I recently got really into feminist podcasts, and one of my absolute favorites is The Periodical, hosted by Jessie Braun, Founder of Love-XX. Love-XX is a brand taking over the menstrual sphere, helping bleeders everywhere experience life better. The Periodical is their initial project, a podcast dedicated to sharing period stories, educating others on products, and creating a community of people to eliminate the period stigma. Jessie is bright, passionate, and it was an absolute pleasure to speak with her over Facetime, after wrapping up season one, about her own period horror stories, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, womanhood, and the giveaway that you can win right now!
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: So tell me about yourself!
Jessie Braun, Founder of Love-XX and Host of The Periodical: I’m Jessie Braun and I’m a designer in New York City from Denver, CO, but I’m kind of from all over. I studied Viola Performance Major in college and then I turned to advertising. I fell in love with design based off of advertising, so I did a lot of advertising design and now I do a lot of visual merchandising design for products through Estee Lauder.
Pink Things: What started and inspired you to start Love-XX and The Periodical?
Jessie Braun: The Love-XX, boils down to this: I grew up in a very conservative, patriarchal, religious community, and being a woman in that community was always being a second-class citizen. I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and with PCOS I have very painful and heavy periods. The third thing that helps mesh all of this together is, as a designer, my goal and job is to help people experience the world better. That’s how Love-XX was born and The Periodical is my journey to find peace with my period and give a voice to the voiceless around something so stigmatized, but so natural.
Pink Things: Yes! Okay, so can you describe to me, in really plain words, what is it?
Jessie Braun: The Periodical is a podcast where we talk about everything period related – from stories that are embarrassing, funny, or emotional, to products that we’re using, products that we’re trying, to what’s happening in pop culture. For season two there’s going to be a lot of experts and people who know much more than I do – scientists and inventors in the industry – about the products and what’s happening with our bodies.
Pink Things: So that leads us to the name. The Periodical is so clever! Tell me about the names! How did they come about?
Jessie Braun: So, it took a lot of thought for Love-XX. I wanted to be inclusive and as intersectional as possible within the LBGT+ community, so Love-XX really is love of the XX chromosome, the initial anatomy that causes us to bleed. And it’s also tongue and cheek of ‘love hug hug’, ‘love kiss kiss’, so it sort of serves a dual message. And The Periodical is just cute.
Pink Things: What are your ultimate goals for Love-XX and The Periodical?
Jessie Braun: For The Periodical specifically, I just want bleeders to experience the world where there is no shame, no stigma, and they can just let their body function naturally and normally without any fear or worries over something that they literally have no control over. I want it to be an educational resource about products and a community where people can talk openly. And I also really want to bring men into the space as allies of Love-XX and for The Periodical because we need woke men knowing about these issues – they run the world, unfortunately, and we need them to help us move directions.
Pink Things: But how are you planning on reaching your goals for The Periodical?
Jessie Braun: I think something that is hard to grapple with periods is talking about everyone’s unique stories. It’s so different for everyone. It could mean ‘I’m not pregnant’ and that’s great. It could mean ‘I’m not pregnant’ and be devastating. It can be a spiritual manifestation connected with your body and the tides and the moon, or it’s ‘omg I’m bleeding and I hate my life!’ I think it’s important that we all have different experiences, but the more we listen to others, it can help us become more empathetic to other’s experiences.
Ultimately, we need to keep telling stories because it’s empowering those who are bleeding and it’s helping educate listeners who are learning about a bleeder’s experience or about a different kind of bleeder’s experience. It can help others understand what’s happening and gain a little bit of empathy.
Pink Things: Do you have a favorite story that you would like to share with Pink Things readers?
Jessie Braun: Yeah, one that really woke me up to the fact that having a period and dealing with this as a bleeder is challenging. I was a freshman in high school and I bled in math class all over my chair! I was wearing black pants luckily, but left blood everywhere and was super embarrassed that someone may have known. A couple months later I was on my period and I was constantly having period paranoia, especially in that math class. A fire alarm went off and I exited the building with the class and was like, wait, this is my opportunity to run to the bathroom and change my tampon. Mind you, this is probably the fifth or sixth period I’ve ever had in my life. So I change my tampon, sneak back to the class, and my teacher’s like, “Where were you? You didn’t tell me where you were going. Truant.” I literally had to get a truant for that! Unbelievable right? It was so horrifying.
Pink Things: Lets talk about womanhood. Often, becoming a woman is tied to the day you get your period. Which is unfortunate and problematic because not every woman has a period and not everyone with a period is a woman. So how do you personally define womanhood?
Jessie Braun: This is a very important question and I just want to establish that it’s very different for everyone, and it’s very complicated for a lot of reasons. For me personally, the transition from girl to woman is one that is very complicated and confusing as our bodies are going through all of these really intense changes. One minute you’re outside playing kickball and the next you’re getting cat called on the street. So, to me girlhood is navigating the confusing time when you are a child being sexualized and understanding the emotional repercussions and establishing what it’s like to own your own sexuality instead of just being some sort of sex object. Womanhood, for me, was reached when I finally felt that I had graduated this girlhood phase and became confident in my own body and my own sexuality. I had a better hold on my period and I just felt comfortable in my own skin. This wasn’t until I was about 20. But we’re telling girls at ten that they’re women. So I personally think this whole ‘welcome to womanhood’ thing is horrible and we should stop this immediately.
Pink Things: Following that, how has menstruating shaped your identity, if it even has?
Jessie Braun: Yeah, I mean, yeah completely. I started The Periodical because I was having very intense, painful periods. I was leaking everywhere all the time. I was missing school. I was missing work. I was having so much pain and I couldn’t talk about it with anyone. By creating this space for me and for others who are experiencing similar things or people who just want to talk about it, it’s been really empowering and I’ve done a complete 180 turnaround. I’m a period shouter at this point.
Pink Things: I just wanted to go back and talk more about the trans and non-binary people for a moment. I was really excited that you differentiated between sex and gender on your website because your sex can be female but your gender can be male and visa versa or neither. So I guess my question would be, how do you see Love-XX expanding to represent the LBGTQ+ community and their different experiences with menstruation and identity?
Jessie Braun: Yeah, we definitely want to highlight more LBGT experiences. It’s like you say, not everyone that’s bleeding identifies as a woman and people who are bleeding sometimes identify as a man and for that reason we want to include everyone. That’s also why I use ‘bleeders’ instead of ‘woman.’ It’s about changing something as simple as what we call the products. ‘Feminine hygiene’, it’s bullshit. There’s so much weird baggage tied up in the language in which we speak of these things. It’s so exclusive and all I want to do is include everyone.
Pink Things: Speaking of language and loaded words, how do you think pop culture shapes our views on periods?
Jessie Braun: I think that, first and foremost, the absence of menstruation in pop culture shapes us incredibly. And then if menstruation is present, it’s comical relief. But most of the time when bleeders are dealing with their period and trying to get it together it’s not so funny or dramatic.
Pink Things: So this is always a fun question. I ask everyone about their personal relationship to pink. Do you identify with pink, and then, how has pink influenced you as you’ve matured into a woman?
Jessie Braun: 100% directly. As far as periods go, and as a designer, pink is the color between white and red. My body spews red and I wipe with white toilet paper so literally, for a whole week, once a month, every month, my body is making all different shades of pink. That has not only empowered me and transformed my identity, but also been a big part of my life.
Pink Things: So what can we expect in season two?
Jessie Braun: Well before season two we have a few bonus episodes happening, and a big bonus event May 28, which is International Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Day. We have a ton of giveaways – like incredible products-that-are-expensive giveaways. We’re prepping that now and we’re collaborating and then we’re also going to feature, more bleeder’s stories. We’re going to include more men in season two and literal experts that are movers and shakers in the industry who are building the products, marketing the new products, and we’re going to hear how they’re navigating through the stigma.
Pink Things: Wrapping up, is there a way that Pink Thing’s readers or people listening to your podcast can participate? What can we do to help out Love-XX?
Jessie Braun: Definitely subscribe on iTunes or Google Play and write us a review on iTunes! Follow us on social media and Instagram, and share your story. We want to hear it. Also, we’re looking for people who want to take part in reviewing or using some new products. If you are interested in trying out a cup or something, if you want to find out more, let me know. Or if you are inventing a product, send it my way!
Today is International Menstrual Hygiene Day, and Love-XX is having a giveaway! In order to win, check out the details here.
For more from Love-XX, The Periodical, and Jessie Braun, check out the links below.
This interview was conducted via Facetime and has been condensed and edited.
Images courtesy of Jessie Braun and Love-XX.