Book Review: Flow

Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation

Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

St Martin’s Griffin

288 pages

I’m 27 years old, so I’ve long gotten used to the idea of a period.  At this point, it is nothing more than a monthly nuisance, and little thought goes into the actual function of my body.  Then I saw a review of this book on Care’s book blog, and I figured that it would make an interesting read, if nothing else.

Flow is, in some aspect, a picture book for adults.  There is a lot of information and text, but there are quite a few diagrams and ads thrown in too, which I really loved.  The older the ads were, the more hilarious they became.  And the more cringe worthy too.  Take this gem, for example.

Yes, that’s right . . . a rubber apron so that your cloth apron would not be soaked in blood.  Because apparently, tampons and pads are a fairly new phenomenon, so that prior to that time, you may very well have just let nature take its course, resulting in blood just saturating your undergarments. In fact, one paragraph of Flow even described how female factory workers would just have knee high straw on the floor to bleed on as they continued to work diligently.

The best (or I guess it should be worst) part of the book was the chapter on female hygiene.  My generation was always warned against the dangers of douching, but I never wondered about it further.  Apparently, douching was very popular almost a century ago, and one of the products touted as a douche was LYSOL.  Yes, Lysol.  In your hoo ha.  Ad agencies used scare tactics to make women believe that their natural smell was offensive, like the one below.

It’s almost laughable, but for the fact that using these products caused countless infections and even infertility.

For weeks after finishing this book, I regaled my coworkers with little tidbits from Flow, to the point where some of them have asked to borrow it. It is a great conversation starter!

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Care’s Online Book Club

I purchased this book used from Amazon Marketplace.

12 Responses

  1. Wow, that makes me pretty happy that I didn’t live back then.

  2. This looks interesting. Makes me glad to live now! historical fiction rarely touches on this aspect of life.

  3. Haha, I was equally horrified by some of the little tidbits that made it in there! It was quite an enlightening book and I’m glad I have it.

  4. Crazy stuff, right?! I had always wondered; history books just seem to IGNORE certain aspects about “life in the past” and there are few people to ask. This book is very informative.

  5. Care’s review was great, and I love the photos you’ve chosen. Guess I’m going to have to check my library… my 3 daughters would enjoy this, too!

  6. I now have to check this out! Heard many great reviews.

  7. I think this one sounds perfect for just the right kind of book club. One that involves old friends and wine:-) I’ll have to make time for this one.

  8. I need to pull this off the shelf and start reading!

  9. Yikes I can not imagine a world without tampons! I just can’t. I guess we’ve got it lucky.

  10. I always wondered what would be different in the world if men had a monthly period! Probably a pill to stop it!

    Here’s my attempt to pick my favorite literary device. Also, I’d like to invite you to throw your name into the hat for a $25 Amazon gift certificate in Readerbuzz’s July Giveaway!It’s international!

  11. I remember Care’s review and being interested in this but then completely forgot about it. Might make a really great book club selection–maybe then I could keep the group on topic!

  12. I’ve been eyeballing this book for awhile, as I have had a hell of a time with all that lady business. Glad I read your review of this book today.

    I know this is over-sharing, but I still have a darn period 2 years after having a partial hyserectomy. Who ever heard of such a thing?

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