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!