women with Breast Implants Should Not Need to Wait for Safety Information They Urgently Need

By Guest Contributor |

by Rose Weitz and Diana Zuckerman

Although breast implants have been sold since the 1960s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the use of silicone gel breast implants in 2006. By then, many women with implants had already reported a range of problems, which result in many women seeking additional surgery within just a few years of implantation. 

And the problems have become more serious. Last year, for example, Allergan did a worldwide recall of their textured Biocell breast implants and … More

Free the Pill!

By Guest Contributor |

by Carrie Baker

Sixty years ago this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill for distribution in the United States — a game changer for women’s lives. Before approval of the pill, most women were married by age 19, and more than half of them were pregnant within the first seven months.

Once the pill became available, women for the first time in history had a reliable form of contraception that freed them from the unrelenting fear of unwanted pregnancies. With a … More

group shot of young reproductive justice advocatesgroup shot of young reproductive justice advocates

Please Support Civil Liberties and Public Policy During the Covid-19 Crisis: An Appeal from Judy Norsigian

By Judy Norsigian |

These challenging times require fierce, broad, and intersectional activism – which is just what Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) has been doing for the past four decades. This now-independent nonprofit, which used to be affiliated with Hampshire College, continues its unique movement-building work preparing younger activists to work on the front lines of today’s struggle for reproductive justice. Please consider supporting CLPP today with a generous donation. 

As we know, the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately harming those in our communities who were already facing … More

photo of quote from Barbara Seamanphoto of quote from Barbara Seaman

Our Doctors, Ourselves: Barbara Seaman and Popular Health Feminism in the 1970s


“If the plastic speculum was the tool of choice for self-help advocates, leading women to a better understanding of their own bodies, then the popular media was Barbara Seaman’s preferred weapon in the cultural battle against medical sexism.”
— Kelly O’Donnell, in her article “Our Doctors, Ourselves: Barbara Seaman and Popular Health Feminism in the 1970s”

Barbara Seaman, a popular journalist in the 1960s and 70s who wrote for magazines including Brides, Ms., Ladies Home Journal, and Family Circle, was one of the first journalists to … More

The Very Early Perimenopause: What We Can Learn from Dr. Jerilynn Prior’s Research

By Guest Contributor |

by Nina Coslov

In my early 40s, I started noticing changes in my body. A once great sleeper, I was now waking at 2 a.m. – often with lots of energy and sometimes with anxiety. I’d be awake for about 3 hours before I could get back to sleep. Around the same time, premenstrual breast tenderness returned — something I hadn’t experienced since my 20s, before I had children. Not long after, I’d notice from time to time a pervasive edginess, a revving — an energetic … More

Woman handing menstrual supplies to Colombian prisonersWoman handing menstrual supplies to Colombian prisoners

Dirty Business: Lack of Menstrual Equity in Colombian Prisons

By Guest Contributor |

By Charlie Ruth Castro

Lee este post en español

Let’s talk about menstruation – a natural and necessary process among women, but one that we have been culturally taught to hate, hide or even make fun of.  Also, let me talk about a dirty business perpetrated by certain officers from INPEC, the Colombian national institution in charge of penitentiary policy. In many prisons, INPEC has routinely failed to supply adequate menstrual products for the female prison population.

Being deprived of ways to deal with bleeding is outrageous, … More

Woman handing menstrual supplies to Colombian prisonersWoman handing menstrual supplies to Colombian prisoners

Negocio Sucio: Falta de Equidad Menstrual en las Cárceles Colombianas

By Guest Contributor |

By Charlie Ruth Castro

Read this post in English

Vamos a hablar de menstruación, el proceso más natural y necesario para la buena salud reproductiva entre las mujeres, pero aquel que culturalmente nos han enseñado a aborrecer, ocultar o incluso a hacerle burla. Y por otro lado voy a hablar de un negocio sucio perpetrado por ciertos funcionarios del INPEC -la institución nacional a cargo de la política penitenciaria- en muchas de las cárceles de Colombia: el desvío de presupuestos para el suministro de toallas higiénicas … More

text: The fight to take back our genestext: The fight to take back our genes

Congress Wants to Give Companies the Right to Own Our Genes

By Guest Contributor |

by Lori Andrews

Six years ago, on June 13, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in AMP v. Myriad took a great step forward for women’s health by unanimously ruling that human genes could not be patented. Now a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives have released a bill that would allow companies to own our genes once again.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that any patent system must “promote progress in science and the useful arts.” But patents on genes do not promote the … More