Women’s Health Week and International Women’s Day have both come and gone. At the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Women’s Health Week is usually accented with the popular event, the Body Monologues. Body Monologues, like its vagina-specific counterpart, consists of the telling of narratives on female body image. Every yearly event is filled with challenging, heart-felt, angry and inspiring stories by women as they articulate, through poetry, dance, speech and song, their personal struggles with femininity, sexuality, eating disorders, abuse and fight for body confidence. Sadly, this year, the Body Monologues was cancelled (you can still attend the main event in April 2014, in Toronto – click here for more information). However, even if the Monologue is cancelled, the dialogue must still persist; here are some of my favourite books in the world of female health that challenge the way we view femininity and our relationships with our bodies.
1) Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach. A must-read for anyone who has ever dieted, struggled with compulsive eating, suffered from an eating disorder or simply battles an internal critique concerning her appearance. This is an excellent book to use with patients as it contains simple exercises and visualizations to untangle mental-emotional fears and beliefs from the desire to lose weight.
2) The Path of Practice by Bri. Maya Tiwari. Born and raised in Guyana, Tiwari comes from a family of Indian immigrants. She moves to New York City to become a famous fashion designer before falling ill from late-stage ovarian cancer. In an attempt to heal herself she returns to her roots, adapting ayurvedic practices and learning to live more coherently with nature and the practices of her ancestors. While many of her practices may be difficult to incorporate into the modern working woman’s life – not all of us can live in a cabin and grind our own spices every day – her words and exercises inspire us to live more intentionally and make an effort to tune into our bodies more often.
3) The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. In her book, which has become a manual for Third Wave Feminism, Wolf works to de-construct many of our ingrained beliefs of the importance of women to strive towards a physical ideal. Published in the 1990’s the book is still relevant today. While women have made strides towards equality over the past century, the vast majority of us still suffer from body image issues. Reading Wolf’s book helps to challenge the patriarchal doctrine of the importance of female beauty standards as well as outline its consequences of suppressing female power and maintaining gender inequality. A powerful book that will make you throw out half your make-up collection and cancel your subscription to women’s magazines… if you want.
4) Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christine Northrop, MD. A women’s health tome on the mind-body connection of various female-specific health complaints. Dr. Northrop’s book helps empower women with their own health by providing wisdom and knowledge about the mind-body connection. “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom is a love letter to women and their bodies,” writes one reader in the introduction of the book. It’s an 800-page love letter worth reading.
What are your favourite reads on women’s health?