Peitho 21.3 Table of Contents

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Cover Art

Meredith Spence


Introduction to “Rhetorical Pasts, Rhetorical Futures: Reflecting on the Legacy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and the Future of Feminist Health Literacy

Sara DiCaglio and Lori Beth De Hertogh, Guest Editors


Hard Labor

Lynn Z. Bloom


The Feminist Work of Unsticking Shame: Affective Realignment in the 1973 Edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves

Heather Brook Adams

Abstract: This essay focuses on a distinct feature of the 1973 publication of OBOS that is not similarly maintained in later editions: its deliberate acknowledgement of gendered sexual shame and its effort to undo or “unst[i]ck” (Ahmed 15) this emotion. Cultivating a rhetoric of insubordination, this early OBOS encourages “affective realignment” that 1) identifies the paradox of knowledge gained and epistemological ignorance of the body, 2) disrupts binary cultural scripts that call for women’s sexual purity or freedom, and 3) suggests the lingering “stickiness” of sexual shame and the slow and effort-filled process of replacing shame with dignity and knowledge.
Keywords: affect, feminist epistemologies, health literacy, historiography, shame

Feminist Authorial Agency: Copyright and Collaboration in the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

Clancy Ratliff

Abstract: This essay situates Our Bodies, Ourselves in the narrative of feminist critiques of authorship and intellectual property. It describes ways that the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective leveraged copyright law to exercise feminist authorial agency, particularly in its use of royalties and active encouragement of translations of the book.
Keywords: agency, authorship, collaboration, collaborative writing, copyright, derivative works, feminist authorial, intellectual property, translation


Rhetorically Framing the “Inside Woman”: Female Healthcare Workers across Editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves

Lillian Campbell

Abstract: This article examines the framing of female healthcare workers—the “inside women”—in the 1971 edition of OBOS, the 1973 edition when it transitioned to Simon and Schuster, and the current 2011 edition. While each historical moment was marked by ideological shifts in the goals of feminist health movements, the editions are consistently mistrustful towards female healthcare workers, arguing that they approach healthcare like men. Drawing on rhetorical frame analysis, this article demonstrates how this perspective remained anchored over time and considers the implications of this mistrustful stance towards healthcare insiders for both OBOS and feminist health movements today.
Keywords: doctors, frame analysis, healthcare, women’s health movement

Clinical Relationships and Feminist Values: How OBOS Benefits Collaborative Relationships in Women’s Health

Barry DeCoster and Wendy Parker

Abstract: This article takes up the question: to what extent are the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s (BWHBC) values of collaboration and agency enacted today in women’s health clinical practices? First, this article investigates the BWHBC archives—work that eventually became Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS)—to articulate how the authors used collaborative and interdisciplinary methodology to present a new way of engaging health information for women. Second, this article draws from the BWHBC’s methodology to conduct interviews with women and clinicians on their working collaborations around birth. Ultimately, this article finds that the work started by OBOS continues in modern birth practices and clinical relationships, as women today still navigate the complexities of individual and collective values through uptake or the origin of the BWHBC.
Keywords: agency, birth practices, circulation, clinical relationships, uptake, women’s health


Tracing the Future Lineage for OBOS: Reproductive Health Applications as a Text for Feminist Rhetorical Inquiry

Maria Novotny and Les Hutchinson

Abstract: This essay reflects upon the foundational work of OBOS to identify and inform future scenes for feminist rhetorical health research. We draw parallels between OBOS and reproductive health applications, particularly period and fertility tracking apps. Doing so, we make the case that these applications act as technological texts extending the commitments OBOS originally made, yet, we also raise caution and questions regarding how these applications collect and commodify user’s personal health data. This essay then applies OBOS as a framework to inform a series of questions for feminist health rhetoricians. Our intention in sharing questions related to design, pedagogy, methodology, and ethics is to inspire future feminist health intervention work within rhetorical scholarship and to encourage users of these applications to demand more ethical care in the empowering design of these technologies.
Keywords: care, feminist ethics, feminist rhetoric, FemTech, health, reproductive health applications

Women and Their Bodies: A Feminist Rhetorical Approach to User-Centered Technology

Sarah Singer

Abstract: This article builds on work by Robert Johnson and Jordynn Jack to argue that a feminist rhetorical approach to user-centered technologies involves three key principles: power, simplicity, and individuality. To demonstrate, I rhetorically analyze Women and Their Bodies, which uses plain language, personal stories, and clear instructions to empower users to transform themselves and the healthcare system. Then, I show how a current health information sharing platform, MyLymeData (MLD), employs the same rhetorics of user-centeredness but does not, in fact, share the same goals for transformative access. Even though MLD appears to be system-disrupting, it requires users to submit their data in exchange for access to the platform’s data repository. I conclude by imagining what a truly user-centered version of MLD might look like and considering directions for future research.
Keywords: data, health information sharing, Lyme disease, user-centered technology

“Like Regular Underwear, But So Much Better”: How Thinx Can Create Feminist Embodied Subjects through the Enduring Legacy of OBOS

Melissa Stone

Abstract: This article explores Thinx underwear as a feminist embodied rhetorical object that indirectly inherits the spirit of Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS). In this article I consider OBOS as a text that allows for the collation of feminist health technologies and literacies. Thinx professes to create the ability for menstruators to gain some measure of capacity for feminist rhetorical action. Following Jordynn Jack’s call for more scholarship (2016) that takes up feminist rhetorical studies of wearable technologies, this article examines the rhetorical implications of Thinx. Menstrual wearables along with texts like OBOS can aid in the creation of what Kathy Davis (2007) deems “feminist embodied subjects” who are empowered through knowledge productions of their own bodies.
Keywords: gender, menstruation, rhetoric, technology, wearables


Response to “Rhetorical Pasts, Rhetorical Futures: Reflecting on the Legacy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and the Future of Feminist Health Literacy”

Susan Wells