Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation
“Dr. Gunter provides girls and women with a sound, well-researched discourse on what they need to know about their bodies as well as what to demand of doctors.”
“The Ancient Greeks, the originators of Western medicine, labeled the female body as inferior, and the act of menstruation has been viewed as proof that women have troublesome physiology and are by nature dirty and toxic.”
With that sentence Dr. Jen Gunter sets the stage for her third book, Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation. It focuses on that “time of the month” faced by girls and women with dismay, consternation, and resignation. Yet, as Gunter points out, menstrual issues do not stop at menopause. Bleeding can continue and, if there is little information available during a woman's child-bearing years, there is even less once that ends.
Dr. Gunter states, “[w]omen were long viewed as lesser and more troublesome versions of men,” and studying the differences has been absent from medicine. According to Gunter, “[I]t wasn't until 1993 (yes, 1993) that including women in medical studies became a requirement for government-funded research in the United State.”
Throughout history men have decided what women would be told about their health needs. They viewed women's physiology as “both toxic and lesser” and that has left a “damaging legacy of inadequate research, dismissal by a patriarchal medical system, an uncaring society, and insufficient education about how the female body works.”
This failure continues today following the Dobbs decision reversing Roe v. Wade. One result of that travesty is the denial of medical assistance to pregnant women. There is a two-tiered system of health care being established for women—one for unpregnant women and none for women who are pregnant. This assault on women’s reproductive rights will filter through to other areas and women will suffer.
Dr. Gunter provides girls and women with a sound, well-researched discourse on what they need to know about their bodies as well as what to demand of doctors. Her primary goal appears to be a desire to bridge the enormous gap in women's health care by presenting an in-depth, well-researched discussion and explanation of the medical issues faced by women.
The book dispenses with the nonsense that women are “unclean” or “impure” (reference the Bible) or that women's concerns were based on “hysteria.” It gives women needed information that is often denied or refused by medical professionals. Gunter addresses the biological functions of women as normal and provides myriad examples of what girls and women can expect as they progress from puberty through menopause.
Dr. Gunter starts with a primer that every girl and woman will benefit from reading. This basic introduction is essential in gaining an understanding of what is going on. Discussing the brain-ovary connection Gunter writes, “The menstrual cycle is a complex, coordinated sequence of events driven by pulses of the hormone GnRH, which are released from the hypothalamus in the brain.”
Dr. Gunter does not mince words, nor does she sugarcoat the topic. Her prose is simple and well-written. She's explaining things like why women menstruate, when it starts, the painful aspects of menstruation, and what happens when it's supposed to be over.
Got a question? Girls and women will find the answers in this book. Nothing is off limits.
The book is not limited to the topic of menstruation, either. Gunter has included chapters on contraception and abortion. She refutes the arguments promoted by the right wing that contraception is nothing more than another form of abortion. If those folks have their way, women will be required to become pregnant. Who knew Margaret Atwood was such a seer.
In addition to the whys and wherefores of menstruation, Dr. Gunter dispels the myths revolving around menstrual products. Anyone who has ever been on the internet knows there is an unending supply of sites promoting menstrual products. Gunter has often found herself at odds with many who promote the myths and unnecessary and unhelpful products. Fortunately, she does not back down from criticizing the promoters of those products.
Gunter dispels many myths that have surrounded menstruation and menstrual products forever and that continue to plague women today. Gunter writes, “Myths about tampons and virginity are tall tales designed to frighten women into thinking their worth is related to men’s ignorance about the vagina.”
Gunter tackles the complexity of women’s biology and dispels the myths by providing the facts that women and girls need to make competent, realistic decisions about their health care. Denying knowledge of those facts is what male-dominated medical profession has perpetrated upon women for centuries. Gunter is determined to destroy the myth that women and girls are not able to make their own health care decisions.
Gunter's books follow in the steps of those from the 1970s, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) and Our Bodies, Ourselves, which provided girls and women with answers to questions about their bodies and their health.
Blood is Dr. Gunter's third book on health issues that girls and women face. She began with The Vagina Bible and followed it with The Menopause Manifesto. This is a trifecta of books that deserves a prominent place on bookshelves for every girl and woman. Doctors would also benefit from reading and learning from them.
One wonders what Gunter’s planning to tackle next.