She may have missed out on a medal but Chinese swimming star Fu Yuanhui is being hailed as a champion back home and around the world for breaking the taboo that comes attached with periods in sports.
Fu attributed her team’s failure to make it to the top three in the 4x100m medley relay to the fact that she started her periods a day before the event, a remark that the Chinese media was quick to praise, given the silence that surrounds menstruation. Soon athletes and activists around the world picked followed suit.
Across the world, and more so in countries like China and India, there are a deep-rooted cultural resistance, even stigma, attached to periods. There is indignity and even a certain revulsion attached to it, which prevents open discussion. Which makes statements like Fu’s, or American musician Kiran Gandhi who ran the 2015 London Marathon while she had her periods, welcome.
For those who might think them over the top, consider this. Menstruation remains a major barrier to achieving gender equality in many parts of the world today.
Adolescent girls in developing countries miss five days of school in a month due to lack of access to sanitary pads and hygienic toilets in schools. This makes them fall back in education.
Menstruating women in countries like Nepal and India are seen as impure and a sign of bad luck. They are made to sleep outside their homes and eat out of different utensils.
If talking about periods openly and scientifically can help end this damage of a million lives, then by all means let us all start.