Dr. Gunter tackles myths, misnomers and more in empowering new book
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/09/2019 (1248 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Dr. Jen Gunter talks or tweets, people listen. And they either agree, or vehemently disagree. And Gunter typically responds to these attacks with facts (and the occasional F-bomb).
Gunter is an obstetrician and gynecologist with nearly three decades of experience as a vulvar and vaginal diseases expert. A fierce advocate for women’s health, she writes regular columns for the New York Times and has written for academic journals as well as Chatelaine and Self, among other publications. In August 2019, CBC Gem launched a new web series hosted by Dr. Gunter called Jensplaining.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Gunter currently resides in California; The Vagina Bible is her second book. Her first, The Preemie Primer: A Complete Guide for Parents of Premature Babies — from Birth through the Toddler Years and Beyond, was published in 2010.
“The Vagina Bible is everything I want women to know about their vulvas and vaginas,” Gunter writes. “It is my answer to every woman who has listened to me pass on information in the office or online and then wondered, ‘How did I not know this?’”
Female readers, no matter what age, will learn something. From names of body parts you didn’t know you had, to pelvic floor spasms, to managing menopause, Gunter’s book is more encyclopedia than bible.
It is very much a medical textbook, with topics and symptoms that are easy to reference. Each chapter is relatively short with a helpful “bottom line” section that summarizes key points.
While women are her primary target audience, The Vagina Bible contains some helpful information for anyone wanting to better understand the issues. “Sex is the designation of a person as male or female based on biological characteristics, such as anatomy and/or hormones,” Gunter writes. “Sex can be assigned at birth or changed. Gender is your sense of who you are — male, female, both, or neither. A transgender individual is a person whose gender identity differs from their assigned a sex at birth.”
Much of The Vagina Bible involves debunking myths propagated by the patriarchy, old wives’ tales, outdated medical practices and the wellness industry. Says Dr. Gunter: “The misinformation women are given about their reproductive organs, Internet mythology, and the difficulty women face having non-sophomoric discussions about their vulvas and vaginas make accurate communication hard.”
Many of Gunter’s myth-busting passages are giggle-worthy. For example, she addresses the rumour that having sex can induce labour. “Most studies show that heterosexual sex has no effect on triggering labour or on reducing the risk of cesarean section. The idea that a penis is mighty enough to bring on labour is, to be honest, a bit eye-rolling.”
In the age of self-diagnosis via Google, Gunter acknowledges that the web can play an important role in monitoring one’s health. But it can be challenging due to misinformation and the push by wellness retailers disguised as health gurus to push products. For the savvy consumer who has come to distrust Big Pharma’s tendency to sell unnecessary medication, it’s a sobering thought to also realize that big wellness can be just as confusing to navigate.
Information is power, and Dr. Gunter wants women to be empowered. That’s a “vagenda” that everyone can get behind.
Deborah Bowers is a marketing & communications professional who wishes The Vagina Bible existed when she was a teenager. She had to subsist on talking with girlfriends and reading Judy Blume novels.
Dr. Jen Gunter launches The Vagina Bible in Winnipeg at the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice Ave.) on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 for two entries and a copy of the book, and are available at mcnallyrobinson.com.