Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Menstrual Moments on Television: Parks and Recreation

March 27th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

I’m surely not the only fan of Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation around here, am I? (Oh, Amy Poehler, have you been reading my mail? Leslie Knope is more like me than I care to admit.)

As I’ve written elsewhere, menstruation is seldom mentioned or represented on television outside of femcare advertising. The one notable exception has been when a girl’s menarche is played for laughs in the family sitcom. Now there’s another exception, in last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation.

In this episode, Leslie brought together all the surviving Directors of the Pawnee Indiana Department of Parks and Recreation, hoping for some inspiration for the catalog copy she needed to write. Instead she found a lot of bullying, misogyny, and other bad behavior.

In clip at right, the oldest of the former directors advises Leslie to stay away from leadership roles because the intellectual demands will interfere with her reproductive abilities. Leslie politely dismisses this by explaining that times have changed, and she aspires to greatness. But more importantly, she turns off the tape recorder, letting viewers know that this retrograde attitude is so unacceptable that she won’t be recording it for posterity. Having such views expressed by the oldest character also makes them easy to dismiss.

I wonder, though, if she undermines the message later in the episode, when Clarence attributes Leslie’s anger at the men to ‘the visit of her little friend’. Watch Leslie’s response in this second clip, and tell me what you think.

You can watch the entire episode at

One response to “Menstrual Moments on Television: Parks and Recreation”

  1. Here’s a couple photos of Parks and Recreation writers:

    From the clips, I was expecting a different demographic – older white men :)

    I think there could have been funnier lines, than what was said –

    “You’re just jealous you can’t menstruate yourself”

    Hmm, maybe that’s not so funny…might depend on reaction of other characters. Seemed like she was about to say “period,” then said “menstruation” instead, thinking it sounded more professional, perhaps – therefore in keeping with the character?

    Seeing the latter clip, I am reminded of Janis Joplin documentary, Joplin in a studio with her all-male bandmates – typical scenario portrayed, and often played out in real life – By definition, “self-actualizing” women will be surrounded by men professionally.

    There’s also a documentary of The Go-Go’s, maybe I saw it on VH1 a while back – was thinking of that in context of The Runaways movie; also women’s relationships with each other as portrayed in Period: The End of Menstruation? – kind of, if the definition of a self-actualizing man was one who was surrounded by women professionally – how would menstrual talk and menstrual humor change?

    If there had been a dream sequence in which Leslie character found herself surrounded by female co-workers at picnic table – how would dialogue be written differently, even if content remained basically the same (pot and menstruation references, group photo, etc).

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