It’s Only Blood: Shat­ter­ing the Taboo of Men­stru­a­tion

Anna Dahlqvist Alice Ols­son (Trans­la­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - CLAIRE FOSTER

ZED Books (MAY) Soft­cover $14.95 (160pp) 978-1-78699-263-5

Anna Dahlqvist’s pow­er­fully ar­gued book It’s Only Blood ex­plores how men­stru­a­tion taboos af­fect women in dif­fer­ent cul­tures around the world.

Ev­ery day, eight hun­dred mil­lion peo­ple men­stru­ate, yet most of them are shamed in some way for what is a nat­u­ral, healthy process. It’s Only Blood in­cludes anec­dotes from women whose monthly rou­tine in­cludes hid­ing menses, stay­ing away from other peo­ple, and not par­tic­i­pat­ing in nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties like school, ex­er­cise, or re­li­gious life. Si­lence is the rule, and al­most ev­ery coun­try has a eu­phemism for menses: it’s called “ketchup week” in France and “com­mu­nists in the lust house” in Den­mark. What’s be­hind this taboo, and how does it neg­a­tively im­pact peo­ple who men­stru­ate?

From days lost at school to in­sanely high prices for san­i­tary prod­ucts, men­stru­a­tion af­fects peo­ple in sig­nif­i­cant ways. For ex­am­ple, in Uganda, in the Bwaise neigh­bor­hood of Kam­pala, many peo­ple live on less than a dol­lar per day—“also the price of eight men­strual pads in Kam­pala. An es­ti­ma­tion of how much that would be for me [in Swe­den]: around 90 US dol­lars”; in Swe­den, how­ever, the same prod­uct costs only two dol­lars. Yet with­out pads, girls can’t go to school, which means they miss valu­able days of ed­u­ca­tion.

Dahlqvist dives deeply into a rarely ex­plored phe­nom­e­non. Her writ­ing is lively, hu­mane, and smart, ty­ing in an­cient taboo laws and cur­rent In­sta­gram phe­nom­ena. From free bleed­ing to em­ploy­ment laws, It’s Only Blood shines a light on ev­ery con­ceiv­able as­pect of men­stru­a­tion. Dahlqvist points out that women are not the only peo­ple who men­stru­ate and also dis­cusses peo­ple who are not women but are also af­fected by the taboo.

It’s Only Blood is in­ti­mate, provoca­tive, and of­ten funny, shat­ter­ing the stigma of men­stru­a­tion for peo­ple all around the world.

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