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Our Bodies Turkish!

Did you know that 'Our Bodies, Ourselves' the groundbreaking book about women's health, has been translated or adapted into 29 international editions? Like Russian, Albanian and Tibetan and Korean?

These books have provided women with information on health – and women's rights – in areas where this kind of stuff was unavailable and sometimes illegal.

Now there's a version for Turkish women. The organization Mavi Kalem is in the process of translating and culturally adapting the book, which in Turkish is called 'Bedenim ve Ben.' The final edition, which will include narratives of women from every region of Turkey, should be done in 2009.

They have also launched a companion website designed to help Turkish NGOs working on women’s health, as well as a wide-scale campaign distributing badges with the slogan "my body is mine" to encourage involvement in the women’s movement.

This will come in handy in a country where there's no sex education at any school level. Click here for more statistics. There's more info on Mavi Kalem's website, and if you'd like to contact them, you can email Emine Filiz Ayla at They speak English and are based in the Fener/Balat section of Istanbul.

'Free To Be...You And Me' turns 35. Which makes me much older.

I don't know about you, but Free To Be...You and Me pretty much changed my life. It's a big part of my doc "I Was A Teenage Feminist" and above is a still from the film of me with my 1974 album, freshly autographed by Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin.

The story of Atalanta revealed the shocking fact that you didn't actually have to marry the handsome prince to live happily ever after. This totally rocked my world and went against all conventional fairy tale wisdom. I hear from many gay men that 'William's Doll' had a similar world-rocking effect on them.

Here's a clip of Atalanta:

I watched the video recently and was stuck by how earnest it all was. I can't imagine how anything that irony-free (and unapologetically liberal) would ever be made today. It's been updated for its anniversary, but I wonder how well the tone of the new stuff meshes with the original material.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a handy briefing from USA Today:

Free to Be … You and Me struck a chord when it was first published in 1973. Its message to young readers was simple yet eye-opening: They could be different and that was fine.

"The message is a rather deep one, that you can choose your own role models, you can fight stereotypes," says Thomas, 70, who starred in the hit '60s TV series That Girl, which broke single-woman-in-the-city stereotypes. Free to Be "was a revolutionary book. Some people were even afraid of it."

Original contributors included many of Thomas' friends — children's author Judy Blume, author and composer Shel Silverstein and actor Carl Reiner. The new edition features all of the original material plus 14 new contributors from children's literature, updated artwork and a new CD.

'Mention one hot-button issue, and you've expressed an entire ideology'

I often get into airplane conversations about feminism. This happens when people ask me what I do, and I foolishly answer them instead of pushing my earbuds in deeper.

Not too long ago, someone asked me if I would vote for an anti-choice candidate (OK he said pro-life, but I hate that term.) When I said no, he accused me of being a one-issue voter. I pointed out that people who want to make abortion illegal often have an additional laundry list of things they'd like to see changed: making contraception illegal, keeping sex ed out of the schools, putting creationism in the get my drift.

Slate's Bill Bishop writes about an interesting case study of this phenomenon:

Sex education is an oldie but a goodie because it's about so much more than sex or education. Some of the earliest coalitions in the conservative movement were formed around schoolbook fights. In Orange County, California, anti-U.N.ers found common cause with evangelicals and small-government libertarians in late-'60s battles over what books should be used in the public schools. Sex education and books were a proxy for a constellation of beliefs that were defining modern-day conservatism.

Maybe we can see this phenomenon more clearly if we take a trip back to 1974 and the great Kanawha County, W.Va., schoolbook war.

In the spring of that year, the local school board introduced a new set of "multicultural" texts. There had been a dispute about sex education in the Kanawha schools a year or two earlier, and one of the leaders of that protest had been elected to the board. She began to talk against the books, saying they violated "traditional Christian and American values." Parents met. Then they protested. By the end of summer, they were holding mass marches in Charleston.

And when school started, parents kept their children out of the classrooms. By the fall, much of the state's coal-mining industry was shut down as union miners went on strike over the books. Things got out of hand. One minister prayed publicly for the deaths of three school board members. Shots were fired at a school bus, somebody dynamited a school, and several folks went to jail.

Ten years after the strike ended, a graduate student interviewed a large group of West Virginia's schoolbook warriors. Don Goode found that pro- and anti-schoolbook advocates disagreed not just about schools but about everything.

Pro-book advocates believed in government and thought that perhaps taxes should be raised. They supported the Supreme Court's ruling that prayer be banned from schools. They thought schools should serve hot meals to poor kids and provide day care. Pro-book West Virginians went to mainline churches (Methodist and Episcopalian) and lived mostly in the city of Charleston.

Anti-book activists told Goode they disagreed with the Supreme Court's prayer decision. They thought government was too big, that tax money was wasted, and that schools shouldn't try to take the place of families. They lived in the rural areas of Kanawha County and worshipped at nondenominational churches like the Two-Mile Mountain Mission Church and the Open Door Apostolic Church.

Goode also asked the West Virginians what values they thought were most important. Those who thought the new textbooks were OK ranked a "world of beauty in nature and the arts" quite high on Goode's list of 18 values. They agreed that having a "saved, eternal life" was least important.

Those who opposed the books ranked eternal salvation first. Talk about your two Americas...

He had her at hello...

29-year-old Bernadette Synder recently became what the Catholic church calls a 'consecrated virgin.' This calling, which should not be confused with the sworn virgins of Albania, is considered by the Catholic church "as much a formal vocation as the priesthood or religious orders of nuns." From the article:

Wearing a white sundress and big pink earrings, Snyder knelt in May as Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo laid hands on hers in the rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity of Women Living in the World. He also slipped onto her ring finger a gold band - a symbol of her spousal relationship with Jesus Christ.

"He completes me," Snyder said. "I don't even know if marriage is the proper term; I feel like he's my husband."

Does a Hysterical Paroxysm come with that Vag treatment?

Not only are our ladyparts in need of tightening and trimming, they're also apparently out of shape. This, according to a story in the NY Times today about a new spa:

At the spa, the signature treatment will be a $150 gynecological exam — in which a client contracts her pelvic muscles around Dr. Romanzi’s fingers — to determine by feel whether muscle tone is weak, moderate or strong...

Clients could also use an in-office electrostimulation machine to improve pelvic muscle tone or buy a device for home use. Dr. Romanzi said that such treatments are intended to improve bladder control; she said pelvic training may also lead to more intense orgasms...

I don't know about you, but I don't want anything with the word 'electro' anywhere near my special place. But this does put me in mind of the delightful 19th-century treatment for female hysteria, wherein a doctor would use 'pelvic massage' to bring his patient to 'hysterical paroxysm" (which is Victorian for orgasm). The tiring nature of administering this treatment led to the invention of the vibrator and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks to Cynthia for telling me about the Times story and totally depressing me.