Picture this: You’re at the Olympics. You’re about to compete for the gold medal in swim. And then you get your period. Worst nightmare. This adds a whole new definition to “riding the crimson wave,” am I right? Some might cry and give up, what with the fluctuating hormones and killer cramps.
Olympic viewers saw swimmer Fu Yuanhui of China visibly expressing her pain. Poor girl! Women all over feel for you (I know I do, because I have my period right now. Cycle sisters!). She was hurting, and she was probably terrified that her tampon was going to leak because even though she’s an Olympian super human, she probably still worries about normal people stuff like that.
According to CNN, in an interview, Yuanhui confessed, “I let my teammates down…Yes (my belly hurts) because my period came yesterday. I’m feeling a bit weak and exhausted, but this is not an excuse. Anyway, I didn’t do well.” Alas, she was a little too hard on herself, because she actually won the bronze medal in the 100 meter backstroke. But her win and her courage to divulge details about her womanhood had more of an effect than she could have ever imagined.
— taleifiji (@TaleiFiji) August 17, 2016
— Lauren Kimbell (@Kbell1992) August 16, 2016
— Corypha (@corypheaven) August 16, 2016
Why is it such a big deal that a woman is talking about her period on television? Well, number one, this was not an obscure cable show, this was the fucking Olympics, which has to do with physical strength, and is viewed by millions and, despite the fact that it is 2016, discussing menstruation (something that happens to every human with a vagina at some point in their lives) is still taboo. Men regularly say periods are gross, though the existence of periods makes their lives possible. Dads feel weird buying feminine hygiene products for their teenage daughters. Many a lame boyfriend doesn’t want to go near their girlfriends’ nether regions when they bleed. Meantime, we women feel the need to hide a tampon in our purse as we walk to the office bathroom, lest a male sees us, spots it, and cries bloody period.
Well, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for all of us to chill about periods. Uteruses shed, Women bleed. We ruin pairs of underwear from time to time. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it’s a standard body function—and, amongst those? I can think of a couple that are way grosser, and that belong to women and men. Strides have been made on the subject of periods, recently, but we still have a long way to go. Underwear brand Thinx has been making crimson waves in the media, as they fought to normalize public period dialog; but their ads were removed from subways for being too controversial and sexual. Makes perfect sense because these ads depicted images of fruit and eggs—like, regular eggs. Disgusting. After putting up a mighty fight, Thinx won, and you have probably seen the lovely ads back on New York City subways since.
As for our friend Fu Yuanhui? She’s the gold medalist in our feminist hearts. And the only pressing issue that remains, as far as we’re concerned, is which tampon brand will step it up, and sponsor her Olympic swim in 2020.