Our Bodies, Our Blog

Stopping Keystone: A Victory for Native Women’s Health

By Guest Contributor |

By Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

In early June, after more than ten years of conflict, the Keystone XL oil pipeline project was halted by TC Energy, the company behind the project. This is a victory for Indigenous communities and environmental activists. However, the fight for justice is not over.

The destruction of tribal lands is fueled by the assault on Indigenous peoples’ — especially indigenous women’s — bodies. While the halting of the Keystone pipeline is an important step, many challenges remain: the Murdered and Missing Women and Girls (MMWG) epidemic, the ineffective justice system, and the deficient health care system. As activists and advocates for women’s health, we must do more to fight for justice for Indigenous women. Systemic change and empowerment are necessary in this path towards justice after centuries of violence and trauma.

Big oil companies and projects like the Keystone pipeline are extractive and exploitative not only of the environment and the economy, but of Indigenous women’s lives and bodies. Big oil projects bring thousands of workers to under-resourced areas with poor infrastructure but fail to bring investment to local economies and communities. In this way, these projects play a role in perpetuating inequity in the long term. They also bring direct violence to Indigenous communities.

From the 1980s, oil booms and large extraction projects near Indigenous territories have led to increased sexual and physical violence against Indigenous women. These projects bring many transient workers — mostly non-Indigenous and male — within close proximity of Indigenous communities. Anita Lucchesi, a young Cheyenne woman, overheard oil rig workers talking about her: “‘They were saying, ‘Oh yeah, North Dakota is the fucking best; in North Dakota you can take whatever pretty little Indian girl that you like and you can do whatever you want and police don’t give a fuck about it.’” The connection between extractive oil projects and violence against Indigenous women has always been clear to these communities while being ignored by those not directly affected.

This violence is part of a larger epidemic of MMWG in Indigenous communities that is largely ignored. For Native American and Alaska Native women under 45, murder is the sixth leading cause of death and more than one-in-two women have experienced sexual violence. The long history of systematic and epidemic violence against Indigenous women has ranged from sexual assaults perpetrated by colonizers to radioactive contamination of reservations to forced sterilizations. Indigenous women, despite their persistent resistance, have yet to receive justice for these ongoing and systematic attacks. Individual cases go uninvestigated and unreported and the epidemic at large perpetuates fear and insecurity in Indigenous communities.

The MMWG epidemic is sustained and reinforced by an unequal system of justice on Indigenous lands and territories. Complicated jurisdictional laws mean that tribal police cannot investigate or prosecute non-tribe members for crimes committed on tribal lands even though many non-tribe members live and work in these areas. Additionally, tribal police on vast territories are generally underfunded and non-Indigenous federal agents are often insensitive and unwilling to prosecute perpetrators. The case numbers are also likely to be severely underestimated because of major failures to track these crimes, another consequence of the jurisdictional complexity.

For Indigenous women, obstructed justice also means an inability to receive necessary healthcare. Despite some Indigenous women’s access to healthcare through Indian Health Services (IHS), IHS is underfunded and understaffed and cannot alone provide comprehensive women’s sexual and reproductive health services. Rape kits, birth control, and emergency contraception are often unavailable. Plan B was only made available at IHS pharmacies in 2015, a long-delayed step that was ordered by a federal court. Further, the IHS is federally funded, so it falls under the Hyde Amendment, meaning that abortions are only available there under restrictive conditions, like in cases of rape. However, as Law Professor Sarah Deer, (Muscogee Creek) says: “We know that most rape victims don’t report [their rapes] at all.” (Professor Deer is also a member of Our Bodies Ourselves Today Leadership Council.) These failures of the IHS reflect the continued neglect, at the federal level, of issues critical to the survival and well-being of Indigenous women.

The stories of Indigenous women must be told. At Our Bodies Ourselves Today, we are documenting the first-hand accounts of women, girls, and gender-diverse people, which will be part of our world-class online platform with the most up-to-date, trustworthy, and inclusive information about our health, sexuality and well-being. If you are an Indigenous woman and would like to share your story, please reach out to us at https://bit.ly/3gK4Z6I.

Hannah Sachs-Wetstone is an intern at Our Bodies Ourselves Today, a new online platform created by the Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University in partnership with Our Bodies Ourselves that is set to launch in 2022.

Logo for Our Bodies Ourselves TodayLogo for Our Bodies Ourselves Today

Celebrate Pride Month with a #GiveOUTDay donation to Our Bodies Ourselves Today!

By Guest Contributor |

by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone 

Our Bodies Ourselves Today, a new online platform featuring up-to-date information about health, sexuality, and well-being, is set to launch in 2022. The platform is being created by the Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University in partnership with Our Bodies Ourselves. The post below was written by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone, an intern on the project.

Our Bodies Ourselves Today is running a #GiveOUTDay campaign throughout Pride Month! The OBOS Today platform will be a global, world-class resource … More

close up of antidepressant pillsclose up of antidepressant pills

When Antidepressants Leave Lasting Damage: Living with Post-SSRI/SNRI Sexual Dysfunction

By Guest Contributor |

by Emily Grey

My clitoris is now no more than an inert and sensation-less nub of flesh. I am unable to feel attraction, arousal or orgasm.… The effects of losing my sexuality have been absolutely devastating to my relationships and mental health. I have been robbed of an essential aspect of my humanity.” – Emily, age 24, PSSD 2 years

Sexuality is an integral part of our lives, central to our identity, our quality of life, and the ways we connect with other human beings. So what … More

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False or Misleading Claims: More Problems with Addyi

By Guest Contributor |

by Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot

The so-called “pink Viagra” drug Addyi (flibanserin) is in the news again. This time, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, is being called out by the FDA for making “false or misleading claims about the risks associated with Addyi.”

OBOS has previously written about how the health risks of the drug outweigh its benefits. The FDA approved Addyi in 2015, after Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign designed to convince people that it was only fair … More

Persistent and Pervasive: Feminists Take on Toxics

By Judy Norsigian |

For a variety of reasons, including gendered work and home experiences, women face different environmental health risks than men. Women are more likely to use personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaning products, and therefore more likely to face daily exposure to the toxic chemicals in many consumer products. As awareness of toxic chemicals has increased, feminist scientists and activists are drawing attention to the real adverse health risks they pose and have mobilized to work toward creative and radical solutions.

Sally Edwards, an environmental health scientist, … More

Diana Abwoye receiving an award for academic excellence in her Family Nurse Practitioner program.Diana Abwoye receiving an award for academic excellence in her Family Nurse Practitioner program.

Addressing Institutional Racism & Health Inequality: My Perspective

By Guest Contributor |

by Diana Namumbejja Abwoye

Diana Namumbejja Abwoye is a family nurse practitioner and a member of the Board of Directors of Our Bodies Ourselves who translated and adapted “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into Luganda.

Covid-19 has affected all aspects of our lives. It has exposed how much the United States is an unequal place for people of color. I will speak here from my own experience. It may not be a reflection of all people of color, but I hope it will help us get the … More

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

By OBOS |

“[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 … More

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