The illegal Birth Control Handbook printed by McGill students in 1968

A little piece of McGill University history was recently highlighted in a post from Atlas Obscura called The Illegal Birth Control Handbook that spread across college campuses in 1968

coverbirthcontrolhandbook

Under Canada’s Criminal Code at the time (1968), the dissemination, sale, and advertisement of birth control methods were all illegal, and abortion was punishable by life imprisonment.

Originally aimed at McGill students, the Birth Control Handbook was mostly self-funded, but students at 10 other Canadian universities, as well as Princeton University and the University of Maine, also chipped in. The McGill Daily wrote that the Handbook hoped to “bridge the gap between high school hygiene courses and street corner advisory sessions.”

The handbook did much more than bridge that gap, providing much-needed information that many women today still struggle to access about their own bodies and reproductive health. It also still holds up pretty well and is quite explicit even by today’s standards.

Definitely worth flipping through if not only for the beautiful images included. You can check out and flip through the handbook in full on Archive.org (my favourite place to visit online).

birthcontrolhand04cher_0008

birthcontrolhand04cher_0038  birthcontrolhand04cher_0011

birthcontrolhand04cher_0015

birthcontrolhand04cher_0048

For more on the handbook and legal landscape at the time of printing and distribution of The Birth Control Handbook, you can check out the original article from Atlas Obscura.

Advertisements

Love Thy Cervix!

teal 150
The Beautiful Cervix Project is one of my all-time favourite projects!

A few years ago I was at a gynecological appointment where the doctor made use of a camera and a big TV screen to better examine my cervix. This meant for the first time in my life I was actually seeing my cervix. It didn’t look like much of anything but a fleshy wall and I was pretty indifferent until the assistant decided to point to the hole in the middle of my cervix (the os) and excitedly say “this is where babies come out of!” To this day I’m surprised I didn’t pass out right there.

I’m really squeamish, but for some reason what really stuck in my mind is that it was weird that no one ever taught me about the part inside my body that actually separates the vagina from the uterus. I felt like my childhood thoughts about why babies didn’t just fall out of pregnant women were finally answered!

I decided to look online to learn more about the cervix. I felt like I had only ever heard about it when talking about cervical cancer which is weird because women all have one but we seem to generally be unaware of what we’re really talking about when we say the cervix. This is when I discovered the Beautiful Cervix Project.

cervix

“The Beautiful Cervix Project is a grassroots movement celebrating the beauty and intricacies of women’s bodies and fertility!  This website provides accessible information about women’s fertility and menstrual cycles and showcases photographs documenting changes in the cervix and cervical fluid throughout the cycle. We believe that this form of self-empowerment and education will help contradict shame and misinformation around women’s reproductive health and choices, affecting positive change from the personal to global levels.”

BCP started when a woman studying to be a midwife decided to take pictures of her own cervix for educational purposes. From there she took and posted more and more pictures, including ones of her cervix at different points in her cycle to show the changes throughout. A few years later the site has evolved, many other women have contributed their images, and it has become an incredible teaching tool.

A huge variety of women have contributed to the site and among the different cervixes you will find full cycles, pap smears, cervix after an abortion, after a radical hysterectomy, before and after sex, throughout pregnancy, and different cervical abnormalities.

I didn’t include any photos here except an image of a drawn cervix because the site’s images are of course graphic and some can even be upsetting, so keep that in mind if you decide to check them out. I do really encourage you to keep an open mind and check out the pictures if you’re at all curious though because it can be pretty amazing to learn more about how your body works and what you’ve got going on inside you!