I think, ultimately, Under Our Clothes by Jillian Roberts has a good message behind it and certainly good intentions, but doesn’t quite fully manage to achieve all of its goals. I personally think that I would look elsewhere for a path to educate any child I might have on these topics rather than this book for a number of reasons, but what it all comes down to is the fact that the messages in this book aren’t focused in a way that allows the message to match diversity as much as it should. And while body image and understanding privacy and consent are incredibly important, the ways in which this information should be presented needs to avoid the possibility of the message being misunderstood or noninclusive.
The majority of the book is great, helps discuss why bodies are different and the importance of consent in anything involving our personal selves. There are a great number of questions that any child might have addressed adequately and tastefully throughout. Where the book has the opportunity to succeed, it mostly does. The one area in which the book does not succeed is when it discusses the medical industry and how, at times, a doctor may need to examine someone’s body. While I would never expect a book to go in depth into the ways in which a medical professional may–as it has happened in the past–take advantage of their ability to override privacy under the guise of taking care of one’s health, I do think it is still important to discuss consent in this case. Yes, a doctor may need to do things in order to assess the health of a person, however this should still be something in which the importance of consent is recognized. The importance of trust with one’s doctor and the importance of being able to say no when one feels uncomfortable in this situation is a message that I believe children do need.
Finally, I wish this book had included more than just male and female bodies and the ways in which those who do not identify with one specific gender or may feel as though the gender they were assigned does not match the gender that they are. I do realize that this is a controversial issue, but for those children experiencing these feelings, including something like that could do so much for them and the resulting exclusion of it from this book makes it almost completely useless for those kids. It is unfortunate and wrong, in my opinion, that we do not expose children to these facts and therefore end up isolating them but also isolating others from understanding them.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that this is a bad book and I do think that there are parts of it that are important and beneficial, but the truth is that it could have been so much more, so much better, and infinitely more helpful with some changes.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.