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Keep ‘Em Barefoot and Pregnant

Woman’s Body
An Owner’s Manual
1977

This is a nice relic from the 1970s.  I was sure this paperback that found its way into our donation pile would be too old or crusty to still be on a public library shelf, but I was wrong.  As of this writing, WorldCat showed a bunch of holdings in public libraries. Shame!

In 1977, I am sure this was considered a good purchase.  Women’s health issues were just starting to become front and center. The first book that really addressed this was Our Bodies, Ourselves, published in 1971.  I remember Our Bodies, Ourselves being quite the controversial title.  The feminism was clear, but I think the real controversy of this book encouraged women to actually question and challenge the doctors about treatment and options and many old time doctors did not appreciate having to explain themselves. Ah, the good old days when doctors knew everything and told women “they knew better”.

Mary

21 Responses to Keep ‘Em Barefoot and Pregnant

  • Damn. 35 years later and I still see people parrot all those myths about rape.

  • A relic, but still with a lot of truth…

  • Weed for condition? The cover looks mussed up with use, and it’s got that yellowy overly-crisp pages look to it.

  • Wow, hitchhiking safety advice. That alone should send this book to the weed pile.

  • @Lurker – I think this was a donation, not on the shelves, though other libraries do have it.

    @Fraser – You have to admit, tv shows like Law & Order: SVU don’t help. Almost all the victims, even the homeless schizophrenics could model for Victoria’s Secret, are random victims, etc. Seems the writers could’ve used this book.

  • I’m mostly bothered by the book saying that rape can be “provoked” at all.

  • I have to admit–I kind of admire the ingenuity of the plastic lemon as a defensive weapon. But wouldn’t the lemon juice that came in it be at least as effective as vinegar?

  • I must be missing something – I don’t see what is awful about it. It is of its time but it is not telling women to cover up and stay at home if they want to avoid rape(for eg)

  • I agree with Maddy. Rape is never “provoked” and even saying it is in 4.4% of cases is still saying it’s provoked. It’s sad that a lot of the other myths about rape mentioned are still so prevalent today (well I’d never heard of the interracial rape myth before, I’m willing to believe that’s a generational thing or I’m very sheltered though).

  • Ellesar, I agree. I was surprised how forward-thinking and subversive this was. Imagine how this would create uppity-thinking in women! The kind who expect “no” to mean “no”! Or who don’t blame an unidentified black male for YOUR act of rape! Who bathes and exercises when she has her period! Next think you know, she’ll want to go out and work!

  • The plastic lemon was a self-defense item back then. I think Margaret Atwood mentioned it in a short story. They also sometimes had ammonia in there.

  • Maddie Grove, did you actually read the excerpt from this book? It pointed out that the idea that rape can be “provoked” is a myth.

    Overall, I would have to say this thing should be retired, and stat!

  • I remember this book as a teenager. Unfortunately, a lot of people still believe those rape myths today, and I teach my college students about them. I haven’t heard of the interracial one in a while though, but the women’s behavior gets them raped one is very predominant still. A very sad commentary on our society indeed.

  • A book about women?

    I’ll take two, please.

  • Really worried about Bill Gates on p.327 there. She will break his spectacles…

  • Jami, your Law & Order info was new to me. Bleah on them!
    And yes, interracial rape was a big bugbear once. One of the justifications for keeping African Americans “in their place” was the risk of them getting their hands on white women.

  • Microboye1: It doesn’t say rape can’t be provoked; it says that rape is rarely provoked. 4.4% of the time, to be exact. The heading may suggest that they’re debunking the myth completely, but the statistics say clearly that 4.4% of female rape victims are “asking for it,” at least a little. Apparently, the woman in the picture is among the 4.4%, because…well, you tell me. Because she’s wearing fishnets and high heels? I hope you understand why I find this unacceptable.

  • A pepper shaker and plastic lemon? Did women carry all the ingredients to make a Bloody Mary in their purses?

  • It doesn’t say some rapes are provoked by the victim. It says only 4% are “even partly sparked off by the victim’s behavior.” That means that many are perhaps the teensiest bit influenced by something she did, even if it’s only 1% of the cause. That’s not HORRIBLY unfair. If I’ve been informed by the police that there’s a serial rapist on the loose who has a habit of raping women in college hoodies within a 4 block radius between midnight and 4 AM, and I go walking around in that area at that time in that attire, and I get raped, it is absolutely partly my fault, because that would be stupid. Those situations would be really, really, really rare, but not impossible. That’s what they mean.

    But really? I find it sort of odd how many people are complaining that it says some 96% of rapes are in no way the victim’s fault. That’s a lot higher percentage than most people think NOW, let alone 35 years ago. I don’t think it’s really worth quibbling over when this is probably the first book to even admit it could be not her fault.

  • Mom had both this and “Man’s Body” on the shelf. Adolescent Andy learned all sorts of stuff from those two volumes. There was a lot of content overlap between the two.

  • I think the “provoking rape” section is just worded poorly. If you read the whole thing, it says:

    “Only 4.4% of rapes are even partly sparked off by the victim’s behavior… a lower rate than for homicide or even robbery.”

    The issue is that for rape “s/he was dressed sexy” is often an affective defense to criminal action. While “s/he was using an ATM on a dark street” is never a winning defense in a robbery trial. Neither is “s/he insulted me” a defense for homicide (actual self-defense is generally manslaughter, not homicide and so wouldn’t be an issue). All three things could be said to “spark off” the attacker, but only one is seen as a legal excuse for the attack.

    How I read this is that 4.4% of rapists say they acted based on the victim’s behavior. The troubling question is why that matters. They are still rapists.