Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

03 November 2009

Book Review: Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim


The first real job I had out of college was working for one of the founders for the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. Which is ironic since I was not the "Woo, I'm woman, let me menstruate!" gal back then. And honestly I'm still not. That said...

Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim is a riot.

My period was a mystery to me until about college when I found women who pointed me in the direction of books and resources. No, I wasn't a lucky gal who grew up coveting her mom's worn copy of Our Bodies Ourselves, oh how I wish! Instead I was like Nancy Drew putting pieces of the puzzle together.

Flow is not a replacement for OBOS, rather I would say it is a companion piece. It goes thru the history of menstruation and how our society has dealt with it or ignored it. Flow reminds/tells you of our awful past of douching with Lysol and hysteria diagnoses.

But it also walks you thru the history of how we got to have disposable pads (left over supplies from WWI) and tampons AND their war against each other that resulted in our ongoing battle to rid out girly parts of any type of smell. Flow then reminds us that unless it's a horrible smell, it's probably a natural smell and a good thing. It's not a book that makes you feel bad if you say are on birth control that reduces your faux-period to 4 times a year *ahem* but it does talk about why that period is a fake one, why we would ever want to reduce our menstruation and what that means overall for womankind.

Overall Flow is a beautiful book (coffee table worthy!) and quite educational, while keeping you laughing. There are some amazing factoids in here! (psst...There should be a trivia board game that goes along with this baby.) And the vintage ads are fab. Courteney Cox Arquette was the first person to say period in a commercial. I believe that Cybil Sheppard and Laurie Laughlin are in a few ads too. Did you know that the Hite Report didn't say anything about our periods? Lots of fun facts to wow your friends during the next girls night out!

Althou I do have to say that Stein & Kim do try a bit too hard to be hip and cool. I also wish there was an index so I can better find things like what was the name of the marathon runner who completed while visibly bleeding? But I do believe it is worth the investment, even just to leave on the bookshelf for the woman-child in your life to stumble across one day. My copy will be presented to her along with all her other menarche gifties.

Get yourself or the woman-child in your life a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book.

3 comments:

I just saw this when a friend tweeted about this book and your review was linked there. When I saw that our local food pantry was in need of feminine hygiene supplies I thought about donating some GladRags-type resuable pads. Makes senses for women on a budget, no? But when I mentioned my idea to a friend, it led to interesting discussion on the politics and meaning of disposable vs. reusable pads. Wish you were there!

ha! I'm sure it was a good discussion. One's going on in my head right now.

The marathon runner-- Uta Pippig who won the Boston Marathon 3x I think