The Personal and the Political

Women's Activism in Response to the Breast Cancer and AIDS Epidemics

By Ulrike Boehmer

Subjects: Sociology
Paperback : 9780791445501, 208 pages, May 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445495, 208 pages, May 2000

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Table of contents



A History of AIDS and Breast Cancer Activism

Activism and Activists: Definitions and Selection Criteria

Two Worlds: The Political Culture of AIDS and Breast Cancer Activism


3.1 New Activists
3.2 Activists with Political Experience


The Personal and the Political


4.1 Diagnosis
4.2 Community Activism
4.3 Political-Ideological Approach


Collective Identity Processes about Sexuality and Gender

Diversity and Movement Strategies


Appendix: Sample




An in-depth consideration of women's activism in the AIDS and breast cancer movements.


Drawing on the experiences of thirty-seven diverse women who are active in the AIDS and breast cancer movements, The Personal and the Political provides an in-depth look at the social and political dimensions of AIDS and breast cancer within the context of social movement and feminist theories. While it is generally assumed that activists' reasons for getting involved in either the AIDS or breast cancer movements differ, Boehmer uncovers similarity in women's motivations, finding that activism depends on both a personal and a political link to the disease. The work pays particular attention to diversity issues such as race, class, and sexual orientation and explores the women's motivations, how they view their activism, and how their activism relates to their identities. The author lets the women speak for themselves, interspersing their voices throughout the text. The book highlights similarities and differences between the activists in both movements and between the movements themselves, offering some intriguing conclusions.

Ulrike Boehmer is Assistant Professor of Health Services at Boston University, School of Public Health. She is the coauthor of Die Welt gehort uns doch! Zusammenschluss lesbischer Frauen in der Schweiz der 30er Jahre.


"The aspect of the book that I like the most is the author's examination of a very important, neglected area of collective action. Both breast cancer and AIDS activism merit more scholarly attention, and this piece provides us with important insight into these areas. The book will be useful not only for academics but also social change agents." — Brett C. Stockdill, California State Polytechnic University–Pomona