In 1970, the best-seller Our Bodies Ourselves was published. The focus of the authors, the Boston Health Collective, was on the youthful female body: on reproduction, sexuality, genitalia, intimacy and relationships in the context of North American cultural expectations. Our Bodies Not Ourselves is also about the female body—but on women aging from menopause to 100. Like its predecessor, Our Bodies Not Ourselves covers sexuality, genitalia, intimacy, gender norms and relationships. But the aging woman's body has many other issues, from head to toe, from skeleton to skin, and from sleep to motion.
The book, an ethnography and Western cultural history of aging and gender, draws upon history, culture and social media, the authors’ own experiences as women of 70, and conversations and correspondence with more than two hundred women aged from 60-ish to 100. They consider the cultural and structural frameworks for contemporary aging: the long sweep of history, gendered cultural norms and the vast commercial and medical marketplaces for maintaining and altering the aging body. Part I, The Private Body, focuses on the embodied experiences of aging within our private households. Part II, The Public Body, explores weight, height, and adornment as old women appear among others. Part III, The Body With Others, sets the embodied experiences of aging women within their sexual and social relationships.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Prologue: Our Bodies Not Ourselves Chapter 1: The Aging Body From Past to Present PART I THE PRIVATE BODY Chapter 2: The Edifice: From Skeleton to Skin Chapter 3: Brain and Sense: The Pains and Pleasures of the Flesh PART II: THE PUBLIC BODY Chapter 4: The Body Observed: From Head to Toe Chapter 5: The Body in Outline: Unbearable Weight PART III: THE BODY WITH OTHERS Chapter 6: The Hall of Mirrors: Aging in Sexual and Social Relationships Chapter 7: Epilogue: Our Bodies Ourselves
Kathryn A. Kirigin is Professor Emerita at the University of Kansas, USA. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, among others.
Carol A.B. Warren is Professor Emerita at the University of Kansas, USA. She is the author of ten books, most recently The Lotos Eaters: Aging and Identity in a Yacht Club Community (Routledge, 2016), and nearly fifty articles, papers and reviews.
In this book "from the field," Kathryn Kirigin and Carol Warren give us an unstinting look at older women’s experience with their bodies—in all the particulars. The authors raise provocative questions: Are we or are we not our bodies? How much intervention is appropriate to keep up appearances? Readers will find fresh reflections on how to conduct oneself across time, and the advice to "carry on…inside and despite our bodies."
David J. Ekerdt, Professor of Sociology and Gerontology, University of Kansas, and President of the Gerontological Society of America
The book is a real contribution, an extraordinary book that amasses important historical and contemporary information not easily found. The authors deserve applause for their scholarship, their fearlessness and personal vulnerability, and their unflinching attention to the truth of aging bodies and minds. It should be valuable for courses in human sexualities, gerontology, nursing, social work, sociology and gender studies.
Pepper Schwartz, University of Washington—Seattle