At this year’s Rio Olympics Chinese superstar swimmer Fu Yuanhui broke the period taboo and for that we salute her!
After finishing fourth in the 4x100m relay, she unashamedly explained that she had started her period the day before and was suffering from menstrual cramps. She must have been gutted that her time of the month coincided with her big race and I’m sure that had it not, she would have smashed it and come home with another medal around her neck.
Although it would have been a huge disappointment for her and her team, I love that she put it out there, so frankly. She told the world that she had her period, it was painful and it had stopped her from doing her best.
How many times have we ourselves been in a similar situation, OK perhaps not quite at Olympic level but say, before a big presentation, an important exam or a team away-day. You’re totally prepared and ready for everything the day is going to throw at you, then suddenly, boom, a visit from Aunt Flo and your knocked for six.
There have been countless times in the past when I’ve wanted to say exactly what Fu Yuanhui said. ‘I’m sorry. I could have done better, but I’m on my period’. But, I never have. Times when I’ve had to lead a class trip or run a meeting and have had to neck half a pack of Ibruprofen just to stand up straight. Times when I’ve just clenched my teeth and got on with it, but at a huge detriment to my own health.
In a study carried out by St Mary’s University and University College London more than half of the female athletes surveyed said it impacted their performance. Of course menstruation has an impact on performance! Your body is losing blood, you’re exhausted, in pain, bloated, the list of symptoms is endless!
What Fu Yuanhui has done is open up a dialogue, and not just in the sporting world, she has given us a starting point for conversations in the office and the classroom, as well as in the swimming pool. We need to get to a point where explaining this to our bosses, colleagues or teachers is totally acceptable- that we can’t complete a report or will have to resit an A-level exam because we weren’t at our best.
Athletes like Fu Yuanhui bring menstruation out into the public arena and give us the strength to stand up and say, ‘this is happening to my body, it hurts like hell and today I just can’t be my best.’
For more on menstruation and the work place check out this BBC article