Why Are Periods Still Taboo On Tween/Teen TV Shows?

Why is it rare to see a depiction of periods on television? | Photo source: My Mad Fat Diary/E4

Why is it rare to see a depiction of periods on television? | Photo source: My Mad Fat Diary/E4

I remember some pretty formative puberty episodes of some of my favorite shows as a kid. There was the episode of Lizzie McGuire in which she implores her mom to give her a bra. “I want a bra, okay? A bra!” she shouted, leaving her mother heartened and proud while her brother, father and dude bestie Gordo looked as if someone farted in their faces. It was cool to see a show on Disney Channel address boob envy in a way that I could relate to as a kid who was just starting to get boobs myself.

Another formative moment came from an episode of Nickelodeon’s As Told By Ginger in which Ginger feels embarrassed by her hairy legs. The worst was that her mom didn’t allow her to shave yet, leaving Ginger to come up with a way to get rid of her “frizzy lizzies” on the DL. No other show on Nickelodeon was ever so candid about female body hair like that before, but to see these characters talk about it the same way that any young girl’s friends would talk about was strangely comforting.

But if these shows tackled boobs and body hair, why not that other big puberty moment that ever card carrying uterus owner has? Essentially, I’m surprised that neither of these shows ever tackled periods.

We’re more likely to see blood from some dude who got gunned down on television than see a menstrual blood stain on some girl’s skirt. Off the top of my head, the only TV shows with a teen demographic that definitely tackled this has been Degrassi, Braceface and My Mad Fat Diary. Nothing else on those channels I watched as a kid really touched that little nugget of puberty. This fact just emphasizes the fact that periods are still such a taboo topic. I mean, it’s not that surprising, we can’t even deal with an advertisement selling us tampons and pads unless menstrual blood is represented by blue liquid.

I’m not saying that we should have to rely on tween and teen shows to normalize menstruation, but it would definitely be refreshing if it wasn’t ignored. I remember watching the period episode of Braceface and felt as if I was finally watching a show that was really supposed to connect to a girl like me at that age. We’re willing to watch girls go gaga over their (straight, always straight) crushes and try to stuff their bras, but we can’t dare see them wearily eye a tampon? Come on now. It’s like folks in TV Land just don’t get their period! They do the whole puberty thing without it or something, miraculously.

And before anyone says, “well, do you want TV shows to show guys getting boners and wet dreams, too?” let me make something clear: While boners and wet dreams are just as natural as periods are, let’s not act like there isn’t something more inherently sexual about bedtime jizz than blood coming out of a vagina. They’re just not the same, and given how stigmatized women’s bodies are anyway, it just feels like another way for the media to make girls feel weirded out about themselves.

Will tween/teen TV shows including a period episode solve world peace? No, of course not. But it doesn’t hurt to question whether or not we’d feel more comfortable, open and honest about menstruation if we didn’t only hear about it in the context of our friends, moms and our toiletries shopping list.

What TV show geared towards tweens and teens actually tackled periods? Do you think that more shows should do this? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!


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  • Mel

    I remember one episode of 6Teen where we saw all the girls get theirs at the same time.

    It was amazing because Caitlin, Jenn and Nikki all had different symptoms, which is super realistic. Caitlin was craving chocolate like a fiend, which made her skin break out, Jenn was having severe cramps (and taking painkillers to deal with it, which put her to sleep for most of the episode) and Nikki was just a complete hormone monster, yelling at one point and crying at another.

    As a kid I loved that, because it let us gurls see a lot of stuff that may happen while menstruating without heaping it all on one poor unfortunate soul. And again, it was extremely realistic because every gurl, (and every period for that matter) is different, and you always want to know what may happen.

    Plus, there was a hilarious side story of the boys finding tampons in Caitlin’s purse and subsequently freaking out, until they learned at the end of the episode that periods are just things that happen, and we all need to get over it.

  • Ashy

    ya they don’t show people taking a dump in tv either or having shit stains all over their pants

    who even cares besides you

    • I didn’t realize that “shit stains” were a part of puberty akin to body hair and breast development but thanks for the insight, Ashy!

      • stop it ashy

        ignore rude ignorant ashy. he/she doesn’t realise that girls get insulted and made fun of and made to feel gross about things our bodies do naturally. we don’t need to show people going to the bathroom on tv because that’s something that everybody does for all their lives regardless of gender. body hair and menstruation are very sudden and something many girls feel insecure about. we should talk about and explain these things more.