Book Review of Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution by Jennifer Block
Jennifer Block has interviewed people all over the country, and a few more. She teaches about women’s reproductive health by telling stories: a midwife not legally allowed to assist in her client’s breech birth but managing to support her through the rejections by two hospitals; stories from the early years of health feminism when viewing one’s own cervix was an empowering act; the famous and heart-breaking story of Amy Reed, a woman who died of cancer after her uterus and fibroids were morcellated. (Don’t know what morcellated means? Read from page 135 on before you have fibroids removed or a hysterectomy)
The stories and interview style journalism makes this book very readable even though it’s dense with information. It’s a fascinating look at women’s reproductive wellness from a new perspective. Jennifer Block explores “alternative” concepts of menstruation, reproduction, organ placement, birth and a quick attack on health groups that are funded by and manipulated by pharmaceutical companies.
I was surprised to see Block support “vaginal renewal” which I had previously only heard about on Real Housewives of New York (I only watch when I’m nursing a cold…really!). Therefore I thought of it as somewhat of a joke and definitely as an insult. Vaginas are organs! You don’t “rejuvenate” your kidneys, do you? Yet I had a lot to learn (still do) about vaginal damage and dryness and the causes of it. Seems this is a legit option that avoids using estrogen. Good information.
I went to college in the late 1970s, I grew to maturity in New York City in the early 1980s. My friends and I weren’t on the front lines of women’s liberation (those lines had frayed and lost momentum by then). We knew that we were exploring the world and our sexuality in a way not available to the world before birth control. What we didn’t know was that freedom was soon to stop with the advent of HIV. This book makes me feel that the time of exploration is not and should not be over. Give this book to your daughter…after you finish reading it.
What I’m reading next: Bottle of Lies, by Katherine Eban and after that: Questioning Protocol, by Randi Redmond Oster. Don’t miss Randi’s harrowing account of her son’s first exposure to an opioid (in the hospital) and her courageous path to patient advocate in MedShadow, Pediatric Drug Prescribing for Opioids: What you need to know, NOW.