GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for Our Times
Ed. Rosanna Deerchild, Ariel Gordon, Tanis McDonald
Frontenac House, 2018 (362 pp.)
Review by Henri/etta Bensussen
If you can laugh at the image of “tampons falling like bombs,” and all the things that go wrong during our monthly bleed-outs, this book is for you. We’re stuck with Mother Nature’s engineering of our reproductive organs, but we own our bodies. As women, we are called on to manage so much in this world, and maybe that’s why menstruation begins in our early teen years. It gives us time to adjust, and to learn how to cope.
The all-star editors have amassed a dynamic assemblage of accounts, rants, jokes, comic strips, poems and stories to disentangle the diverse ways women experience menstruation. The pieces are organized thematically into ten originative Cycles. Under Cycle 3, Making a Mess, “Ten Bloody Pieces of Advice” gives some helpful hints on handling problems like tested friendships, ignorant mothers, and misogynistic jokes. In Cycle 6, Aril-Filled Angel, “The Water Song” tests the “colonial logic” that “our sacredness is too much.” In Cycle 8, Reckless Hunger, “Abnormal” narrates how the author learned what was causing her infertility, and how the medical establishment often deals with it in secrecy.
A highly readable, entertaining, and also educational examination of a biological truth from a feminist viewpoint, this book covers every aspect of a process so many of us are familiar with. Their feisty approach to women’s lot is light years beyond the 1950s, or even the 2000s. As MacDonald writes in the informative introduction, “Let our menstrual identification be bold and strident and strange. Let us be bloody unmistakeable.”
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Henri Bensussen’s poems and stories have appeared in various journals, incl. Eclipse, Blue Mesa Review, Sinister Wisdom, and others, and in the anthologies, Women of the 14th Moon: Writings on Menopause, Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper: New Tales of Madness, and Lisa Locasio, ed., Golden State 2017. A chapbook of poems, “Earning Colors,” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. She has a B.A. in Biology, served on the board of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, and is an MCWC Sustaining Member.