For generations of girls, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was the starter pack to adulthood: It let you know whether your vulva was weird looking (it wasn’t), what kind of birth control you might want to use and whether you were the only one who had a special relationship with your pillow. (You weren’t, Page 162 assured.)
But after nearly 50 years, Our Bodies Ourselves, the Boston nonprofit home of the book, will stop publishing the pubescent tome amid a period of “transition.” The book, last updated in 2011, will no longer have new editions. The nonprofit organization housing their programmatic work — they reported $279,460 in revenue for its 2016 fiscal year — will now be led by volunteers.
That the foundational feminist text will cease to publish at this particular time seems strange. Trump’s inauguration was dwarfed by millions of women wearing “pussy hats”; abusive men across every industry are being outed by #MeToo; women in film, television and music are embracing the feminist label with gusto.
But feminist nonprofits, especially those founded during the movement’s second wave heyday, aren’t thriving in a way that reflects the moment. Stalwarts like the National Organization for Women and Ms. magazine still exist. But their profiles dwindle in the shadow of newer endeavors like Times Up, or Teen Vogue’s recent political makeover.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” has “always been a labor of love,” Ms. Childers said, but perhaps that’s part of the problem. Even as women’s work and activism has completely changed lives and shifted the direction of the country, we still have largely been expected to do it for little to no money, with women’s nonprofits relying on pure passion and urgent need.
As feminism becomes more and more culturally powerful, guiding voices with experience will be more important ever. The more mainstreamed feminism becomes, the easier it is to water down the values of the movement.