Bodies of Knowledge
Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, women argued that unless they gained access to information about their own bodies, there would be no equality. In Bodies of Knowledge, Wendy Kline considers the ways in which ordinary women worked to position the female body at the center of women’s liberation.
As Kline shows, the struggle to attain this knowledge unified women but also divided them—according to race, class, sexuality, or level of professionalization. Each of the five chapters of Bodies of Knowledge examines a distinct moment or setting of the women’s movement in order to give life to the ideas, expectations, and pitfalls encountered by the advocates of women’s health: the making of Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973); the conflicts surrounding the training and practice of women’s pelvic exams; the emergence of abortion as a feminist issue; the battles over contraceptive regulation at the 1983 Depo-Provera FDA hearings; and the rise of the profession of midwifery. Including an epilogue that considers the experiences of the daughters of 1970s feminists, Bodies of Knowledge is an important contribution to the study of the bodies—that marked the lives—of feminism’s second wave.
“Bodies of Knowledge is one of the most compelling accounts of the history of women’s health and feminist activism that I’ve read to date. Kline presents us with five lively and impressively articulate case studies, each of which chronicles through a specific issue or problem feminists’ attempts to own and redefine the management of women’s bodies in health and sickness. These chapters, written in wonderfully lucid prose, underscore thoughtful overarching themes. Kline’s sharply cogent synthesis offers fresh narrative, engaging stories, and well-researched analysis, while also bringing new material to light.”
Introduction: Body Knowledge
1 Transforming Knowledge: The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves
2 Reexamining the Pelvic: The Pelvic Instruction Controversy of the 1970s
3 Learning from the Uterus Out: Abortion and Women’s Health Activism in Chicago
4 Bodies of Evidence: Depo-Provera and the Public Board of Inquiry
5 Choices in Childbirth: A Modern Midwife’s Tale
Epilogue: Daughters of Feminism