Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Read it - Flow (the cultural history of menstruation)

I've always had a strange fascination with books that document old-timey contraptions, especially when it comes to women's health. I think this partly stems from a desire to feel good about the age I live in - a sort of "hey, we don't have it so bad!" pat on the back. But also I like to shake my head and tsk tsk all the stupid medical and religious decisions that basically shit on us gals. Oh you silly men, using vibrating belts to help cure us of hysteria and pouring lysol in our vagina's to make us more desirable to our husbands.
Yah - you heard me right. [ugh...shiver]

This book was absolutely 100% fascinating and I recommend it to anyone. You might think that as a lady who has been experiencing her "lady times" for over 20 years that there would be nothing left to learn. Sadly, you would be wrong. In grade five they pulled all the boys out of class (to go have the boner discussion presumably) and played all the girls a movie made by Tampax. Well I was sick that day (probably faking), so I got to take the movie home and watch it with my mother and her best friend. They just happened to be having a ladies cocktail hour after school that day - which made the experience of the menstruation video even more enjoyable...for them. There was much chatter about the old days when they had to strap on "the belt" during their "curse". I was totally lost and began to think that if a belt was involved perhaps the belly button was too? Even more worrisome - how was I going to go to the bathroom when I was all plugged up by a tampon? Anatomy was not my strongest point.

So even after years of experiencing a period I still really had no idea what was going on inside my body. Where were these alleged eggs? Did it really look like the beginning of the movie "Look who's talking" in there? Why on the Thursday before my period did it feel like someone had taken the beats to my boobs?
No idea.
And even if I did have an idea the author of the book claims that any female on contraceptives only has a "phony baloney period". Screw you lady. Walks and talks like a period and that's enough for me.

There's plenty of cool, amusing and downright scary vintage ads throughout the book demonstrating all the various ways that women have been encouraged to hide or deal with the embarrassment of their bodies.
Most of the ads from the 1950's seem to be aimed at shaming young wives into believing that their husbands believe they are filthy and therefore they cannot be loved. That shit is GRIM. Where's Peggy Olsen when you need her!?

What's amazing about most of the ads is the way that they address the topic - they never actually use the word period. In fact, it wasn't until 1985 when Courtney Cox was the very first person to use that word in a television commercial. Way to go Monica!!

All in all a really great book on what most would consider to be a rather gruesome topic. Read it, love it, then strap a belt on it.


  1. Anonymous9:28 am

    Very interesting! I don't get why people are laughing in the commercial. Is it a spoof commercial, like on SNL? Or is something going on in the background that I can't see very well? I'm just not used to a sitcom laughtrack sound during such a serious moment! :-)

  2. I have absolutely no idea! I can only assume it's nervous laughter - it's the only version that I could find online!