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STDs, Uncategorized, vagina, vulva, woo, yeast

“Hot pants! DIY Gynecology” is a Hot Mess

A few weeks ago someone suggested I take a look at the book Hot Pants! Do It Yourself Gynecology and Herbal Remedies.

After reading all 95 pages a more apt title would be From Camelot to the Clap, Ancient Gynecology for a Modern Woman. A Herbalist and a Radio Activist turn Fables into Feminism.

Because that, my friends, is what you get.

First of all, you cannot claim to be a DIY gynecology book without providing a step-by-step guide for taking your own Pap smear. Then there is the fact that the book starts with a handy disclaimer that it is “not intended to provide diagnoses or prescriptions.”

Then again, words apparently don’t matter much for a book that reads like a womanly woo word generator with body parts, medical conditions, compounding terms, and plant names.

Ovary…depression…tincture…cloves.

Treat depression of the ovary with a tincture of cloves!

I mean don’t, but you get the idea.

The book was published in 1993 and shockingly updated in 2015, although the only updated information appears to be mention of the HPV vaccine (they do not call it evil, color me shocked) and guidelines for Pap smear frequency. Everything else is woo, ignorance, and cayenne pepper.

Apparently it takes a fuck load of cayenne pepper to treat, sorry my bad, cleanse the reproductive tract.

The idea for the table of contents is cute. A periodic table. Ha ha. Get it? Periods. Although, most of the information is bullshit, so a cute idea poorly executed.

Periodic table

 

The page numbers are a tacky reference to cervical mucus checks and a constant, annoying message that fertility awareness methods of preventing pregnancy are somehow superior. They’re not.

cervical mucus

The book itself starts with some anatomically bizarre illustrations. I’d like to give the vulva rendered as the underbelly of a snail a pass as a printing error due to cost considerations, but no matter how intently I stare with the eye of faith it is so many shades of wrong. Look, I am an OB/GYN who trained on bedside ultrasounds in the early 1990s. I can turn a snowstorm into a 20 weeks fetus, so if you’ve lost me you’ve lost everyone. Let’s just say this illustration is a hot fucking mess.

vulva hot pants

 

And the reproductive organs? They look like the Scorpion King from The Mummy.

scoprion

 

 

The patriarchy disguised as female empowerment starts early. The clitoris gets one line in the book as an organ for “sexual stimulation.” But the uterus? I’m sorry, I mean the womb? (I HATE THAT WORD).

Well…here’s what Hot Pants! wants you to know about the womb…

It is believed that the uterus is the center of a woman’s energy and that each month we gather up and store emotions and experiences in the womb. Menstruation is the release and cleansing of these emotions each month.

This sentence perfectly encapsulates the overlap between pseudoscience and the patriarchy. Both profit from misinformation and the idea that women are simply breathlessly awaiting our true purpose — to be filled with sperm.

While there are some facts that are correct, at least 80% of the book is batshit — woefully incorrect information that would be funny if it were not so harmful. Nestling facts next to dangerous fantasy makes it even worse. If 100% of the book was “take mud from yonder bog and render it with 5 drops of menses, a pinch of yarrow, and a handful of motherwort under a blood moon” most people, except the most dedicated blood sister herbalists, would give it a pass.

Snake oil is especially dangerous when it is on the same shelf as science.

The herbalist and radio activist advocate all the usual suspects, the well-known medically ignorant and potentially harmful “mother earth” remedies, such a sea sponges for tampons and rubbing garlic on warts. Rubbing warts can spread the virus, but hey facts. Am I right?

Then there are the even more ludicrous ideas, such as stuffing a sprig of parsley in your vagina daily for 3 to 4 days to bring on a period. I am sure the midwives of Avalon did not know that a menstrual period is the result of the withdrawal of reproductive hormones. I am not faulting the sisters of yore. I am disgusted that the authors of Hot Pants! are perfectly happy keeping women at an Arthurian-level knowledge-base.

There are a lot of warnings about CHEMICAL ANTIBIOTICS, setting up the lie that there are “natural” antibiotics.”

For example, the authors advocate sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing so you can best “determine which STI you have before treating yourself with an herbal remedy.”

I’m so dead I’m ded.

Like stuffing a garlic clove, that you must be careful not to nick, into your vagina for trichomonas.

That is both medically and botanically stupid. Garlic has to be cut or crushed to release the allicin that may have medicinal value (don’t pushed crushed garlic in your vagina, I’m just pointing out the sheer ignorance).

Or gonorrhea. Apparently, you can “treat” gonorrhea “easily’ with “one pill” (not in 2015, but fuck facts). The authors of Hot Pants! also want you to know there is another option for women who do not “feel comfortable with antibiotics.” Two to three months with a “decoction or tincture” of echinacea.

HAS SOMEONE CALLED THE CDC TO LET THEM KNOW THEY SHOULDN’T BE WORRIED ABOUT MULTI-DRUG RESISTANT GONORRHEA BECAUSE DECOCTION OF ECHINACEA?

You know what is going to give you fucking hot pants? The fever from your pelvic abscess due to your untreated gonorrhea.

*Gasps for breath*

And then there is the genital cleansing…

(side bar – I hate the word genitals almost as much as I hate womb, we are adults so it is okay to use adult words, such as vulva or lower reproductive tract, or God forbid as we are talking about cleansing, the upper reproductive tract)

…but this isn’t cleaning as in washing (phew!), no this cleansing as in purifying to prevent “cysts, adhesions, fibroids, etc.” because they “take refuge.”

Your reproductive tract is not a wayward bit of flotsam in the storm of life where barnacles and sundry creatures seek refuge.

Hot Pants! would be funny if all if of this destructive messaging were in the past.

Obsessions with womb cleansing and purity have been passed on for centuries because of the patriarchy. Initially, women passed this information along because they understood their worth was measured before marriage by virginity and after marriage by how many children they might bear. A “pure” vagina and uterus were currency.

A woman with knowledge was dangerous. She might get ideas that her worth lay not in her uterus, but in her mind. So women were not taught to read. They were barred from schools and universities. Our female ancestors did the best they could with the limited information they were allowed. I firmly believe these women would be aghast at modern women for willfully choosing scientific ignorance.

I imagine some woman from 1200 B.C. or 1200 A.D. with trichomonas being offered a clove of garlic or antibiotics along with the success rates of both and saying, “Well, we’ve been trying that garlic thing for years and everyone I know still has a green discharge. I’m going to go with this magic you call metronidazole. And how can I help spread this message to other women?”

Hot Pants! reads like a blueprint for GOOP. The recipe has not changed — equal parts medical ignorance, purity, cleansing rituals, the fetishization of natural, and delusional beliefs sprinkled with a conservative dusting of conspiracy theories. The only difference is the packaging.

In 1993 this was radical and feminist. In 2018 it is artisanal and feminist.

Passing off ancient myths about the reproductive tract as empowering women is a stunning display of a predatory marketing or ignorance and internalized patriarchy. I suspect Hot Pants! is the latter, so well-intentioned, then again if you don’t care enough to fact check some basics I seriously question your intentions.

Misinforming women about their bodies is not feminism, it is the patriarchy. And it serves no woman ever.

Verdict: Hot Pants! is a hot medical mess, but an interesting look at the intersection of pseudoscience, snake oil, and the patriarchy and how it has remained unchanged over the last 25 years.

 

 

 

 

Discussion

27 thoughts on ““Hot pants! DIY Gynecology” is a Hot Mess

  1. Kudoes as always. Please consider adding this to Amazon as book review. Fortunately this book is not a best seller.

    Posted by Joe Niemczura, RN, MS | September 22, 2018, 1:51 pm
  2. Who are the authors?

    Posted by David | September 22, 2018, 1:55 pm
  3. Wait, wait, wait. I have to know, and I cannot bear to go look it up. How does parsley bring on your period?!

    Posted by Amy Keyishian | September 22, 2018, 2:06 pm
    • I mean I know it doesn’t. But how is it alleged to?

      Posted by Amy Keyishian | September 22, 2018, 2:07 pm
    • Parsley shows up on a lot of internet lists as a herbal abortifacient; ‘bringing on the menses’ is an ancient euphemism for early abortion. It’s possible that the authors didn’t know this and mistook ‘bringing on the menses’ to mean ‘making a period hurry up’ or it’s possible that they are also using this term as a euphemism for abortion. I don’t know, I haven’t read this trash haha.

      Posted by Laura | September 23, 2018, 6:06 pm
  4. Thank you yet again, Dr Jen. So glad I “found” you. I may be in my eighties but will never stop being grateful to you for dispelling so many myths and harmful promotions. Would that I had a Dr Jen while I was growing up. Bless you.

    Posted by Patricia Filby | September 22, 2018, 3:33 pm
  5. Hello Dr gunter, brilliant as usual.

    I produce podcasts and video shows and i’d like to discuss something with you if you are so inclined. Email in my comment bio.

    Posted by Robert Green | September 22, 2018, 4:40 pm
  6. I love the fact that you’re so angry about this you are almost literally spluttering with rage.

    In thr late ’90s (or early noughties?) I read a book called Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier. I hated her writing style but I was struck by the facts and ideas.

    Ever since then I have been appalled by the ignorance peddled as knowledge about women and their biology.

    Thank you for helping this man keep up to date about what we need to know.

    Makes note: vaginal garlic is a no-no. 😉

    Posted by palfreyman1414 | September 22, 2018, 6:07 pm
    • Once upon a time Natalie Angier was a science writer for the New York Times. I heard her speak at a book fair in the mid-90s and was absolutely appalled at her version of science journalism. I am an actual science writer and now editor. Obviously there was no competent editing of scientific articles at the NYT then. After I heard her I cancelled my subscription and never looked back.

      Posted by Sara | September 26, 2018, 5:53 pm
  7. I am grateful that I will never EVER need a Gyn again in my life and not due to any DIY quackery … there is no such thing as DIY surgery. But even without that need, I look forward to a new blog post from you. I enjoy tracking nonsense because I came upon a lot of it during my not pleasant years. so your debunking of it is always fun to read.

    Posted by Sheila | September 22, 2018, 7:10 pm
  8. I’ve looked at many vaginas and I knew things got dark in there the further you go in – but not that dark! I have also never seen a urethra that big before – wow – too much parsley maybe?

    Posted by Ben Maclean | September 22, 2018, 9:41 pm
  9. Good morning! Just slated it on Amazon in case anyone intends to buy it. I live in the UK where we have (for now) free access to medical care, but I feel sorry for women who don’t have this access around the world and will try anything because they can’t afford a doctor. Difficult to blame them, medical care is a privilege… Have a great Sunday Helene Gautier

    >

    Posted by Helene Gautier | September 22, 2018, 11:57 pm
  10. Another wonderful wonderful takedown of antifeminist pseudoscience. Your mix of evidence-based medicine plus straightforward feminism is sublime. Thank you for all of your great work with your posts—I have learned so much. You are my hero—medical hero, scientist hero, and feminist hero.

    Yours always, fellow scientist Abby

    Professor Abby Kavner Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences Department University of California, Los Angeles http://akavner.bol.ucla.edu 310-206-3675

    The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress. -Philip Roth

    Posted by abbykavner | September 23, 2018, 12:21 am
  11. My significant other experienced this type of nonsense a few years ago. She recoined it health care for women rather than womens health care due to the fact that straightforward symptoms were ignored until it was almost too late.

    Succinct final paragraph which summarizes everything that prevents women’s access to proper health care. It’s a global pandemic.

    Posted by Antares | September 23, 2018, 3:12 am
  12. Spot on, as always. Your frankness is infectious. And here I thought garlic was also useful for warding off werewolves.

    Posted by keebslac1234 | September 23, 2018, 6:57 am
  13. One person left an accurate review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23013886-hot-pants I’m alarmed at how many rate this as useful.

    Posted by Catherine Voutier | September 23, 2018, 4:41 pm
  14. That vulva, is it by any chance the Eye of Sauron?

    But seriously, how can anyone learn anything from those images? But then again, perhaps it’s better of people learn as little as possible from such a woman-hating work.

    Posted by raunchel | September 24, 2018, 12:10 am
  15. Why do so many modern feminists hate science and believe that the best way to free women is to miseducate them?

    Posted by andersstarmark | September 25, 2018, 4:29 am
  16. nice post.. thanks for sharing

    Posted by femiint | September 27, 2018, 10:06 pm
  17. My goodness, this book is dangerous as hell. There are doctors for a reason. Glad you reviewed it. Please spread the word around because some unfortunate or desperate person will try these things. My goodness…

    Posted by Curvybee | September 28, 2018, 10:21 am
  18. Where to begin. I’ve never left a comment on a website before, ever! (ironically, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to the Internet.) But thank God for you Dr Jen! You don’t have to put your head above the parapet like this, (I can’t imagine the hassle you must get from woo obsessives) but you do, and I cannot thank you enough. It’s the blinkered arrogance that gets to me. These, usually educated (!) middle class women, having benefitted so very much from science (antibiotics, pain relief, etc.) seem to me to be willfully, perversely eager to take all those benefits (e.g. herd immunity) for themselves and throw them away for both future generations, and women today who are less privileged now – whether they be in developing nations or in poverty in prosperous ones. The fact that there’s a market for ‘Hot Pants’ makes me sad (the irony – believe you’ll have hot pants if you shove random dinner ingredients up your chuff.) But it makes me very happy to know that brave people like Dr Jen are willing to try to inform and educate others, without reward or recognition. So, once again, Thank you.

    Posted by Loubedoo | October 28, 2018, 3:00 pm

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