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Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation

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In this hip, hilarious and truly eye-opening cultural history, menstruation is talked about as never before. Flow spans its fascinating, occasionally wacky and sometimes downright scary story: from mikvahs (ritual cleansing baths) to menopause, hysteria to hysterectomies—not to mention the Pill, cramps, the history of underwear, and the movie about puberty they sho In this hip, hilarious and truly eye-opening cultural history, menstruation is talked about as never before. Flow spans its fascinating, occasionally wacky and sometimes downright scary story: from mikvahs (ritual cleansing baths) to menopause, hysteria to hysterectomies—not to mention the Pill, cramps, the history of underwear, and the movie about puberty they showed you in 5th grade. Flow answers such questions as: What’s the point of getting a period? What did women do before pads and tampons? What about new drugs that promise to end periods—a hot idea or not? Sex during your period: gross or a turn-on? And what’s normal, anyway?  With color reproductions of (campy) historical ads and early (excruciating) femcare devices, it also provides a fascinating (and mind-boggling) gallery of this complex, personal and uniquely female process. As irreverent as it is informative, Flow gives an everyday occurrence its true props – and eradicates the stigma placed on it for centuries.


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In this hip, hilarious and truly eye-opening cultural history, menstruation is talked about as never before. Flow spans its fascinating, occasionally wacky and sometimes downright scary story: from mikvahs (ritual cleansing baths) to menopause, hysteria to hysterectomies—not to mention the Pill, cramps, the history of underwear, and the movie about puberty they sho In this hip, hilarious and truly eye-opening cultural history, menstruation is talked about as never before. Flow spans its fascinating, occasionally wacky and sometimes downright scary story: from mikvahs (ritual cleansing baths) to menopause, hysteria to hysterectomies—not to mention the Pill, cramps, the history of underwear, and the movie about puberty they showed you in 5th grade. Flow answers such questions as: What’s the point of getting a period? What did women do before pads and tampons? What about new drugs that promise to end periods—a hot idea or not? Sex during your period: gross or a turn-on? And what’s normal, anyway?  With color reproductions of (campy) historical ads and early (excruciating) femcare devices, it also provides a fascinating (and mind-boggling) gallery of this complex, personal and uniquely female process. As irreverent as it is informative, Flow gives an everyday occurrence its true props – and eradicates the stigma placed on it for centuries.

30 review for Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    First, I want to point out that I like the idea of this book. The argument that women have always been period-hating victims of men and the femcare industry's judgement and marketing is cool with me; I hate the femcare industry and like yelling about misogynism as much as the next lady. The many vintage advertisements and illustrations are nice, and realizing that "water cure" meant "water-stimulated orgasm to relieve hysteria" was pretty cool. However. Several things about the book rubbed me the First, I want to point out that I like the idea of this book. The argument that women have always been period-hating victims of men and the femcare industry's judgement and marketing is cool with me; I hate the femcare industry and like yelling about misogynism as much as the next lady. The many vintage advertisements and illustrations are nice, and realizing that "water cure" meant "water-stimulated orgasm to relieve hysteria" was pretty cool. However. Several things about the book rubbed me the wrong way. The greatest of these was the mini-section on alternatives to big femcare products (tampons and disposable pads). Menstrual cups (my personal torch) rated just one, mostly positive, page, although any convincing of reluctant readers is undermined by the writers suggesting that removal will cause you to be covered in "bloody goo." For two women who want us to view our periods more holistically and without the shame industry has assigned them, that seemed like a strange choice of words. Even more strange, though, is the section on cloth pads (which have a pretty long history to back them up). The strange part, though, was a side-quote from one of the authors, who writes that she "delved into the world of reusable pads" (241) in the spirit of conservation and book-research. Well, congratulations to you. Unfortunately, she admits that she was squicked out by seeing blood on her happy little flannel robots and that pads are hot in August. (Personal-torch-rant: TRY A CUP! THAT WOULD ACTUALLY BE RESEARCH AND THEN YOU MIGHT BE FREE FROM THE DISPOSABLES COMPANIES!) I'm a little surprised that authors of a book that is so damning of the femcare industry and all that they market to us come off as so personally unadventurous toward reusable products. Why else have you been spending five chapters telling us about TSS and deoderized tampons and landfills and et cetera et cetera et cetera? Anyway. Other minor gripes include the occasionally off-putting conversational/breezy tone of the writing, the relatively thin coverage of menopause and menarche, and the overall focus on white, middle-class American women throughout history. (Yes, I know the book is about America and that advertising for 200 years has tended to target the middle- and upper-classes, but STILL. Token mentions of the working poor and minorities do not constitute coverage.) All in all, I enjoyed my trip down bio-feminism lane, or whatever you want to call it. I've been embracing my period (and menstrual cup) for five years now, though, so the choir was feeling a little superior to the preachers' revelations about alternatives to big femcare.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Femicin ad, 1968 Thank fuck for three waves of feminism. Femicin ad, 1968 Thank fuck for three waves of feminism.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Markus

    I can't blame this book for not giving me the information I was hoping for. Nobody seems to know for sure how women in Regency England dealt with the flow. But Flow was an engaging enough book to hold me until the end, anyway. The period (in every sense) product ads alone are worth the price of the book, though I'm not sure I wanted to know that until fairly recently, women were encouraged to use bleach-based products to stay "fresh." (Lysol douching, kids. It happened. I'm scared.) I can't blame this book for not giving me the information I was hoping for. Nobody seems to know for sure how women in Regency England dealt with the flow. But Flow was an engaging enough book to hold me until the end, anyway. The period (in every sense) product ads alone are worth the price of the book, though I'm not sure I wanted to know that until fairly recently, women were encouraged to use bleach-based products to stay "fresh." (Lysol douching, kids. It happened. I'm scared.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

    I did not *enjoy* this book, per se. (See here) But it was a truly informative read. Sure, there are some tiny mistakes (for example, doctors endeavoring to produce hysterical paroxysm did not *always* have the patient stand - the patient could also be reclining) but that is being nit-picky. And the tone can be a little too full-on "How can anyone not love their period?" (Quite easily, thank you.) But the book makes up for this by providing you with some eye-opening facts about how menstruation h I did not *enjoy* this book, per se. (See here) But it was a truly informative read. Sure, there are some tiny mistakes (for example, doctors endeavoring to produce hysterical paroxysm did not *always* have the patient stand - the patient could also be reclining) but that is being nit-picky. And the tone can be a little too full-on "How can anyone not love their period?" (Quite easily, thank you.) But the book makes up for this by providing you with some eye-opening facts about how menstruation has been treated in America. For example, companies assuring women their douche products were safe with no testing whatsoever. (Again, Lysol??? WTF???) On the research front, this book is great for historical authors who want to know what their female characters would have gone through each month before the ease of current products.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jacqi

    Gah! This should be a monumental piece of work. Instead, it's flawed with a severe lack of authority, questionable references to the internet (moreso than books) and extremely lacking in recent medical discoveries. Interesting cultural tidbits, but overall, nearing the line of more fiction than fact. Gah! This should be a monumental piece of work. Instead, it's flawed with a severe lack of authority, questionable references to the internet (moreso than books) and extremely lacking in recent medical discoveries. Interesting cultural tidbits, but overall, nearing the line of more fiction than fact.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Irina Elena

    Easy, entertaining and informative. It's the light kind of non-fiction - the one that feels more like a casual chat with someone who knows what they're talking about than a textbook - and just the right book for a certain someone to get started on her New Year's resolution to read more non-fiction. Get reacquainted with real life, you know. There's some horrifying stuff in here, mostly with regards to how women have handled and viewed their period through the centuries, and at times it can feel a Easy, entertaining and informative. It's the light kind of non-fiction - the one that feels more like a casual chat with someone who knows what they're talking about than a textbook - and just the right book for a certain someone to get started on her New Year's resolution to read more non-fiction. Get reacquainted with real life, you know. There's some horrifying stuff in here, mostly with regards to how women have handled and viewed their period through the centuries, and at times it can feel a bit scattered as far as cohesiveness and a clear thread are concerned, but overall it's very, very interesting and often amusing. The topics it handles go well beyond the period, touching anything from the social construct that is hysteria to feminism and female sexuality, and it's done in a way that feels complete and relevant, not just there for the sake of it. Bonus: there are reproductions of vintage advertisements all throughout the book. In case you were wondering, the authors' final recommendation, and message of the entire work, is to just... go with the flow. Not my pun.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    The authors use a lively, irreverent tone to take readers through the history and American cultural experience involving menstruation, that very taboo subject. I feel that the book is strongest when they assert that a natural biological process associated with fertility has been co-opted by the "femcare" industry into a monthly event that is feared and hated, mostly for the purposes of selling us products -- pads, tampons, hormonal replacement therapy, Midol, what have you. (No surprise: that's The authors use a lively, irreverent tone to take readers through the history and American cultural experience involving menstruation, that very taboo subject. I feel that the book is strongest when they assert that a natural biological process associated with fertility has been co-opted by the "femcare" industry into a monthly event that is feared and hated, mostly for the purposes of selling us products -- pads, tampons, hormonal replacement therapy, Midol, what have you. (No surprise: that's my feeling, too.) I'm not saying periods are so awesome; there are women who have serious medical issues surrounding them, and they're not imagining them, nor should they be ignored. But that doesn't have to be the norm. When you consider how many periods an average American female has, you can see what a money-maker it is to convince women that they are smelly, gross, unappealing to all other humans, and that any attendant issues like cramps, headaches, digestive upsets etc. must be medicated into submission. The authors throw out an intriguing tidbit: right around the time that "hysteria" started to die out as a legitimate medical diagnosis, "PMS" started up. I appreciate that the authors went right there on a lot of topics: smell, sex during your period, just what is "normal," etc. Their "hey sisters!" tone grated at times, and the phrase "funnily enough" was oddly overused. (I just have a problem with the word "funnily.") But it's worth a read or at least a browse, if only for the reproductions of the many, many hilarious ads from the 1900s to today.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rossy

    Kind of fun, kind of interesting. Something was missing, I can't really figure out what! The vintage ads were, without a doubt, the best part of the book, and the facts about menstruation in other cultures and countries were interesting. I was scared to learn how it was treated in other centuries, poor women! Kind of fun, kind of interesting. Something was missing, I can't really figure out what! The vintage ads were, without a doubt, the best part of the book, and the facts about menstruation in other cultures and countries were interesting. I was scared to learn how it was treated in other centuries, poor women!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    This book is mainly about how american women's view of menstruation has been affected by misogynistic rhetoric and an industry build up on their insecurity and myths about menstruation. Interesting read and I wish there were more about how the rest of the world views our monthlies. This book is mainly about how american women's view of menstruation has been affected by misogynistic rhetoric and an industry build up on their insecurity and myths about menstruation. Interesting read and I wish there were more about how the rest of the world views our monthlies.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wesley

    A good start to the conversation, but I found this one a little disappointing and the tone struck me as off-puttingly casual at times. I also would have appreciated at least one distinction between "women" and "biologically female people" since it was implied throughout the book that all women (and only women) have periods. :/ A good start to the conversation, but I found this one a little disappointing and the tone struck me as off-puttingly casual at times. I also would have appreciated at least one distinction between "women" and "biologically female people" since it was implied throughout the book that all women (and only women) have periods. :/

  11. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    I love the cover of this book, and let's face it, it sounded like it might be interesting. This time the cover art and the description did the book justice; it was interesting, and fun to boot. The authors are women, and often I found myself thinking this sounded more like a day out with the girls than a primer on the history of menstruation and all things associated with it. The writing has a very nice, easy "you-are-there" style, which helps as sometimes the subject matter is just - well - yeah I love the cover of this book, and let's face it, it sounded like it might be interesting. This time the cover art and the description did the book justice; it was interesting, and fun to boot. The authors are women, and often I found myself thinking this sounded more like a day out with the girls than a primer on the history of menstruation and all things associated with it. The writing has a very nice, easy "you-are-there" style, which helps as sometimes the subject matter is just - well - yeah, it's a bit on the "icky" side. The history of "femcare" as the authors dub it isn't all that long, surprisingly enough. Way back in the day there was no such thing. What did our intrepid ancestors do, you may ask yourself? Um, bled. Sorry, but that's the truth; our foremothers pretty much bled on whatever it was they were wearing. Yes, some of them tried to use various things to handle the flow (some of them what you'd expect, like wads of cotton) but most just bled onto their clothes. As the authors are quick to point out, why do you think our clothing back then had so many petticoats and such? It wasn't to look feminine after all; it was to hide all that icky stuff going on down there. Perhaps the authors' biggest complaint is that femcare is almost always presented as a problem, and thus, a solution. But pretty much every woman is going to need it at some point in her lifetime, so it's really not a problem so much as it's simply a matter of biology, and the authors want to know why it can't be presented as such. Think about it: have you ever seen an ad for tampons, pads, douches or the like that didn't talk about making your life better somehow? And keep a close eye out for the "not-so-fresh" type comments, as almost every ad has one of some sort. Women's flow is almost always presented as an obstacle to overcome, and a very yucky one at that. Then we get to the whole idea of not having a period at all, which is now possible through the miracles of modern medicine. And the authors want to know two things: is this really a good idea and why is it being pushed on us? Well, it's sort of a good idea if you're concerned about ovarian cancer. The Pill gives a woman a leg up (so to speak) on cutting down her chances of ovarian cancer due to the fact that the eggs don't burst out of the ovaries as they normally would every month. No bursting means no repairing the ovary which means less chance of the cells going haywire and becoming malignant. And yes, I had pretty much forgotten everything they taught me in my sex-ed class and was fascinated by this information. It makes sense to me now why some of my friends know when they're ovulating, as they feel the discomfort/pain of that little tiny egg kicking its way through the ovarian wall. And if you're on the Pill, you don't really have a period, either. You have a pseudo sort of thing happen every month, something that mimics a period but doesn't supposedly have all the usual aches/pains/icky stuff that those not drugged up experience. To that I say, my sweet a**! Sorry but in the name of full disclosure, I've been on the Pill since I was eighteen. Most months I would say I'm pretty OK, no PMS or anything to really clue anyone in that "Aunt Flo" is visiting. But sometimes, look out - it's love you one minute, hate you the next, and where's the damn ice cream?! I do get some pain (cramps, occasional backache, etc) and I still have some bloating. So if my body isn't having a "real" period, what's all that about? Is it all in my head? Sure doesn't feel like it, and sadly, the authors don't explore this enough for my taste. Overall though it's an interesting, and yes, fun, book. Even if you have no intention of reading it, pick it up for the pictures alone. There are some fabulous old ads for the various products. My favorite are the ones used for the "Modess...because" campaign: high fashion photography that look more like artwork than femcare ads. In fact, if you saw them elsewhere you'd never know they were hawking tampons/pads!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    I reserved this at the library because I saw a couple snippets of Susan Kim speaking with Sarah Haskins. Advertising+feminism+humor=great, right? Pretty much, yes. Although I knew a good amount of the information in this book before I read it--dioxin in tampons, clitoral orgasm as historical cure for hysteria, condescending faux-medical femcare advertising, etc.--I also learned a reasonable amount of new info. For those less knowledgeable about the contemporary western cultural history of menstru I reserved this at the library because I saw a couple snippets of Susan Kim speaking with Sarah Haskins. Advertising+feminism+humor=great, right? Pretty much, yes. Although I knew a good amount of the information in this book before I read it--dioxin in tampons, clitoral orgasm as historical cure for hysteria, condescending faux-medical femcare advertising, etc.--I also learned a reasonable amount of new info. For those less knowledgeable about the contemporary western cultural history of menstruation, the information here would be critical. A few caveats, however: The book is styled in a very pink, girly, retro-kitsch way, plastered with midcentury ads and curlicued chapter headings. Ordinarily this would piss me off to no end; in this case, however, half the point of the book is exploring the historical marketing of femcare, so my reaction is more complex. On one hand, the design could be an overtly ironic statement, aware of its relation with the book's content. On the other hand, it's unfortunately also plausible that the publishing company wanted that design specifically as a marketing device--in short, they may be using the same strategy that a significant chunk of the book dissects. As much as I'd like to attribute the design solely to the first motive, I think it's much more likely to be a combination of the two. So, ok. At least the advertising strategy is being used to actually inform people, as opposed to, for instance, selling Lysol as a douche. The ends are superior, but the means are difficult. The tone, as well, is poised between girlfriendy gossip and scientific data analysis. This does make the information presented easily available to all, with little effort required for understanding, but again, what does this say about marketing to women? Are women too stupid to comprehend a more seriously toned volume, or are they uninterested in anything too complex? The information communicated here is valuable, but by putting literature aimed at women in this problematic tone, it seems to some extent that the authors and their editors are falling into the same trap that they seek to expose. All things considered, it's definitely worth getting your hands on a copy of Flow. Substantial amounts of the information here is absent from the mainstream presentation of menstruation, and while it's possible to find bits and pieces of said info elsewhere, I haven't seen such a comprehensive volume anywhere else. As long as you consider the book with a critical eye, it's valuable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I’ve been interested in how women who got out and about throughout history have dealt with menstruation. I was especially intrigued by 2 of my favs: Catherine the Great (my review of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and her 6-month Crimean journey and Christine Granville (my review of The Spy Who Loved https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and her trip across the Tatras into Poland during WWII. Like Ginger had to do everything Fred did but ba I’ve been interested in how women who got out and about throughout history have dealt with menstruation. I was especially intrigued by 2 of my favs: Catherine the Great (my review of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and her 6-month Crimean journey and Christine Granville (my review of The Spy Who Loved https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and her trip across the Tatras into Poland during WWII. Like Ginger had to do everything Fred did but backward and in heels, women historically toughed it out with the men while dealing with their own bleeding. Hygiene and privacy were not what they are today in my world. Plus women had many less periods until the 20thC with our good nutrition and access to reliable birth control. I live in San Francisco. We have a large population of homeless. I feel for the women among them without regular access to product and facilities. Then there's Trump attacking Megyn Kelly for possibly menstruating. Mr. Backward. Instead of properly researching my more historic/academic questions, I got lazy and found “Flow” on someone’s Goodreads page. A coffee table (yes) book on menstruation is not for me. Too much opinion, speculation, repetition by non-historians. I learned a bit and the old adverts were an eye-opener. The things we ladies do to ourselves! Lysol was touted as a internal body cleanse for women. Nice. I do agree with the authors that advancements in femcare have coincided with advancements in the women’s movement. We wouldn’t get too far from home without the modcons and products. The authors are jaunty and likeable but as much as they want us all to lighten up on the subject, you will not find “Flow” on my coffee table.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vasudha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Definitely a must read. For centuries menstruation was demonised and people were afraid to discuss it in public. This book explores the historical and cultural context surrounding periods, which can help begin to open up the discussion around the periods and arm women with knowledge about their natural and normal bodily processes. "According to the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder in his book Natural History, written in AD 77, period blood could cause horse to have a miscarriage and the extermin Definitely a must read. For centuries menstruation was demonised and people were afraid to discuss it in public. This book explores the historical and cultural context surrounding periods, which can help begin to open up the discussion around the periods and arm women with knowledge about their natural and normal bodily processes. "According to the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder in his book Natural History, written in AD 77, period blood could cause horse to have a miscarriage and the extermination of flowers, among other things." These assertions remained uncontested for more than a thousand years. And since menstruation was a completely feminine phenomenon, the myths and misperceptions surrounding it were used to subvert women's position in ancient society. Menstruation was also used as an excuse to exclude menstruating women from different types of institutions like churches, wineries(Germany) and opium labs(Vietnam). Ironically, premenstrual syndrome(PMS) used to be diagnosed as hysteria. But finally the development of fem care products accompanied historic political change for women. In 1920, Kotex pads became available and the same year Nineteenth amendment was enacted in the US allowing women to vote. Again, in 1970,'s, the sale of self-adhesive pads coincided with the women's liberation movement. Today, majorly in the West, menstruation no longer gets in the way of women's education or career but in Sub-Saharan Africa, young girls miss their school because of the lack of fem care products. Moreover, there is a large gap in our knowledge surrounding menstruation. It is mainly due to the distribution of information by big businesses that are more interested in selling their products than they are in educating women about their natural bodily processes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    2.5 stars. This is a great idea for a book, and it looks fantastic--the design and layout are top-notch. And all the vintage advertisments for feminine products were really great to look at. But for me, the writing style really grated. It felt like reading Seventeen magazine--preachy, didactic, and way too cutesy. Adding to the the feeling that I was reading something aimed at youth rather than adults was all the repetitive, careful explanation about drug companies and makers of feminine product 2.5 stars. This is a great idea for a book, and it looks fantastic--the design and layout are top-notch. And all the vintage advertisments for feminine products were really great to look at. But for me, the writing style really grated. It felt like reading Seventeen magazine--preachy, didactic, and way too cutesy. Adding to the the feeling that I was reading something aimed at youth rather than adults was all the repetitive, careful explanation about drug companies and makers of feminine products. For instance, are you shocked to learn that these businesses are concerned more with selling their products than with protecting your health and well-being and conserving the earth's resources? No, you're not shocked because that is pretty obvious to most any modern adult who lives in the world? Oh, okay. Well, you're way ahead of this book, then.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    I did a lot of skimming in this book. It wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be. A lot of the book was spent complaining about how the medical field, from ancient Greece to modern America, had/have no idea what was going on with the menstruation cycle and we should be outraged at how inept they were/are. I was cool with that aspect the first hundred pages, but after that I just got bored with being outraged. I did enjoy the historical aspects of the book on how women have dealt with having th I did a lot of skimming in this book. It wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be. A lot of the book was spent complaining about how the medical field, from ancient Greece to modern America, had/have no idea what was going on with the menstruation cycle and we should be outraged at how inept they were/are. I was cool with that aspect the first hundred pages, but after that I just got bored with being outraged. I did enjoy the historical aspects of the book on how women have dealt with having their periods. Oh, and I learned that you should refer to feminine hygiene products as femcare products because using the word hygiene implies something dirty is happening and periods are natural and beautiful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Birthday present!! __________________________ I didn't care for the "We're just a couple of girlfriends chatting!" conversational style that the authors took in a lot of places, but overall this was a VERY informative book. I dug all the vintage menstruation-related advertisements, too. Birthday present!! __________________________ I didn't care for the "We're just a couple of girlfriends chatting!" conversational style that the authors took in a lot of places, but overall this was a VERY informative book. I dug all the vintage menstruation-related advertisements, too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Young women should read this. Good feminist reading on a needlessly taboo subject. Good cultural feminist history primer as well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    I found this book in a thrift store a few years ago and just adored the cover. Plus, there are just things that seem completely natural (e.g., death, birth, menstruation, etc.) that have this stigma around them I've never fully grasped. So, I was much more excited about this book than anybody else to whom I've since showed it. C'est la vie. It's a fascinating look at how society has dealt with menstruation throughout history and the various products, treatments, and supposed knowledge that has b I found this book in a thrift store a few years ago and just adored the cover. Plus, there are just things that seem completely natural (e.g., death, birth, menstruation, etc.) that have this stigma around them I've never fully grasped. So, I was much more excited about this book than anybody else to whom I've since showed it. C'est la vie. It's a fascinating look at how society has dealt with menstruation throughout history and the various products, treatments, and supposed knowledge that has been peddled publicly (most of which have ostracized and/or preyed on the fears and insecurities of the very people it pretended to help). In addition to having a wonderful sense of humor and being quite well researched, priceless advertisements and illustrations stretching all the way back to the late 1800s are sprinkled throughout the book. There were so many factoids, shocking practices, and parts I had to read twice to really let them sink in that I hardly know which ones to share. While this wasn't part of the book, even today, in some parts of the world, young females don't get a full education because they're forced to stop going to school after getting their periods and not having access to pads or tampons. Maybe I'll just leave you with these stellar "resources" as mentioned from the final chapter: - The Museum of Menstruation - The Menstrual Avenger ("... an online cartoon heroine who can be found fighting evil with nothing more than a tampon lasso, a flying pad, and (when all else fails) her powerful, fire-hydrant-esque flow.")

  20. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    This book is an irreverent look at menstruation and the history of "femcare". The authors apparently wrote this as a reaction to continuous hormonal birth control use to eliminate one's amazingly wonderful period. I'm someone who avoids hormonal birth control and often uses cloth pads and a menstrual cup, so you'd think they would be preaching to the choir. Still, I had issues with this book. It's too shallow and filled with editorial conjectures and questionable anecdotes. For example, the chap This book is an irreverent look at menstruation and the history of "femcare". The authors apparently wrote this as a reaction to continuous hormonal birth control use to eliminate one's amazingly wonderful period. I'm someone who avoids hormonal birth control and often uses cloth pads and a menstrual cup, so you'd think they would be preaching to the choir. Still, I had issues with this book. It's too shallow and filled with editorial conjectures and questionable anecdotes. For example, the chapter on hysteria and "water treatments" is appropriately shocking, yet has no citation on the number of women who may have received such cures. The implication is that many or even most women did. No, not all water cures were as described, but we are meant to think so. Just because some American women have a $10,000 handbag doesn't mean that most women do. Information matters. The authors' two enemies are the pharmaceutical companies for "medicalizing" menstruation, and the femcare industry for capitalizing on it. Their anger with doctors sends mixed messages: at times, they're upset doctors do too much tinkering and treat menstruation as a pathological issue that needs to be cured. Later, they're lamenting doctors' apparent lack of interest in treating menstrual problems. In subsequent chapters, the authors are helpful enough to offer the reader medical advice. What? The authors are up in arms that femcare advertising focuses on hygiene and personal cleanliness, yet they provide a quote stating that in pre-femcare days, women (a few? many? most?) were disgustingly filthy from their bellies to their feet. So what is the point of femcare if not to provide hygiene and cleanliness? I agree that absorbent tampon strings are unnecessary, but femcare in general is not. The authors make light of ad quotes that indicate tampon companies are helping women keep their "secret". You know what, yeah, I do want my period to be a secret from the general public, and I don't think that makes me ashamed of my body. I remember well the day in middle school when my period was decidedly NOT a secret, and I wouldn't want to relive that. Their other issue with ads is that the ads don't tell you what femcare DOES or how to use it. The authors see this as a sinister message from "the man" that menstruation is vile and you should hate yourself if you're a woman. And yet, ads for toilet paper don't show you how to wipe yourself, and you'll never see a wad of used toilet paper in an ad. Is that a problem, too? As comfortable as a woman may be with her body, I believe these are still considered private bodily functions. The authors also conclude that femcare ads depicting models in or near the water illustrate the perceived dirtiness of menstruation. Might I argue that the ads show that women can indeed go swimming in comfort if they use a tampon? No? So it's definitely because of the misogynistic view that women need ritual cleansing & sanitizing after their periods? I guess I've misunderstood advertising all these years. And talk about willful misunderstanding--the authors take a Kotex ad that includes the word "protect" and jump all over it, wondering what Kotex will protect you from. Um, how about protecting me from getting blood all over my clothes? Is it really so hard to understand? As a final WTH? moment, after all the big-business femcare rants, the authors don't even like menstrual cups or reusable pads! So….I'm confused as to their ultimate point. In the end, I enjoyed this book for the vintage adverts and the historical info. The rest…meh.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edward Richmond

    Flow is poorly edited. There was a multitude of glaring typographical errors, as well as passages where someone had rephrased a sentence multiple times without fully deleting previous versions. Getting past that, the history itself was mediocre. Rather than confine herself to reporting only the facts, Stein goes off on lengthy diatribes against the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry, and even, at one point, against women who find menstruation so inconvenient and uncomfortable that Flow is poorly edited. There was a multitude of glaring typographical errors, as well as passages where someone had rephrased a sentence multiple times without fully deleting previous versions. Getting past that, the history itself was mediocre. Rather than confine herself to reporting only the facts, Stein goes off on lengthy diatribes against the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry, and even, at one point, against women who find menstruation so inconvenient and uncomfortable that they would just as soon not do it. All that would be fine if she presented actual evidence to support her distrust and dislike of medical professionals. Instead she jumps straight from point A, which is that worldwide, people have some really upsetting attitudes about menstruation and femininity, to point B, which is the implication that doctors and pharmaceutical developers are motivated by a desire to perpetuate these attitudes. If that sounds a little incoherent . . . well. It is. I came to this book hoping to read a discussion of the ways in which menstruation is viewed across cultures and history. Instead I got a huge number of pictures of advertisements for feminine hygiene products, with minimal analysis of them to explain what I was looking for/at. Instead, I got rants about businesses that develop products to capitalize on women's insecurities instead of a detailed discussion of how we got to this point, or of how Western ideas differ from, say, Japanese or Thai ideas about menstruation. I ended up feeling like I was reading a book-length freshman comp study by someone who'd picked out a topic without realizing that properly studying it would require knowledge of three or four languages that she didn't read. As a result, I picked up some interesting trivia, but I did not encounter a fully-formed theory of menstruation's place in Western or any other culture.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The profound cis-bias in this retrospective work proves uncomfortable, considering its apparent feminist origins. Altogether, the determination of the authors is shot down in their own failure to look outside the realms of the second wave of feminism. The nature of 'Flow' as chronicle to menstruation produces polar statements in the presentation of varying historical perspectives. For instance, the book bears emphasis upon the uterus-bearing person as physiologically and psychologically independ The profound cis-bias in this retrospective work proves uncomfortable, considering its apparent feminist origins. Altogether, the determination of the authors is shot down in their own failure to look outside the realms of the second wave of feminism. The nature of 'Flow' as chronicle to menstruation produces polar statements in the presentation of varying historical perspectives. For instance, the book bears emphasis upon the uterus-bearing person as physiologically and psychologically independent of their hormones (hence insisting upon an emasculation of menstruation) or promoting various natural remedies to PMS symptoms (which has been previously claimed as having no scientific basis). The pharmaceutical industry is rightfully critiqued in its treatment of menstruation, but criticism of various medications marketed towards gynecological conditions implies that those using said prescriptions are somehow bad or wrong for engaging the aforementioned pharmaceutical corporations. It is remarkably difficult to prepare a summation of as broad a topic as periods. The authors have brought the subject to greater literary attention, but it is irreparable to establish such an anti-gender-essentialist perspective, as is done in 'Flow', whilst reinforcing cisgendered presumptions.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaye

    The subject matter was very interesting (maybe not for men, but fascinating for women, anyway). The primary source materials scattered throughout the book (chiefly advertisements for tampax and douches of yore) did a great job at expressing the attitudes of the advertisement industry throughout modern times. However, the writing style was wretched. An interesting topic was degraded through an excessive attempt to be humorous, and it constantly jerked me back to the recollection that I was readin The subject matter was very interesting (maybe not for men, but fascinating for women, anyway). The primary source materials scattered throughout the book (chiefly advertisements for tampax and douches of yore) did a great job at expressing the attitudes of the advertisement industry throughout modern times. However, the writing style was wretched. An interesting topic was degraded through an excessive attempt to be humorous, and it constantly jerked me back to the recollection that I was reading. The tone was overly intimate and scattered with annoying phraseology. Whenever the writers were trying to point out something incongruent or nonsensical, they led with the phrase "funnily enough", which irked me to no end. This is only one of many repetitious phrases. There were many more. Another matter of small point: they listed Gary Null as a respected authority in the area of alternative medicine. Gary Null? Really? Would that be Gary Null of infomercial fame? A great idea, fun graphics, craptastic writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley V

    I loved, LOVED this book! It's the sort of thing that I think all women should read. It was hilarious yet informative. I've been menstruating for ten years now and there are a lot of points (some that can greatly affect your health!) that this book brings up that I've never even considered because the idea that menstruation is still (oddly) so taboo to talk about. More women should be open to having discussions that the book poses. It's the most natural thing in the world for women but we've som I loved, LOVED this book! It's the sort of thing that I think all women should read. It was hilarious yet informative. I've been menstruating for ten years now and there are a lot of points (some that can greatly affect your health!) that this book brings up that I've never even considered because the idea that menstruation is still (oddly) so taboo to talk about. More women should be open to having discussions that the book poses. It's the most natural thing in the world for women but we've somehow been conditioned to keep all our thoughts, questions, etc. locked away because it's "improper" to talk about, even among each other! My biggest takeaway from reading this is the idea of maybe switching from tampons to a menstrual cup. I've been doing some research and have come to the conclusion that with the all the benefits, it's really a no-brainer to at least give it a try. (Here's a fantastic youtube video to give you the basics if you'd like to know what it's all about https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qa97... )

  25. 5 out of 5

    juicy brained intellectual

    straight from my tumblr directly to you: complaints about Flow: it insults my love for the Mütter Museum by insinuating that it is ghoulish and morbid, and that by extension so am I for loving it. fuck that, it’s an incredible collection of a bygone medical era and I can’t wait to go back and hide in it and never leave. slightly more serious complaints about Flow: it is extremely hetero- and cis-sexist (“all women menstruate!” kind of tripe, as if a uterus defines womanhood) and a bit too light fo straight from my tumblr directly to you: complaints about Flow: it insults my love for the Mütter Museum by insinuating that it is ghoulish and morbid, and that by extension so am I for loving it. fuck that, it’s an incredible collection of a bygone medical era and I can’t wait to go back and hide in it and never leave. slightly more serious complaints about Flow: it is extremely hetero- and cis-sexist (“all women menstruate!” kind of tripe, as if a uterus defines womanhood) and a bit too light for my tastes (the back does indeed mention that it’s “as irreverent as it is informative”, but oh well. I had the same problem reading Mary Roach’s Stiff, tbqh.) I still appreciate its flawless~ design, though. oh also also I wish that it would expound upon WoC’s experiences with menstruation aside from a token statement. I know femcare ads have primarily been marketed towards upper/middle class white women but that doesn’t mean everybody else stopped menstruating.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    This was a fun book, jazzed up with lots of vintage ads. The authors' bias is clearly feminist and anti-big-pharma, so I was in their court from page one. If I have a complaint about this book, it's that it skews pretty young. There's one breezy chapter covering perimenopause and beyond- and that's it. So the target audience is considerably younger than your intrepid reviewer, who admits to more than a passing interest in hot flashes and scary clots the size of Rhode Island. Not that this kept m This was a fun book, jazzed up with lots of vintage ads. The authors' bias is clearly feminist and anti-big-pharma, so I was in their court from page one. If I have a complaint about this book, it's that it skews pretty young. There's one breezy chapter covering perimenopause and beyond- and that's it. So the target audience is considerably younger than your intrepid reviewer, who admits to more than a passing interest in hot flashes and scary clots the size of Rhode Island. Not that this kept me from being fascinated by the rubber aprons of yesteryear, or being furious about the medicalization of perfectly ordinary reproductive processes. Well worth reading for the historical perspective alone, but as a bonus, guaranteed to make steam come out of your ears when you read about the drug companies scheming to make women feel dirty and sick and inadequate.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rena Sherwood

    Heavily illustrated, often funny and occasionally sobering look at how women and advertisers have handled Red Dollar Days. Makes me glad I don't have to work an 18 hour shift in a factory standing in a pile of straw to absorb my blood and clots. And I'm not glad about most anything having to do with my period, because I sometimes have to deal with a burst ovarian cyst. I'm glad this was written by women but I do wonder what a male writer would have made of the same material. Probably something t Heavily illustrated, often funny and occasionally sobering look at how women and advertisers have handled Red Dollar Days. Makes me glad I don't have to work an 18 hour shift in a factory standing in a pile of straw to absorb my blood and clots. And I'm not glad about most anything having to do with my period, because I sometimes have to deal with a burst ovarian cyst. I'm glad this was written by women but I do wonder what a male writer would have made of the same material. Probably something that makes Stephen King look like Mother Goose.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annamaria

    Knowledge, after all, is powerful stuff. Let it work its magic by filtering into the conversations we have, informing the decisions we make, influencing the products we buy, and, last, shaping the lessons we pass on to our friends, colleagues, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. There are millions of women out there- mainstream women, women like you, women like us- who get along with the uterus just fine, along with all its bleeding, symptoms both good and bad, hormones, pregnancy fears and d Knowledge, after all, is powerful stuff. Let it work its magic by filtering into the conversations we have, informing the decisions we make, influencing the products we buy, and, last, shaping the lessons we pass on to our friends, colleagues, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. There are millions of women out there- mainstream women, women like you, women like us- who get along with the uterus just fine, along with all its bleeding, symptoms both good and bad, hormones, pregnancy fears and dreams, menarche, menopause, and the whole menstrual time line of our lives. With our new knowledge, we can hopefully take back a process that's been fundamentally ours all along, an indisputable part of our lives that has been too long judged, ridiculed, and hidden away. Just go with the flow.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Terrie

    Definitely interesting. The big pluses were the reproductions of various vintage advertisements and female "hygiene" brochures, even some from the late 1800s. I learned some things - some things I probably would have preferred not to think about (Lysol douches? Seriously?) The minuses were the constant ranting about the misogyny of the feminine hygiene industry, etc. We got the point the first time you made it, no need to hit us over the head with it. Also, when complaining about the lack of diver Definitely interesting. The big pluses were the reproductions of various vintage advertisements and female "hygiene" brochures, even some from the late 1800s. I learned some things - some things I probably would have preferred not to think about (Lysol douches? Seriously?) The minuses were the constant ranting about the misogyny of the feminine hygiene industry, etc. We got the point the first time you made it, no need to hit us over the head with it. Also, when complaining about the lack of diversity in feminine hygiene print advertising in the 70s, the phrase "whiter than a Mormon family picnic" is really not the best way to make your point.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barrie

    I don't know. It was interesting, but their tone kinda bothered me. It was entertaining at first. By the end I kept thinking, didn't you already say that in a slightly different way 5 pages ago? Also, the whole cutesy element of the look irritated to me to the point of trying to hide the fact that I was reading it. The good stuff was their general information and the history of the actual period and how women perceive it was quite interesting. For instance, I always thought my mom slapped me whe I don't know. It was interesting, but their tone kinda bothered me. It was entertaining at first. By the end I kept thinking, didn't you already say that in a slightly different way 5 pages ago? Also, the whole cutesy element of the look irritated to me to the point of trying to hide the fact that I was reading it. The good stuff was their general information and the history of the actual period and how women perceive it was quite interesting. For instance, I always thought my mom slapped me when I got my period because it was tradition, but mainly because she was crazy. Turns out lots of Eastern Europeans still do this! Shit like that will make me remember this book.

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