Kline, Wendy. Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave

Article excerpt

Kline, Wendy. Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 1 + 200 pp. $22.50 (paperback). ISBN-13: 978-0-226-44308-9.

Wendy Kline argues in her book Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave that the only way women are able to achieve knowledge and power is by "thinking through the body, rather than around it" (2). Kline, an associate professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and the author of Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (2001), argues that women's bodies were central to the women's liberation movement. Kline's argument and discussion of the female body is theoretically grounded in feminist pedagogy, which places emphasis on experiential, embodied knowledge over theoretical, "rational" knowledge.

Kline posits that second-wave feminists gained information, unity, and knowledge through their bodies. She argues the significance of women's bodies by drawing on the mantra of radical and social feminists of the 1970s and 1980s: "The personal is political." Kline describes how women's bodies became politicized by explaining various methodologies and strategies of the second wave. These methodologies and strategies, used to structure her book and support her central argument, allow her to juxtapose different facets of the women's liberation movement with correlating aspects of the female body. More specifically, Kline focuses primarily on consciousness raising, political activism, medical implementations and investigations, and the formation of women activist groups.

Bodies of Knowledge takes readers on a historical journey through second-wave feminist thought by detailing the ways women gained knowledge through groundbreaking literature, medical advancements, and legal battles. Across each of these categories, Kline illustrates how the struggles were rooted in women's bodies. For example, Kline introduces the consciousness-raising personal narratives found in Our Bodies, Ourselves to set up a foundational framework that highlights the importance of self-awareness and reproductive health. She also uses these narratives to correspond with the rest of the cases she examines in her book. Kline posits that, from the problematic dichotomy of midwives and certified nurse-midwives to legal battles such as Roe v. Wade, women's bodies are central to the activism of second-wave feminism.

Kline makes clear that the problems women faced in the medical field were not limited to midwives negotiating their place in medicine. Because health feminists had to fight to have their voices heard in a field heavily dominated by men, Kline inspects the history and problems associated with the Pelvic Teaching Program created by health feminists from the Boston Women's Community Health Center in 1976 and implemented in Harvard Medical School. Kline's careful analysis of the medical field reveals the disrespect women's bodies received in doctors' offices and instructional classrooms, as well as the lack of knowledge medical doctors had regarding the female body. She demonstrates "the personal is political" by articulating how women used their bodies to shape the medical field's knowledge and practices. Kline makes clear the connection between medical advancements and legal battles when she explains that restructuring the medical field was met with opposition from male physicians and led health feminists to fight for their rights in the courtroom. …


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