Our Bodies, Our Words

Consider the title. It refers to the compendium of women’s health and sexuality that Wendy Sanford was instrumental in writing—her body of work, as it were. The title evokes the protests of the ’60s, which required strength in bodies. Finally, the title reflects Sanford’s coming to terms with her bodily self in relation to family, friends, and society.

Thirty-eight years after its initial publication, the revised and updated Our Bodies, Ourselves sits in the front row of my double-stacked bookshelf. The reason for its lasting influence, I believe, is its inclusion of personal narratives and its fearless naming of issues about which women are often uneducated and of body parts from which they are often alienated. Language is empowering and unifying in the book and in Sanford’s life, even, or especially, when her husband recoils at her identification as a “feminist.” Bodies are powerful, but words break down barriers, socially and self-constructed, between the body and the self.

—Tarrin Yeates

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