This book is informative, disturbing, infuriating....and fun. The authors address the gamut of issues involving menstruation, from physiological causes/effects, to cultural taboos and traditions, social history and ethical concerns. The writing style at times is a little TOO breezy/chatty, but the illustrations (a lot of vintage advertisements for "femcare products") more than make up for that. Even though this book is packed with data, and offers a lot of food for thought, you can sail through it in one sitting. Even a casual reading will give you insights into this pivotal, and still largely hidden, aspect of women's lives. Some examples:
--References to menstruation are still largely euphemistic; the best one listed here is the Danish phrase, "The Communists are in the funhouse!"
--Way back in 1918, Sears, Roebuck used to sell vibrators. With attachments.
--Primates (like us) and some species of bats and shrews are the only mammals that really mentstruate.
--Lysol douches were popular from the 1920's until the 1960's. Lysol, which shares germicidal properties with carbolic acid, was a highly recommended treatment for "offensive" vaginal odors. This initiated a vicious cycle, so to speak: a self-conscious, but often healthy, woman would douche with Lysol and kill off normal flora (and scald her tissues), which would pave the way for bacterial/yeast infections, which WOULD cause an offensive odor, which would compel her to douche more often. Because an abnormal body odor in a normally clean person indicates an underlying problem, women who actually did have a raging infection only made matters worse with this frequent purging.
--Menstruating women have more nightmares, and erotic dreams, then when not menstruating. Plus, they can hold alcohol better. Good to know.
--Female sexual climax has historically been frowned upon (by men), but clitoral stimulation was often performed in a doctor's office to address "hysteria," during the 19th/early 20th Centuries. Kinda creepy, no?
--The independence that resulted when "femcare products" became available was a huge leap for women in society. This advance cannot be overstated.
--Big Pharma has a big stake in women's health: there are more than 500 PMU farms in the US, where thousands of mares are kept pregnant so that their urine can be processed for hormone replacement therapies. (The foals that result from these gravid horses are usually sold to pet food companies.) Newer drugs that can suppress menstruation are also huge moneymakers, although there isn't a lot of long-term research available on the effects of such hormonal manipulation.
--Religious authorities, especially in the West, tend to be really wigged out by the idea of menstruation (with the possible exception of Jesus Himself, who in Matthew 9:20-22 apparently cured a woman who suffered from menorraghia, or abnormally excessive flow).
--Some Orthodox Jews believe that if a menstruating woman walks between two men, one will drop dead. Sort of like a superpower.
I hope that, some day in the not-too-distant future, menstruation will no longer provoke feelings of disgust and revulsion in people who should know better. I also hope that more women will move beyond seeing it as a disease or a disability, but as an amazing, if not always comfortable, attribute of our gender.
This book gave me hope that I may one day realize my dream: to open a Moon Lodge for women who would appreciate taking a week off every month. It would be kind of like a high-end spa, somewhere in the mountains, with lots of delicious food, good books, cats, and no kids or men.
Except for Lars the masseur.