It’s not very often that a book dedicated to the subject of menstruation gets published. So when I heard about the impending release of FLOW; the cultural story of menstruation back in November, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy.
At first glance, FLOW is quite the aesthetically pleasing little book, filled with images of vintage pad and tampon adverts and other “feminine health products” dating as far back as the late 1800s. Due to its visually compelling nature, FLOW would make the ideal coffee table book. And hey, aside from rinsing your menstrual cup in a public washroom, what better way to get the conversation about menstruation flowing (couldn’t resist!) than to nonchalantly leave a book about its history lying about the house?
Few healthy bodily processes have had such an effed-up history as menstruation and this book covers a broad range of topics from the archaic “disease” Hysteria and the origins of the vibrator, to the medicalization of periods and the recent introduction of Menstrual Suppression drugs. I often hear women linking the origins of our collective shame surrounding menstruation to fem-care advertisers and the negative language used to hock their products. FLOW digs deeper into the sources of the menstrual taboo weaving a history that is biblical, medical, pre-historical, cultural, spiritual and political in scope. It’s pretty engaging if you aren’t already aware of the history of menstruation and even if you are, there are sure to be some surprising tidbits that leave you quietly scooping your jaw up off the floor.
If you’re looking for a women’s studies style academic analysis of the menstrual taboo then FLOW is not the book for you. The authors write in decidedly casual language, filled with sarcasm and snark. I must admit that despite the incredibly engaging subject matter, I did find the authors’ tone to be just a bit too casual and at times grating. FLOW often assumes that the reader has little knowledge of the topics being discussed and despite the books’ pro-menstruation stance, presumes that the reader would be uncomfortable with the idea of say, alternative products like the menstrual cup. After chapters explaining the detrimental language used by the fem-care industry and how it has contributed to general silence and embarrassment surrounding periods, you’d think the authors would be recommending reusable period products as a more body-positive way of dealing with menstruation. Instead alternative products are given a quick once-over then quickly filed away as impractical.Obviously I have just a slight bias in favour of alternative menstrual products, so I might have to let this one slide…
Despite my personal feelings on the writing style, I do feel that this book holds an important place in the canon of menstrual-themed literature (Menstrual Cannon! HA!). Here in Luna-land, we hear from women daily, who are severely mis-informed about their periods, clinging to myths about their bodies that should have been dispelled decades ago. Women who are afraid of coming into contact with their own menstrual flow, or their own vagina for that matter. It’s perfectly understandable, I mean what girl hasn’t heard some myth about her period in the formative stages of her menstrual life? Whether it comes from a family member, an advertiser or a friend, we’ve all heard them and without a friendly, knowledgeable voice to get the conversation started, the taboo is left to perpetuate itself and women are left in the dark about their cycles for yet another generation.
FLOW has this sisterly, accessible voice for women of all ages… now if only middle school girls were assigned to read FLOW in sex-ed class instead of plunking them down to watch “your changing body” or whatever the period movie du jour is.
WIN YOUR OWN COPY!
One of my favorite parts in the book were the little snippets of womens’ first period stories sprinkled throughout the margins. They presented a real range of experiences and feelings towards menstruation. On that note, we have 2 copies of the book to give away! To enter simply send us your first period story to email@example.com. Were you prepared for it? Did you expect it or did it take you by surprise? The winning stories will be featured on our blog in addition to receiving a copy of the book!
Contest open to Canadian and US entries, closes Feb 20.