President Trump’s assault on women continues.
On Dec. 15, The Washington Post broke the story that the Trump administration is prohibiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from utilizing seven phrases and phrases in official paperwork “being prepared for next year’s budget.” The phrases embrace “fetus,” “diversity” and “evidence-based.”
The uproar on social media started instantly. Teespring.com guarantees to ship its $19.99 “CDC’s Banned Words” tote bag earlier than Christmas with rush delivery. The banned phrases are printed crossword-style in order that “I RESIST” seems vertically in purple.
Feminist novelist Margaret Atwood, writer of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” referred to as for her Twitter followers to “come up with substitute words for the seven forbiddens.” Suggestions instantly flowed in by the handfuls, a number of the most hanging for the phrase “fetus.” One of the favorites: “tummyling.” Others embrace “wombfiller,” “non-viable pre-human cellular group,” “parasitoid larva,” “clump of cells,” “protohumanoid” and “wannabebaby.”
But different Atwood followers, maybe feeling a bit much less playful, burdened the significance of embracing the forbidden phrases. “I refuse,” wrote a literature teacher, who teaches her college students that “words have power. Words mean things.”
And they do.
For women, particularly, such a battle over phrases, notably these linked to copy, has been a part of the longer historic wrestle to reclaim information of and energy over their our bodies. Efforts to ban phrases akin to “fetus” assault the agenda of women’s health activists, who’ve challenged the language surrounding these issues to extend women’s management over their very own our bodies.
Since the 1970s, feminists have used the facility of the written phrase to demand bodily rights — contraception, abortion, freedom from coercive sterilization, decisions in childbirth — as a part of their quest to realize full equality. The banned phrases don’t simply attempt to silence women, they try and dismantle these feminist positive factors.
Women’s health first emerged as a serious social and political situation within the turbulent late 1960s. Women impressed by the civil rights motion and its demand for equal citizenship created a brand new wave of feminist activism. At the core of this activism was asserting that probably the most personal, private features of their id — relationships, sexuality, health and household life — have been political. In different phrases, private experiences rooted in sexism might be channeled into “consciousness-raising,” a type of political motion designed to elicit dialogue about such subjects as women’s relationships, their roles in marriage and their emotions about childbearing.
Ideas and private tales started to unite a broad vary of women who got here to determine themselves as feminists. Sharing tales turned, by the top of the 1960s, a technique for creating change. Women’s liberation conferences sprang up throughout the nation to create consciousness-raising experiences for women to discover political features of private life.
In May 1969, Emmanuel College in Boston hosted one among these feminine liberation conferences. But this one was totally different. It featured a two-hour workshop on Sunday afternoon, referred to as “women and their bodies.” The 12 individuals, a few of whom had by no means earlier than been in any sort of women’s group, spent their time sharing irritating and enraging tales about dangerous experiences with their obstetrician-gynecologists.
They resolved to proceed assembly after the convention, calling themselves the “doctor’s group,” with the concept they might create an inventory of “reasonable” OB-GYNs within the Boston space. (By affordable, they meant docs who listened to the affected person, revered her opinions, and defined procedures and drugs.)
They shortly found, nevertheless, that they have been unable to place collectively such an inventory — and, extra necessary, that the women who attended the workshop shared a want to study as a lot as attainable about their our bodies and their health. So they determined on a summer time undertaking.
Each member would analysis a subject of private significance about their our bodies and convey the knowledge again to the group. Members then shared their experiences and analysis associated to this matter with the group. By incorporating private experiences into the medical narrative, they started the method of remodeling medical information into one thing political and empowering.
Ultimately, this group, calling themselves the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, wrote the primary complete health guide for women, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” This was a e-book “by women, for women,” they defined. Long earlier than the Internet, this guide offered women with details about their our bodies that was troublesome to seek out elsewhere. “I think that I learned more about my anatomy than I had ever known,” one reader recalled. As of fall 2017, the guide has been tailored into 31 languages and bought over four million copies.
More than only a supply of data, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” challenged the male-dominated medical institution by taking management of the narrative surrounding women’s our bodies. Female our bodies, argued health feminists, had been subjected to male medical authority; 93 % of physicians have been male in 1970 and, in response to critics, they have been paternalistic, condescending and judgmental.
By valuing women’s private tales, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” legitimized the notion of experiential information as a central element of health — the concept each lady’s physique contained the seeds of data essential to defining her personal well-being. The well-informed feminine affected person might subsequently grow to be an lively shopper within the healthcare business relatively than a passive recipient.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” was each a sensible information and a theoretical software; an encyclopedia of details about women’s health, and in addition a dictionary that launched a brand new vocabulary to outline women’s health. Suddenly, women’s particular person experiences mattered as a lot as medical analysis. The e-book offered the instruments for women to problem medical decision-making and to hunt various buildings of care based mostly on the notion of experiential information.
And it dramatically altered readers’ understanding of their very own our bodies, in addition to their relationships with their docs. “I immediately sat and read through the book and felt a shift in my worldview,” recollects feminist historian Estelle Freedman. Her remark mirrored the emotions of a era.
And but, such a profound shift in worldview was met with resistance, each inside organized drugs and the political construction. Initial optimism that change would occur in a single day dissipated because it turned clear that the battle would outlast the last decade, and even the century.
In the autumn of 2013, the Our Bodies, Ourselves group launched “education congress,” a marketing campaign to make sure that all members of Congress acquired a replica of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” after former consultant Todd Akin’s notorious claims about “legitimate rape” unleashed a firestorm concerning the lack of correct understanding about women’s reproductive health. Executive director and co-founder Judy Norsigian hand-delivered copies of the latest version to dozens of legislators — a reminder that the motion she had helped to launch 40 years earlier had turn out to be extra essential than she had ever imagined.
And now, 4 years later, fetus has develop into a banned phrase. No doubt Norsigian is headed again to Washington for an additional “Our Bodies, Ourselves” supply. It in all probability gained’t be her final journey, both.
The social media response to the banned phrases means that this can be the subsequent #MeToo second. And it must be. Women have demanded that their voices and tales be heard. This is about talking fact to energy. Now it’s time to take the subsequent step by insisting that we’ve got management over our phrases, which is important to making sure that we management our personal our bodies.