In her well-received first book, Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, feminist journalist Jennifer Block exposed the concerning aspects of maternity care in the United States. With Everything Below the Waist, she sounds an alarm about the condition of women's health care in America, where women run greater risks of reproductive system surgery than in any other developed nation. Partly supported by a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, Block's chilling exposé unveils a broken medical system and the patients who suffer its inadequacies and abuses.
Block delves deeply into the history of women's reproductive health and its practitioners, contrasting her findings against interviews with modern practitioners, researchers, nonprofit service providers and feminist thinkers. The emergent picture is one evocative of a science-fiction dystopia, a world where medicine ignores the basic fundamentals of female biology while seeking to control and shape it into a more convenient package. Women take hormonal birth control without full understanding of the poorly disclosed risks and side effects, while corporations offer egg-freezing parties to help their female employees put off parenthood. Years later, would-be mothers face painful fertility treatments with no guarantee of success.
Decrying a system that encourages women to sacrifice their most fertile years, Block laments, "We are running a race designed by and for men and literally taking steroids to compete." Everything Below the Waist is a call to action, insisting "[w]e need clinicians who focus less on controlling women's fertility and more on enhancing our health." Women of childbearing age in particular should not skip this important and well-researched analysis of a field that holds their lives in its hands. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads