New Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book by and for Women

By Gloria Steinem

7,352 ratings - 4.36* vote

Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century is the first major revision of this classic since 1984 and reflects the major changes that have occurred in every area of women's health. It is still the definitive consumer health reference of all women.This new focus encompasses such controversial issues as: -- Managing managed care and the insurance industry-- Questioning breast Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century is the first major revision of this classic since 1984 and reflects the

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Book details

Paperback, 752 pages
March 7th 1996 by Touchstone Books

(first published May 4th 1970)

Original Title
Women and their bodies: a course
0684823527 (ISBN13: 9780684823522)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Our Bodies, Ourselves by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, claims to have “served as a way for women, across ethnic, racial, religious and geographical boundaries, to start examining their health from a perspective that will bring about change”. This may ring true through most of the chapters in this text. However, on the topic of abortion, a political firestorm against religious fundamentalists and anti-abortion groups is unleashed.

Unplanned pregnancies follow birth control methods, and sexually transmitted diseases, appropriately. Only seven pages are devoted to making a decision. Brief entries on counseling, adoption, abortion and preparing for the birth are the entire contents of this section. The following section on abortion rights and methods covers twenty-nine full pages. The chapter begins, “Unless women can decide whether and when to have children, it is difficult for us to control our lives or to participate fully in society”. The author then states that for this reason, “women have always used abortion as a means of fertility control”. My answer – control your sex drive, practice abstinence.

Rather inappropriately, the text finishes up with pregnancy and childbirth, followed by growing older, selected medical procedures and the politics of women’s health and medical care. The text spurs on the politically motivated fight for “choice” (i.e. murder of an infant) through and through. Until mainstream feminism can disengage itself from supporting such a horrid practice and battle cry, many women like me will be left disgusted by the one-sided tirades of so-called feminists. Abortion as birth control should not be so commonplace. It should be a last resort and it should not be taken so lightly. In this “choice”, a human life is destroyed – that is the bottom line. Making abortion rights a rallying cry of the feminist movement is a mistake.


This book taught me why I have hair in all these new places...


Liz wrote this review for me last night while I was napping on the couch. I think she's trying to teach me some kind of lesson about leaving myself logged in to websites when I use her laptop.

I've actually never read Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives was my jam in high school. That was the book that taught me why I had hair in new places. It failed to teach me, however, why I couldn't grow a mustache ... a mystery that has yet to be solved.


When I first encountered an earlier edition this book at the apartment of a friend I was staying at over break in 1984, it was earth-shattering. Birth control! Lesbians! but most importantly, reinforcement of my nascent notions that I as a woman had worth beyond my womb, and that I deserved to control my own body, my own fate. Now I'm looking to it for information on perimenopause and later-life health issues, and it is still an excellent resource.

Carrie O'Dell

Not exactly something you sit down and read cover to cover, but a vital source of information not just on sexulaity and reproductive rights, but on relationships, nutrition, pregnancy, mental health. All my nieces (current and to come) get a copy on turning 13.


I bought my first copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was purchasing the books for my first semester's classes in college, and the then-new edition (ca. 1986) was on display for a women's studies class. Part comprehensive reference manual, part DIY health guide, part feminist manifesto (talk about the personal being political!), the book is loaded with useful information about women's physical, psychological, and emotional health issues, interwoven with personal anecdotes. The writers encourage all women to learn about their bodies, to advocate for themselves, and to realize that they are entitled to health and happiness.

The book pays particular attention to the health needs of lesbians, women of color, older women, women with disabilities and poor women. It is illustrated with intimate (and sometimes explicit) photos, including some from the original edition in full 70s hippie splendor. But even for women who don't see themselves as particularly crunchy, this really is an indispensable resource for good health information, and as a source of inspiration.


I read the latest (21st century) edition and that's the one my review is based on.

There were some really helpful things in here: women's personal accounts of their relationship experience, a solid background/history of abortion rights in the US, and some wonderful links to activist and media tools that I found particularly useful.


1) There was no chapter on menstruation! There was one on menopause, and some diseases related to menstruation were listed in the part on diseases, but no regular, straight-up explanation of what a healthy cycle is and how it works. I thought that was a weird thing to leave out.

2) Close to the beginning, in the chapter on eating disorders, they write that pornography gives teenage girls unrealistic ideas about their bodies and about sex (they even cite Gail Dines, a notable anti-porn feminist). And close to the end, in a chapter on VAW, they list "sex work" as a form of violence, state that poverty and desperation "undeniable" drive women into the sex industry, and mention that women in porn are frequently raped/abused by bosses (directors). But in the middle, in a part on sexuality, they basically shrug their shoulders on the whole porn question, saying straight-up that one woman's degradation is another woman's fantasy (sic).

So basically, OBOS admits that porn hurts women inside and outside the industry, but they refuse to take a stand on it overall because some women have masochistic fantasies.

There are many things I could call this kind of thinking/approach; "feminist" isn't one of them.

I will keep this brief and say that feminism exists to destroy a concrete system of (male) power; not to make every individual woman feel comfortable about her (bargained, at the expense of her human dignity) place within that broken system. I will let one of my favourite feminist bloggers expand on this point:

Updating a book like this with new(er) editions is important, for a number of reasons. But I sincerely hope that earlier editions were more honest about sexuality, and I wish that modern/mainstream feminist stopped trying to reassure women that every single thing they like/do/think/get off on is feminist just because. It isn't; get over it.

Janet C-B

This was a classic reference book among my young adult women friends in the 1970's. When my niece started college in the 1990's, I gave her the revised edition. What was so significant about the book in the 1970's is that it predates the Internet. Back then, the authors' provided current factual information on a range of women's health topics that was not readily available from "mom" or older sisters.


When I was in grade school around 5th grade, I was befriended by a very nice woman. I was terribly sad and in turmoil but I couldn't talk about things with my mom or my brothers. I met her after befriending her cat. As she got to know me, she went out of her way to be kind. Among the things we talked about was my lack of knowledge about my own body. She shared this book with me. Thank you, Lynn wherever you are.


I've had this book forever, or at least what feels like it: the mid-'80s, at least. When I pulled it off the shelf today to add it here, I was greatly amused to discover, tucked in the back, the syllabus from my 1988 Human Sexuality class in college.

Although I am sure that there are more modern, more up-to-date, references on women's health out there, this title remains for me a (no pun intended) seminal work. Because I discovered it when I was coming of age both sexually and emotionally, and because it is written from such an empowering perspective, it will always be a touchstone and my jumping-off point when looking for knowledge about health.


This book was my mother's subtle way of letting me know it was ok to ask her questions about my ovaries. And I certainly was obsessed with my ovaries back in the day.

The best book for female sexuality and anatomy in print. Period. Our Bodies, Ourselves has a liberal agenda - and one that most feminists, or in the case of my generation, post-feminists, and resonates a political agenda that agrees with the morality and sexual health practices of modern women.