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14 February 2024

Jen Gunter Q&A: “I wanted to be a detective and drive around in a convertible”

The gynaecologist and author on Nancy Drew, abortion rights, and what would be a truly unforgettable episode of Mastermind.

By New Statesman

Jen Gunter was born in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1966 and is a doctor of obstetrics and gynaecology. She is also a public advocate for women’s health and a bestselling author.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting in the grass in the front yard. It was a lovely sunny day, and I can still feel the grass between my toes.

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was the fictional detective Nancy Drew. I really wanted to be a girl detective, solve crimes and drive around in a convertible. My adult hero is Dr Henry Morgentaler. It was due in large part to his efforts, which came at great personal cost, that the abortion law was overturned in Canada. 

What book last changed your thinking?

I can’t think of one. I was steeped in textbooks and articles for the past two years writing my latest book.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Vaginal yeast infections.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, so I’d like to experience Georgian England for a week, preferably in Bath, but I wouldn’t want to live in that time long-term. I like vaccines and being able to vote.

What TV show could you not live without?

I can live without TV. I loved the latest season of Slow Horses and am enjoying season four of True Detective, but I’d be fine if it all went away tomorrow. 

Which political figure do you look up to?

Hillary Clinton. She is just so smart and prepared. In fact, it always seems like she is the most prepared person in the room.

Who would paint your portrait?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I have loved him ever since I was little.

What’s your theme tune?

Something that feels very 1980s and sung by Bonnie Tyler. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When something seems very hard, pause and take three, slow, deep breaths. I do this often and it really helps.

What’s currently bugging you?

The US Supreme Court. Like, really bugging me.

What single thing would make your life better?

Reinstating Roe vs Wade (the federal protection for abortion in the US). Although it wouldn’t affect me personally, my life would be better knowing that abortion rights had more protection, because I am aware of how so many people are suffering right now. 

When were you happiest?

There was a morning several years ago when my two kids surprise snuggled with me in bed. They had been a bit old for that for a while but, for some reason, that day they just wanted cuddles. Our dog took a flying leap onto the bed and began licking the three of us like crazy, so I started humming the theme from Jurassic Park very loudly because the dog felt like a dinosaur. My boys joined in humming. And then the three of us couldn’t stop laughing.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

An actor. I loved studying Shakespeare in high school and was torn between science and drama.

Are we all doomed?

Eventually the sun will go supernova, or whatever suns do, so, eventually, yes. But until then this is a beautiful place, and we should all do our part to keep it that way.

“Blood: The Science, Medicine and Mythology of Menstruation” by Dr Jen Gunter is published by Piatkus

[See also: Seyi Obakin Q&A: “I yearn for a government that will end homelessness”]

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This article appears in the 14 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Trouble in Toryland

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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