Flow: A Cultural Story of Menstruation (CBR5 #15)

There is much about Flow which aggravates me. Some things are quite simple and would’ve been easily corrected. An editor unafraid to attack with the red pen and hack up chapters and suggest deleting entire ones could easily have saved the reader from repetitive information. But other than being needlessly long and repetitive there was a larger problem.

The authors, in attempting to be friendly are instead insulting to even marginally informed women. Flow is a book written in a ‘aw shucks ain’t that interesting’ way that aggravated my last nerve.

The beginning of the book is broken into seven chapters and covers 100 pages. Several of these chapters should have been edited down and combined. Chapters Two and Three (Where We Are Today and So How Did We Get Here?) as well as Chapters Four and Five (Hysteria and Seeing Red) cover the same information twice and each pair could share one introduction and launch into the related topics. Instead pages of retreading occur. The second half of the book is another seven chapters and while generally independent of one another there is a return to information we have already been presented as if the author expects that we are going to pick this book up and read only one chapter which interests us and not the entire work.

The structure of the book strikes me as odd as well. Discussion of current understandings of a ‘normal’ period is back in chapter eleven! There are some facts hidden in the back of the book which would’ve been nice to have upfront. Alleviate some fears and “am I the only one?” type questions and then set about telling the story of how so much information about a body process which occurs in half of all humans is hidden from public understanding by various forces. As the title implies.  This is not a book written that way.

Things that I wish were mentioned earlier (just to name a few):

  • Menstruation can often aggravate chronic illnesses and disorders (migraines, insomnia, asthma, arthritis).
  •  Your chances of endometriosis increase the longer you put off having your first child or by not having one at all.
  • An oophorectomy, removal of the ovaries which is commonly performed in tandem with a hysterectomy, performed before menopause can put a woman at greater risk for dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

This book also leans heavily on the side of being anti-medication. I support informing people about exactly what they are putting into their bodies, and would hope that before going on long-term medication  women and men would research what it is made of, I detest the way the authors have placed themselves into the ‘what you’re doing is gross and weird’ camp. All the while claiming that they are about your right to choose for yourself while making light or making fun and then laying on the guilt. This is NOT conducive to a conversation.

This is most glaring when discussing where estrogen replacements come from. While the manner in which it is harvested and its source may disgust the writers, it is unfair to say that ALL women who take it are taking it because they fear aging. Plenty of women are on estrogen replacement because their bodies don’t produce any or enough estrogen and the lack of estrogen leads to other health problems. THIS IS NOT ADDRESSED BY THE AUTHORS. Instead it’s the launching pad to talk about the fear of menopause. Is it interesting and necessary to talk about historical social stigma related to menopause. Absolutely. BUT IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO ATTEMPT TO GROSS THE READER OUT BY TALKING ABOUT PREGNANT HORSE URINE TO DO SO. I admit the connection is extremely strong between the desire to postpone menopause and the development of these drugs, but the delivery was heavy-handed and annoying.

The only reasons I gave this book two stars was the wonderful amount of historical advertising placed throughout and the timeline which divides sections one and two. Don’t read this book. Skim it for pictures and make a list of things to read from the bibliography.

About Katie

Museum professional, caffeine junkie, book lover, student of history, overall goofball.

2 thoughts on “Flow: A Cultural Story of Menstruation (CBR5 #15)

  1. amandakash says:

    I bought this forever ago when I saw it an an issue of Bust and was very excited – but after the first few chapters I haven’t been able to read any further. I wanted to add it to my CBR5 list fo finish but it looks like my fears are confirmed. Thanks for the review.

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