A feminist journalist’s well-documented broadside against a medical system that is still shaped by its patriarchal origins.
With extensive historical research and personal interviews, Block (Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, 2007), a former editor at Ms. and editor of the revised Our Bodies, Our Selves, demonstrates that women are more vulnerable to overtesting, overdiagnosing, overtreatment, and mistreatment than men. The three horror stories that open her introduction give a taste of what is to come. “You may already be familiar,” she writes, “with a version of this story: Woman needs medical care. Woman is ignored. Woman has to fight.” The personal stories are stirring, even anger-arousing, but the author also offers a solid, well-researched history of mistreatment in the medical field as well as countless statistics and a wealth of expert testimony that lend credibility to her story. Calling the present cesarean rate a national health crisis, Block also looks at hysterectomies, annual pelvic exams, Pap tests, and mammograms. She delves into fertility interventions, the close ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the women’s health advocacy community, and the growth of underground abortions. This book is a call for “reproductive justice,” which Block explains means not just a right to contraception and abortion, but to fertility and sexuality—an area where she faults mainstream organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women for falling short. After pointing out the many ways in which the health care system is failing women, the author proposes that the solution lies in a new feminist health movement, less focused, as it once was, on self-exam. According to Block, we must take a broader, collaborative view, acknowledging that the issues are ideological and cultural rather than just political or economic.
Despite the catchy title, this is a dense and serious work packed with important information, highly recommended for health professionals, classes in women’s studies, and any woman who seeks guidance in these issues.