Book Review of “The Vagina Bible” by Jen Gunter, MD


The vagina bible book coverThis is a book review of The Vagina Bible, which finally hit bookstores only a couple of days ago. I posted it on another blgo then figured I would crosspost here. 

The executive summary? Get it. Read it. Share it. If you want more details, step over the line.

Who is Jen Gunter, MD?

Jen Gunter MD practices medicine in the Bay Area of California and is a fully Board-Certified OBGYN in both Canada and the USA. For those who do not follow medical credentialling, “board certified” is the gold stamp of approval in terms of clinical expertise. Her official title would be “Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPMR (pain). She explains the meaning of the string of initials if you visit the “about” page of her website. But Dr. Gunter is very approachable and informal and a tad irreverent when she starts talking about her passion — women’s health (which is also “human health” if you think about it). 

@DrJenGunter

Dr Gunter’s motto for her Twitter feed has been “come for the sex, stay for the science; come for the science, stay for the sex.” which is apt. Also, “wielding the lasso of truth.”

She is impeccably grounded in the research to support a sound approach to gynecology care, and yet also has a sense of humor that is utterly delightful to a curmudgeon such as myself. She is is a master of the 140-character takedown of those foolish enough to dispute her expertise. 

In 2016 ( seems so long ago now) she wrote a New York Times piece that made her list of Twitter followers explode: “My Vagina is Terrific, Your Opinion of it is Not

The 2016 piece begins with:

There is a rash of men explaining vaginas to me.

That is what I have decided to name a collective of mansplainers. A murder of crows, a parliament of owls, a rash of mansplainers. In medicine a rash can be a mild annoyance that goes away and never returns. A rash can also portend a serious medical condition, even something malignant.

There have always been a few men here and there explaining vaginas to me. I have suffered fools eager to use pickup lines about being an amateur gynecologist, detailing their imagined superior knowledge of female anatomy and physiology. Men who think sitting beside them at a bar and smiling — because if you don’t smile, you get told to smile — is an invitation to tell you how they will make you scream and moan.

I was already hooked on her writing, but this made me howl with delight. The piece was a manifesto of sorts, and Dr Gunter gained a following that went beyond a mere cult, into the mainstream. Her subsequent skewering of myths and misconceptions promoted by the women’s wellness industry has attained legendary status, especially with her science-based analysis of false claims by GOOP magazine, over such issues as the use of Jade Eggs. These days I don’t think anybody can read the name ‘Gwenyth Paltrow” without also thinking of Dr Gunter and the way her lasso reeled GOOP in. 

Book Dedication

The dedication says: 

For Every Woman Who has Been Told — Usually by Some Dude — 

that she is too wet, too dry, too gross, too loose,

too tight, too bloody, or too smelly.

This book is for you.

The chapters are logical, first starting off with accurate medical information as to anatomy, then going in to childbirth. Then she gives practical advice on such things as lube, underwear, menstrual hygiene, sexually-transmitted diseases, and common complaints or symptoms that bring a woman to a gynecologist for examination. Throughout, she maintains a pro-woman attitude that would make me want to tell me daughters to make an appointment. 

Context

In greater context, this book is the next logical heiress to Our Bodies, Ourselves, the famous book by the Boston Women’s Health Collective that championed the revolution toward woman-friendly non-patriarchical women’s health in the 1960s and 1970s. That book went through successive editions that made it larger and larger; the most recent updating was in 2011. My wife and I had a copy of OBOS which we left laying around the house for our daughters to read. Gunter’s book is very readable and rivals the colloquial style of Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex ( but were afraid to ask) by David Rosen, MD, another pop book from the 1960s that was a #1 best-seller of the New York Times when it came out ( and later made into a movie by Woody Allen). (it seems to be out of print). 

Political Views

I would be remiss to omit Dr. Gunter’s unerring and consistent defense of a woman’s right to choose; her insistence on framing the abortion debate in medical terms including calling out the lies about “late term abortion” and “infanticide; ” and fighting back against other attempts by radical pro-life extremists to fan the flames of emotion rather than appealing to rational science. I don’t follow the pro-life extremists on Twitter but they seem to flock around Dr. Gunter like moths to a flame. She seems to be a lightning rod for pro-life weirdos and yet she supplies excellent talking points on the front lines of compassionate gyn care. The Vagina Bible is not, however, a polemic book carrying a radical torch. Dr Gunter stays very carefully on the side of science-based advice in all areas it seems to me. 

Barnes and Noble

I got my copy in the Women’s Health section of Barnes and Noble here in Tampa. Why it was not yet stacked on a table in a more prominent area of the bookstore was actually a mystery to me, since the topic is of wide interest and the book is well written and factual. Maybe there are just not that many nonfiction best sellers these days. Still and all,this would be a great beach read, the kind of book you could enjoy by just going to a random page.

Twitter Controversy                    

I should say, this past week there has been a bit of a controversy on Twitter since her publisher wanted to run a series of Twitter ads with the book title but was somehow blocked by Twitter due to the prominence of the word “Vagina.” For those of us who have been following the good doctor, this has been a strange twist. We have a situation where Alex Jones and his ilk can promote lies about such things as Sandy Hook; where people use not just the f-word but also the c-word; and of course a President who lies and also shares top secret national security items that put American lives at risk; and yet — a book written by an MD in which the title describes the subject is somehow off limits? Get real.

Amazon Book Reviews

I shared this review on Amazon, and I was at first surprised to read that there was a one-star review posted by an MD at that site. Turns out, the MD in question has her own nickname – “The Love Doctor” and in Austin Texas she runs the sort of bespoke clinic that promotes just about all the trendy treatment modalities that Dr Gunter is advising against. So – I expect there to be a backlash from proponents of the “Vaginal Shaming Industry” that Dr Gunter is informing us about. 

In summary

I give this book an A plus for readability, accuracy and reliability. 

Disclaimer

I am not in any way associated with Dr Gunter, or her publisher. I have not received any compensation for this glowing review in any way. I paid for me own copy and I had to wait for it like everyone else!

About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

These blogs, and my books, and videos are written on the principle that any person embarking on something similar to what I do will gain more preparation than I first had, by reading them. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add to it fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011.
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