book review: FLOW

Title: FLOW
Author: Elissa Stein and Susan Kim
ISBN: 978-0312379964
Pages: 288
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st edition (November 10, 2009)
Category: non-fiction/ women’s studies
Review source: publisher
Rating: 5/5

Look, we enjoy a good laugh as much as the next gal. Yet what freaks us out is that beneath all the bonhomie lurks the very real and unspoken message that as much as we’re encouraged to make light of menstruation, we’re somehow not supposed to be talking about it seriously. Is it just us, or don’t you find it sinister when, say, a female lawyer in her thirties who can usually discuss anything from the G-8 summit to Etruscan pottery coyly lets slip that It’s Arts and Crafts Week at Panty Camp?

Irreverent, sarcastic, fun and informative, FLOW should be required reading for girls and boys read in Life Ed or Health Ed class in Jr. High and all women and young women and some of the more enlightened men too. Why is talking about menstruation a more taboo topic of discussion than sex, politics, and religion? Writer Elissa Stein and graphic designer Susan Kim have put together a beautiful and fact-filled book that explores menstruation from the early days to today. FLOW examines such fascinating topics as: ancient practices done on women to combat hormonal changes and moods; “hysteria;” PMS; various names for menstruating world-wide [people are really hung up on not saying period or menstruation]; sex during one’s period; advertising; society’s avoidance of the subject; society’s way to make women feel unclean or gross by having their periods [the use of words such as feminine hygiene and feminine protection]; why women even menstruate and much more.

Facts I learned from reading FLOW:

• When on the Pill: “normal hormonal rhythms—that complex chemical symphony that controls ovulation, endometrial buildup, and flow—are essentially shut off. You’re instead on an artificial merry-go-round of estrogen and synthetic progesterone or progestin, which explains why there’s less flow, no cramping and virtually no PMS to speak of.”

• A woman sheds up to 40 quarts of blood, mucus, and tissue in her lifetime of menstruating.

• PMS (premenstrual syndrome) labeled a mental disorder by American Psychiatric Association.

• The National Health Service lists over 150 symptoms of PMS including: bloating, feeling irritable and bad tempered, mood swings, backache, insomnia, breast tenderness, food cravings, headaches, panic attacks, muscle aches and appetite changes.

• Most tampons contain bleach and traces of dioxin.

• Worldwide, 100 million women are on the pill and leftover estrogen secreted winds up in nation’s rivers/streams [me: unhealthy and gross!].

• Orthodox Jewish men will not shake hands with women in case she is menstruating as it makes her impure. “In Islam, menstruating women are still forbidden to touch the Koran, perform special prayers at Islamic festivals, fast, and last but not least, have sex with their husbands.”

• In the 1950s, douches were made from Lysol. [BTW, does anyone ever remember their moms giving away douches to friends as “gag” gifts?]

• In the United States, 20-40% of women still douche regularly.

• Since 1980, Judy Blume’s classic book on menstruation– Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret— has been on the Top 100 Banned Books List.

• “Those impressive clumps found in one’s flow aren’t actually congealed blood, but bits of uterine tissue from those top two endometrial layers.”

• In the U.S, 600,000+ women have hysterectomies each year.

• Some guy named Vinnie created a book called Vinnie’s Roller Coaster Period Chart & Journal Sticker Book.

Spread the word on this vital book that all women [and even] men should read. Such valuable info.
For more info: website for Elissa Stein.

For another perspective: check out the thorough review at Book Lady’s Blog.

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  1. #1 by Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog on March 11, 2010 - 00:06

    I’m so glad you listed out the fun facts! I thought about doing it but couldn’t narrow down my favorites.

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