Period talk is having a moment. From reporter Jazmine Hughes’ harrowing tale of bleeding through her pants on her first day at The New York Times to drummer Kiran Gandhi’s badass decision to “free bleed” through the London Marathon to the ongoing fight to allow period-themed ads on New York City transit, little by little, women are chipping away at the deeply ingrained notion that we should be ashamed or embarrassed by menstruation.
But for teen girls confronting their period for their first time, that shame, embarrassment—even fear—is still very real. For that reason and so many others, thank God for She Said, the new web series from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.
The series, hosted by stand-up comedian Cameron Esposito, will cover a range of topics, from what it really means to be a feminist to why “throwing like a girl” should be taken as a compliment. But the inaugural episode, The Female Body is Awesome, is solely focused on young women’s health—specifically, what it’s like to get your first period and go to your first gynecologist appointment.
I spoke with Esposito by phone last week, and she told me that she’s aiming to do in She Said what fictional TV shows like My So-Called Life and Daria—the shows she watched and learned from as a teen—couldn’t do. That is, talk frankly and directly with young women from the perspective of an early 30-something who’s been there and can say: “It’s going to be better on the other side.”
In the first episode, which is formatted like a late-night talk show, Esposito sits in the Letterman chair and chats with her fiancee and co-host, the comedian Rhea Butcher, about their individual experiences “becoming a woman.”
Butcher reveals that she didn’t get her period until she was 16 years old. (The average age in the United States today is around 12 years old.) And so, at 15, she started wearing pads every day, just as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Esposito shares that she was so nervous about seeing a gynecologist for the first time that she put off going until she was in her twenties.
The fact that Esposito and Butcher are gay is obviously no big deal. But given the reticence many queer women feel about seeing gynecologists in the first place—and the ways in which women’s healthcare is failing queer women—any encouragement that young LGBT women get to take control of their sexual health is a step forward.
With this in mind, I asked Esposito how her queer experience might benefit a show about women loving and learning about themselves. She told me that a future episode will focus specifically on coming out, and shared these wise words:
“Every person can benefit from coming out,” she told me. “We all have to figure who we are and how we want to present ourselves. That’s something queer people had to learn how to do because terrible things happened to us and people were mean to us, but everyone needs to figure out their place.”