In this provocative book, a black lesbian feminist looks at black feminism -- its roots, its role, and its implications. From Charles Darwin and nineteenth-century racism to black nationalism and the Nation of Islam, from Baptist women's groups to James Baldwin, E. Frances White takes on one institution after another as she re-centers the role of black women in the United States' intellectual heritage. White presents identity politics as a complex activity, with entangled branches of race and gender, of invisibility and voyeurism, of defiance and passivity and conformism.
White's powerful introduction draws on oral narratives from her own family history to illuminate the nature of narrative, both what is said and what is left unsaid. She then sets the historical stage with a helpful history of the inception and development of black feminism and a critique of major black feminist writings. In the three chapters that follow, she addresses the obstacles black feminism has already surmounted and must continue to traverse. Confronting what White calls "the politics of respectability," these chapters move the reader from simplistic views of race and gender in the nineteenth century through black nationalism and the radical movements of the sixties, and their relationship to feminist thought, to the linkages between race, gender, and sexuality in the works of such giants as Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. No one who finishes Dark Continent of Our Bodies will look at race and gender in the same way again.
The book Our Bodies, Ourselves is a feminist success story. Selling more than four million copies since its debut in 1970, it has challenged medical dogmas about women’s bodies and sexuality, shaped health care policies, energized the reproductive rights movement, and stimulated medical research on women’s health. The book has influenced how generations of U.S. women feel about their bodies and health. Our Bodies, Ourselves has also had a whole life outside the United States. It has been taken up, translated, and adapted by women across the globe, inspiring more than thirty foreign language editions.
Kathy Davis tells the story of this remarkable book’s global circulation. Based on interviews with members of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, the group of women who created Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as responses to the book from readers, and discussions with translators from Latin America, Egypt, Thailand, China, Eastern Europe, Francophone Africa, and many other countries and regions, Davis shows why Our Bodies, Ourselves could never have been so influential if it had been just a popular manual on women’s health. It was precisely the book’s distinctive epistemology, inviting women to use their own experiences as resources for producing situated, critical knowledge about their bodies and health, that allowed the book to speak to so many women within and outside the United States. Davis provides a grounded analysis of how feminist knowledge and political practice actually travel, and she shows how the process of transforming Our Bodies, Ourselves offers a glimpse of a truly transnational feminism, one that joins the acknowledgment of difference and diversity among women in different locations with critical reflexivity and political empowerment.