A review of Dr. Jen Gunter’s book “Blood” which explores the scientific, medical, and cultural aspects of menstruation.
According to this book, there are over 5,000 different ways of saying menstruation used in various countries. The author, Dr. Jen Gunter, is not known for using euphemisms. She has been referred to as the most well-known and outspoken gynecologist in the world. She has previously written The Menopause Manifesto and The Vagina Bible, which became a bestseller despite advertisements for it being prohibited on social media due to algorithms identifying certain words as inappropriate or offensive.
Gunter values language and its impact on the perception of things, expressing dissatisfaction with certain terminology used in her field. For instance, she finds terms such as “pudendum” and “vagina” problematic, as they stem from Latin and Greek words meaning “to be ashamed” and “sheath”, respectively. According to her, even the term “hymen” is offensive as it is named after the Greek god of marriage. Her latest effort to challenge the patriarchal grip on women’s health involves using more empowering language to discuss healthcare needs. For instance, she suggests replacing the term “ovaries” with “stones” to connote bravery rather than using phrases such as “has got balls”. She also highlights the courage required to handle the various side effects of menstruation, which are often dismissed by a medical profession that belittles women’s pain.
Gunter’s language in the book is a complex mix of scientific facts (such as humans being one of the few animals to have periods due to our decidualising endometrium), personal anecdotes (such as period diarrhea playing a prominent role), and creative analogies. Some of these analogies are more effective than others, with some readers finding the comparison of an ovulatory bleed to using a tablecloth to cleanly remove items from a table helpful, while others may struggle with the comparison of anovulatory bleeding to a cat knocking dishes off the table. The description of the levonorgestrel IUD as the “Swiss Army knife” of gynecology may even cause some readers to involuntarily squeeze their pelvic floor muscles.
The most interesting aspect of the book is its explanation of the functions and rationale behind our bodily processes. Menstruation, which has puzzled many who experience it, serves the purpose of aiding humans in giving birth to healthy offspring. However, it can also be a burden on the body’s resources and can have complications. The author is passionate about sharing information and believes that painful periods are not a necessary part of life, and that women should not suffer in secrecy or embarrassment as there are treatments available for debilitating conditions. While some parts may seem like a medical guide, they can be skimmed over. Think of the book as a manual for understanding your uterus.
Gunter is very clear about the information she lacks, which is quite a bit due to the limited medical research on women’s bodies. She frequently emphasizes the need for more long-term data and expresses concern about the lack of information that allows frauds and sellers of unproven organic products to manipulate and scare women. Gunter gained notoriety for criticizing Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and their infamous jade eggs, and now she directs her frustration towards social media influencers who promote unproven tests and treatments under the guise of “wellness”. She notes that this is a combination of the “natural” movement and religious conservatism, which is based on purity culture rather than empowerment. According to Gunter, knowledge is power. While this book may contain an overwhelming amount of information, it is because she wants every reader to have access to solid medical facts.
Gunter is dedicated to combatting any force that poses a threat to women’s bodily autonomy, whether it be the long-standing influence of patriarchy or the more recent spread of online disinformation. In a section discussing polycystic ovarian syndrome, she expresses frustration by stating “sometimes I just want to physically challenge the concept of evolution”. This book will serve as a valuable tool for those who are fighting these battles.