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176 pages, Paperback
First published October 17, 2017
There are plenty of great puberty books out there for young people with vaginas. Helloflo: The Guide, Period.: The Everything Puberty Book for the Modern Girl is not one of them. Written by HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom and stamped with her company branding, The Guide, Period promises to be a fantastic addition to a pre-teen's arsenal of body-awareness books, but it simply doesn't deliver.
The Guide, Period opens with the declaration that, "There is no such thing as clean underwear. At least for a girl." Yes, you read that correctly. This reviewer waited for Bloom to walk back her shocking claims with a Psyche. J/K. That's what society wants you to believe, but trust me, your underwear are not dirty. Unfortunately, that retraction never comes.
Instead, The Guide, Period goes on to compare the production of vaginal discharge as the body's "own personal dairy section." Bloom claims that "[i]f you know what [vaginal discharge] is for, it can be magical," but "[i]f you don't, it's shameful, confounding, embarrassing." Her puberty book never quite gets to that magical place, however. By insinuating that the vagina-owner's underwear is in a perpetual state of uncleanness, The Guide, Period plays into age-old hygiene myths that it does not manage to refute. Bloom's lactose-laden comparisons haunt the rest of the book.
Look, I get it. The Guide, Period wants to be "real" with young people who have vaginas, to level with them by saying, You feel pretty gross sometimes, huh? Unfortunately, it chooses to agree — Yeah, you are pretty gross. — and treat discharge as a pollutant, instead of declaring the day-to-day workings of the uterus and vagina as a process both normal and hygienic, one that is only considered dirty or soiled because of centuries of oppression.
The treatment of the vagina as "messy" — a word used frequently throughout The Guide, Period — is far from the only problem with the book. By using language that equates menstruating and having a vagina with being female, Bloom's puberty guide leaves out trans and non-binary pre-teens in its discussion of the developing body. The Guide, Period also contains no information about the health benefits of retaining one's pubic hair, and the inclusion of an anecdote about 16th century women shaving to avoid contracting pubic lice tips the scales in favor of hair removal. All of these flaws add up to a very disappointing book from one of the biggest names in menstrual products.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.