Our Bodies, Our Blog

Addressing Institutional Racism & Health Inequality: My Perspective

By Guest Contributor |
Diana Abwoye receiving an award for academic excellence in her Family Nurse Practitioner program.

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 conversation going.

I was born in Kampala, Uganda. The difference between me and other people of color born in the U.S. is that I made a choice as a young woman to immigrate from my home. I did so in an effort to support my family, and in a pursuit to find democracy, justice, education, and equity. Those born in the U.S. did not have this choice; their ancestors did not have a choice. I once lived in a country where almost everyone was black and the only thing we sorted by color was laundry, but here in the United States, I am constantly reminded of how much skin color matters.

For the longest time after I arrived, I didn’t pay much attention to racial differences. I held on to my sense of belonging to a culture I left behind. Today, as a mother of two Black girls, I am constantly worried about how I am going to raise them in this new place I call home. A place where I constantly have to worry about them fitting into a neighborhood, a school, a doctor’s office. I worry about raising my girls in a society that will stereotype them, limit their opportunities, challenge their confidence and make them feel like outsiders. I fear for my black husband and worry about his safety very often.

During my Family Nurse Practitioner training, I learned that African Americans have the highest risk for many chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, and that African American women are more likely to die during childbirth and from breast and ovarian cancers. The  textbooks we used documented this, but they didn’t explain why these people were at greater risk. Once, during a lecture, I asked why African Americans were at risk for a certain condition, but I didn’t get a response. Later, a classmate commended me for my question but also added, “Have you seen the stuff those people eat? It can clog your arteries.” 

Following this conversation, I thought about the shallow, white-centered teaching about race and health disparities, and the necessity of educating students about cultures and lifestyles. I thought about why certain ethnicities make the choices they make and about how, far too often, they don’t have access to the resources they need. Many people don’t understand why people eat what they eat, why they can not afford organically grown foods or are sometimes unable to stay home and make a healthy home cooked meal for their family. In order for us to address health equity, we need to focus on solving the underlying social, economic and systemic racial structures that predispose these people to such lifestyle choices.

My work as a Covid-19 case investigator talking to people in the state of Massachusetts has made me think about where the United States is today. It is a reflection of the past, a past that was built with uneven distribution of resources, a past that was set to privilege only a few in the nation. This matters because after so many years we are still facing systemic racism, racial bias, uneven distribution of resources and social injustice. As I spoke to people with Covid-19, I could hear on the other end of the phone their frustration, their fear, and their exhaustion. While I worried about them going out of their homes and spreading the disease, they worried about getting enough food for their families, finding space to isolate, being evicted from their apartments, losing their jobs and/or getting  deported.

Amidst all this, George Floyd’s murder occurred, sparking protests around the world. Black people have called for equality for so long. How many lives should be lost before we put an end to it? My takeaway from all this is that we as a society need to continue having these conversations; it is long overdue for all white people to listen and take part in them. I challenge all of us to do what we can do about racial disparities and inequity. Ask yourself: how have I used my privilege to support those who are less privileged? How can I set the stage for a better world for the next generation?

Those of us who have children need to ask ourselves questions about how we are raising them. We need to set the stage now and raise our children to accept that it is okay for people to be different and it does not matter how they look; all that counts is the fact that they are human and deserve to be treated and regarded as humans.

I challenge white people to not just be our white allies but to be our white accomplices. White people need to use this moment to decide who they are and who they will continue to be in this world we are all sharing. I challenge organizations not to just post equal opportunity statements and protest signs for publicity, but to get these conversations started in their organizations and create suitable environments for a diverse workforce. Diversity does not come from hiring people of color; it comes through diverse mindsets, an inclusive culture and practice. Schools and colleges should focus on an equitable fundamental education that challenges the status quo of institutional racism and creates opportunities for those who are not privileged. Such environments call for continued conversations about whiteness among students and faculty, in addition to a safe space for them to express themselves.

Together we can change history and create a better nation for all our citizens.

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

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

By OBOS |

“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