When Jessica Weiss was laid off from her job earlier this year, the local journalist contemplated the kind of reporting she wanted to do next. Women were coming forward under #MeToo. Politics were dividing the nation. “I knew I wanted to do something intentionally connective,” Weiss tells New Times, “something about women and for women, something that would make us feel more connected to one another.”
With friend and health coach Stefanie Kleinburd, the two decided on periods — no, not the punctuation mark. Last month, the duo released The Flow Down, a podcast about menstruation, intent on tackling all the questions women have never felt comfortable asking, from cravings to first-period stories to even free bleeding. “Why are we able to say our stomach hurts at work but can never tell our boss that we’re not feeling so great on our period?” Weiss asks. “We want to talk about it and advance the conversation in society.”
So far, the duo has released four episodes and earned hundreds of listeners, some as far away as Argentina and Australia. It’s easy to wonder how a podcast about menstruation could sustain itself. How much could two women really talk about their periods? But Weiss and Kleinburd tap into larger themes about womanhood, feminist issues, and bonding. When they share their own stories about their periods on their very first episode, you can hear the vulnerability in their voices that women can’t help but find empowering.
“I can’t lie — I was really nervous to release our first episode,” says Weiss, a former New Times staff writer. “This isn’t easy to talk about when you live within the patriarchy, and we might not feel comfortable talking about it, but that’s OK, because there’s a larger issue at play that’s more important.”
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Listeners call in with questions that Kleinburd, who specializes in menstrual health and fertility, answers. Weiss breaks them down in simplified nuggets of information that are easy to understand whether you’re a girl who might just be learning about menstruation or a woman curious about how her cycle actually works. On some episodes, the duo interviews experts in menstruation, such as musician Kiran Gandhi, who got her period on the starting line of the London Marathon and famously free-bled the entire race (Episode 3). In their fifth episode, airing Wednesday, November 21, the two will interview a historian specializing in menstruation in the United States.
Since the podcast first aired, Weiss has become a kind of menstruation sherpa: Women approach her at events to share anecdotes about their own periods, sometimes even in a whisper. “One woman whispered her first-period story to me, and I was like, ‘Why are you whispering?’ and she was like, ‘I think I’m embarrassed!’” For Weiss, “the most surprising thing has been how much women want to talk about their periods.”
Heavy flow, product reviews, stains, and leaks — Weiss says nothing is taboo for the podcast. In future episodes, they aim to raise awareness about access to feminine-hygiene products and the struggles of poor and homeless women, and how menstruation prevents girls from attending school around the world. In Miami, the two plan to host listening parties and events.
Episodes air every other Wednesday. Listeners can call in with questions and anecdotes by leaving a voicemail at 929-456-FLOW. Visit flowdownpod.com.