Getting Real About Periods, Childbirth, Menopause and More

Getting Real About Periods, Childbirth, Menopause and More

Gender Letter is a weekly take on news and culture. Tell me what you think at

My friend’s question was simple: Are there any foods that help ease the intensity of hot flashes?

She went online hoping to find a community of women who could help her navigate a transition — menopause — that half the population will experience at some point.

What she found instead were recommendations for drugstore supplements like ginseng and … tofu.

I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.

Women’s health issues and biological processes have long been shrouded in secrecy and shame. Who among us hasn’t hidden our pad or tampon wrappers under a wad of toilet paper, lest we appear unattractive or messy? The result: We feel alone, often at a young age, when we are anything but.

In Harper’s Bazaar, the photographer Frances F. Denny recently opened up about the vaginal tearing she experienced during childbirth, an injury which affects many American mothers.

In May, the supermodel and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, an extraordinarily candid presence on social media, shared that she too had experienced severe vaginal tearing with her firstborn.

Harper’s also published an article last week about the hurdles new mothers face while trying to pump breast milk while working.


What We’re Reading

• What Feminists Can Do for Boys. In this Op-Ed piece, the author Jessica Valenti worries that “while women protest, run for office and embrace the movement for gender equality in record numbers, a generation of young, mostly white men are being radicalized into believing that their problems stem from women’s progress.” [The New York Times ]

• Inside the manosphere. Men are freaking out about a study suggesting that sperm counts have been dropping for decades. Silicon Valley is trying to help them get their mojo back. [The New York Times]

• Have you watched “Nanette” yet? Perhaps you’ve heard: The comedian Hannah Gadsby is angry, and she is amazing. [The New York Times]

• The business of being Gwyneth. Taffy Brodesser-Akner profiled Gwyneth Paltrow, actress and founder of Goop — the most controversial brand in the wellness industry. [The New York Times Magazine]

• “Outercourse”? A lawyer for the convicted rapist Brock Turner attempted to overturn his assault conviction by arguing his client only wanted “outercourse” (sexual contact while fully clothed). [HuffPost]

• Our teenage girls are suffering. A study finds that 80 percent of teenage girls grapple with serious mental illnesses for months after being sexually assaulted. [The Guardian]

• Overlooked No More: Edmonia Lewis, a 19th century sculptor, transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her. [The New York Times]


On Loop

Highlighting the song or album that has gotten a New York Times employee through this week.

Sharon Attia, the mastermind behind our Instagram account @nytgender, has been listening to Drake’s new album, “Scorpion,” all week “because part of my job is being #ontrend and because it’s straight fire,” she said. “I have a new favorite song every couple of days that coincides with my mood. Currently, it’s ‘Mob Ties.’”


From the Archives

In 1872, a New York Times article oh so generously (insert side-eye) announced that female doctors are not “out of place in the medical profession.” Instead, it declared that “their advent as humble workers” helped to fill gaps left by a “lack of experienced nurses, and the dislike of respectable women to be considered as living by such an occupation.”

These doctors also got to do the tasks that “no male physician would be willing” to do, the article stated — such as spending “hour after hour in the sick-room, attending to every want of the patient.”


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Maya Salam, our new newsletter writer, is impatiently awaiting her Pap smear results. Follow her on Twitter @Maya_Salam or write to her at

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