Although it is the Year Of Our Lord 2016, we become bizarrely Victorian when it comes to discussing menstruation in public contexts. But when Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui addressed her performance in the 4 x 100 medley relay, she spoke with frankness about its impact.
Her team came in fourth place, and after the race, she seemed to be grappling with cramps.
“I feel I didn’t swim well today,” she told one reporter. “I let my teammates down.”
Fu then added, “Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit weak, but this is not an excuse.”
As People reports, an enduring myth that period blood contaminates water leads to warnings against women swimming while menstruating. In fact, some Chinese viewers argued that Fu must have lied about having her period. Swimming with it, they reasoned, would have been impossible. But these reactions only manifest old, deep-seated anxieties about female bodies.
“[Menstrual blood is] not any kind of public health risk,” Gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter explains to Today.com. “To hone in on [it] is ridiculous when there’s also sweat, urine, and fecal matter to consider.”
In short: humans are generally leaky creatures. The chlorine added to pool water ensures that we can swim safely, no matter who is on the rag.
So here’s to Fu Yuanhui for propelling a dialogue that hasn’t yet traveled far enough — and for entering the fiercest of competitions when she was clearly in pain. Menstrual cycles, unfortunately, do not care about the Olympics.
Now somebody bring the woman a heating pad, Motrin, and hot tea.