Podcast Diaries: The Period Podcast S01E01

Why we love this episode:

This podcast actually started in September 2016 and this first episode really sets it up nicely! We’ve been fans of it for a while and this introduction, even though it’s from way back when is obviously totally still relevant to today!

As always, support the podcast and subscribe to it on your fav podcast app! There are SO many things you’ll learn from Dr Kathryn and the guests she’s had over the years. We’ll keep showcasing some of our favourites but we’d urge you to go check it out for yourself!

Listen & Learn:


This is PERIOD podcast, episode one. My name is Kate Clancy and I'm a professor of researching periods, how they affect our life and how our life affects them. This episode is an introduction to the podcast, who I am, why I'm doing this thing, and some of the stuff you can expect to learn about in our first season. I am an anthropologist, the type that is into periods, not fossils. There are a lot of names for what I do, human biological variation, evolutionary medicine, reproductive ecology, but lady business scientist also works. I study hormones, ovaries, the uterus, you name it. I used to write about this sort of stuff and about my life as a scientist at Scientific American. You can find my archives and some of my solo work since then at KateClancy.com. Now though, I'm interested in a different kind of medium to talk about the fascinating, the weird, the fun of the menstrual cycle. Discussions on this topic are still pretty taboo even among scientists. Listen to my first guest, Dr. Elizabeth Rowe, talk about a period shaming moment in her own life.

And I noticed that my youngest sister had got some blood on her bedsheets and at dinner time I said something to her along the lines of, "Hey, don't forget to change your sheets," which was maybe more busybody than I needed to be, that kind of thing. All right. I don't remember her response to that at all. Maybe I embarrassed her. I'm sorry, if she hears this. I'm sorry, Rebecca. But later on my dad came to me and said, "Your brother was really upset that you mentioned that." And again, all I said was, "Hey, can you change your sheets," not like you have disgusting menstrual blood all over them. And I didn't know that my brother had any idea about that, and my dad and I ended up getting in this big fight about it. And it felt really unfair and ridiculous. And I felt like if my mom was there, because she was out of town, if she'd been there, she would probably have said something. But yeah, so definitely my dad's this natural scientist, and he was telling me that it really upset my brother that I dared, not even really mention menstrual bleeding.

The first few episodes of this podcast are going to focus on what a period is.

So first of all, that's something that's important to understand. It's not just humans that menstruate. It's other animals, predominantly other primates, so monkeys and apes, but there's elephant shrews and some species of bats. It's kind of weird.

If we asked the Yurok, they would say something about it being a pathway towards spiritual enlightenment. If we ask Donald Trump, we'd hear about it as a sign of depravity and the source of irritability and aggression.

Once we have a shared understanding of some of the biological and cultural meanings of periods, I turned to a bunch of kids and their moms to find out how kids learn about and what they think about periods.

When you're older and stuff, you have different body changes with your blood and stuff. We were talking to you.

Yeah, we've talked about it.

So when you're older and stuff and you have different body changes and there's blood and stuff. Right?

I think too with just being the only female in the house, trying to be open with the question. So, if I am in the restroom washing out a diva cup or whatever it is, throwing out tampons, I don't hide it. And they see it, I'll talk about it, because I think initially I think some of that was very scary and that it's a lot of blood. It just looks like a lot of blood and you're like, "Oh, what's happening?" But I'm not like, "Hey everybody, come on in, check this out." It's more of, we only have one bathroom in our house and all of those functions are pretty communal because I think part of that is just the age of our kids. They don't really necessarily want to be alone and they're not really embarrassed by anything that happens in a bathroom yet. And so we just kind of, I'm like, "All right, here's what this is. This is what's happening. I'm okay." And then usually they're running off. So that's also not really a science lesson. They're not like, "Oh, tell me more." It's just like, "Okay, you're not going to die. Cool. Peace."

I'll also cover how women handle their periods, what they use to staunch the flow and what it means to hide something you do for 20% of your days from the ages of 13 to 50.

Like many of us who have been caught unprepared on our cycles, I started evaluating my options. And I was already in a lot of pain too, and I was so upset, I didn't want to have to skip out the marathon completely. So I thought, a pad. No, that's a terrible idea. Chaffing is so uncomfortable on a marathon course for men and women. And then a tampon. Well, there's that string. Then there's you have to carry an extra one to change it out. And then there's very little privacy on the marathon course to actually change it out. It just seemed so uncomfortable to run 26 miles with a foreign object in my body. And so I knew that it was radical because I've never seen anybody do that, but I wanted to do what felt most comfortable for my body.

And I also recognised that I actually was more than happy to free bleed, but that my only hesitation was that I might embarrass people around me, that I might embarrass my dad and my brother, people running next to me, my friends. And I realised actually how quite oppressive it is that we can't acknowledge that all of us have a period and that we go through it every month if we're a biologically healthy female.

If this sounds good to you, subscribe to us on whatever podcast app you use and tell your friends. If you have any questions or comments, find me on Facebook at Period Podcast, or leave me a voice message at (262) PERIOD2. I'd like to thank my beta listeners, Hooshbag, Patty Quake, Girl Friday and Joanna Saurus Rex. And finally, this podcast is edited by Liz Lerner. Thanks, sister.


Excerpt: Kate introduces her new podcast PERIOD, and shares a few of her favourite clips from the first few episodes.

Summary: Welcome to PERIOD! PERIOD is a podcast where I explore anything and everything to do with the menstrual cycle, most especially the bloody bits. I am a biological anthropologist whose research focuses on the ways in which stress, lifestyle, and environment affect women’s health. I also wrote for Scientific American for a few years and do a fair bit of science outreach online and on my campus, the University of Illinois. PERIOD is my chance to spend some time with my favourite topic, hang out with people I admire, and learn more about the social, political, and biological aspects of menstruation.

I’m really excited to share with you interviews with researchers, activists, and parents and kids just trying to make their way in the world. I hope this podcast becomes a place where you can share your experience, learn from people who are different from you, and engage in period science and activism.

This first run of PERIOD will be twelve episodes long. I hope you’ll be giving me tons of feedback along the way to shape the last episodes of this season, as well as future seasons.

Subscribe to PERIOD so you don’t miss an episode! Once we are in iTunes you can of course subscribe there, there are also lots of Android-friendly ways to subscribe. You can also find information about the podcast at Period Podcast on Facebook.

Other ways to contact me:

  • Email me at periodpodcast2 at gmail dot com
  • Leave a voicemail: 262-PERIOD-2
  • Find me on Twitter at @periodpodcast2 and @kateclancy

I can’t wait to hear what you think! Thanks for listening!

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