FLOW Book Review and Contest!

Flow reviewIt’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.


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 blog@lunapads.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!

This contest is now closed.

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  • i was 12.

    i’d heard the horror stories from my grandmother who spoke of rinsing out her ‘napkins’ until they were beyond help, then she’d have to burn them in the dark, to hide what they were.

    i was more advanced–having attended six girl scout meetings (before i was asked to leave–a long story) where i received my little modess package and booklet.

    i was prepared….i thought.

    i was not prepared for cramps that quite literally put me on the floor of the girls bathroom, crying. they remained my nemesis until i had babies–go figure. the school nurse called my mother, who was not pleased being pulled from work to come get me. i bled all over my underwear, my skirt, her car seat. she berated me for the last bit, then made me scrub the seat until it was clean once more.

    so, for me, periods remained something nasty and shameful and holding the ability to get you into trouble. later in my life, a dog upended our garbage, and my used pads (i never wore tampons…tipped uterus) all over the street. my mother woke me up and forced me to go out and pick them up from the many lawns where they lay… under the watchful eye of the neighborhood boys.

    i learned many things from this.. the most important was to sit with my daughter, discuss the entire process, support her, and always let her know this was a miracle.

    now, i’m spayed… and life moves on.

  • Awesome! I hadn’t heard of this book, but now I want it!

  • Wow, quin brown, that’s awful!

    I got my first period after spotting three months in a row so I was kind of aware that it was coming but totally in denial because I’d heard stories of girls who didn’t start until they were sixteen and I was hoping I’d be one of them (I was thirteen and in dread of the discomfort and embarrassment of getting my period). It came while we were on vacation at my grandmother’s house and my mum found out when I left my bathing suit to soak after swimming one day (I don’t know why I thought the bathroom sink was discrete – maybe it was unconscious passive communication). I remember hating the pads and never knowing what to answer when someone asked me about it (ie. how heavy it was or things like that – usually my mum or grandmother or the nurse asking – how heavy was it supposed to be?). The worst part was that I wasn’t able to go swimming for the rest of our visit.

    I also learned about cramps in the bathroom at school (a few months later). Why were those never mentioned!!!!

    My menstruating life reached an all time low while I was living in a basement apartment in rainy BC. The bathroom, it turned out, was the favourite hang out of those massive black spiders (wolf spiders?). Going to the bathroom in general was annoying – having to deal with my period was worse. I actually preferred to use the public washrooms at school (there was one in the basement of the Student Union Building that was almost never used making it both very clean and very private).

    I was really happy a few years later when I first tried luna pads. Nothing poked me or stuck to me and my skin did not feel raw at the end of the week (for a total of about 10 days of discomfort). It was like wearing pajamas all day!

  • Kasha

    My first period took me completely by surprise, I had learned about periods from books in school on puberty, and then later a lady from Tampax had talked to us about periods and how we had to use tampons if we wanted to be grown-up. I’d also stashed free samples and ripped the things to pieces to learn how they worked – I remember seeing strange gel stuff inside pads, so I had decided early on that tampons seemed less scary. Where as other girls considered their first periods exciting or embarrassing I had always just considered it a normal part of growing up, until I actually got my period. I was excited because of a great sense of pride, more so being the first out of my group of friends – although I regret never celebrating.

    I was 11 years old, it was after gym. The girls changing rooms had been flooded so we had been changing in the gym itself, while changing I felt a little more wet than normal – bingo! – I had no doubt it was my first period. I changed with my back to the wall so no one would see the blood, then as soon as I could I dashed to the bathroom to check, defiantly blood, no doubt about it, crimson blood with little black bits. I didn’t have anything with me so just coped through my last class; I was practically bursting to tell my best friend all through the lesson.

    Finally when home time came I waited until we were about 5 minutes from the school to tell her. I remember that day my older male cousin had just moved out after living with us for two years, I was in no mood to have him around. I got home and went straight to my mother to ask if I could borrow a few tampons from her and if she could buy me some more from the shop straight away. I didn’t put that first tampon in far enough, I knew I hadn’t, but I suffered through the pain all night when out in the street playing with friends until I got home and could put a new tampon in, and from there it was plain sailing…ish…

    …despite super-heavy flow that meant finding ways to leave school early, dripping blood all the way home – ugh! back in the days I used tampons and pads – I was never embarrassed by it, never had cramps or PMS, at worst it was just something that happened, at best it was something to be enjoyed (heightened senses, more energy, I find it interesting, and I have damn good sex on my period, lol).

  • tiff

    no interesting period stories from me.
    gl to the entrants!
    interested in seeing the old adverts in this book.