Chinese Swimmer's Comment About Her Period During The Olympics Is A Huge Win

by Talia Koren

The Olympics are full of historical moments, but some of the most impactful ones happen outside of the actual events.

We already know Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui for her adorable personality in poolside interviews after her races. She won our hearts AND the bronze medal for the 100-meter backstroke race.

On Saturday night, Fu's team came in fourth place in the 4x100 race. After, her teammates were questioned one by one. Fu was crouching and clutching her tummy.

The reporter remarked that she was suffering from a stomach ache, but Fu quickly corrected her and said she was suffering from period cramps.

She said,

It's because I just got my period yesterday, so I'm still a bit weak and really tired. But this isn't an excuse for not swimming well.

The fact that she said that on TV is huge, especially for her female fans in China.

We talk about period struggles like it's no big deal here, but it's tough for women to talk about it openly in China. It's much more of a taboo there, especially in sports.

Comments about her remark erupted on a Twitter-like platform called Weibo. Some men wondered if she would "turn the pool red." The women of China collectively rolled their eyes and explained she was probably wearing a tampon.

Again, the lack of conversation around menstruation and sex education in China is to blame for comments like that. It's widely believed there that tampons compromise a woman's virginity.

Americans are way more open about periods and the symptoms of menstruation compared to other nations like China, where only last month the first domestic tampon brand became available. Up until now, tampons were only available online or in high-end stores in urban areas.

Meanwhile, American women have had access to tampons for 80 years. Damn.

So it's no wonder people had interesting thoughts and beliefs about Fu saying she was on her period while swimming. This is a huge step for the women of China (and women everywhere) to talk more openly about what it's like to be a professional athlete competing while on your period.

Citations: Uninhibited Chinese Swimmer, Discussing Her Period, Shatters Another Barrier Sinosphere By EMILY FENG AUG. 16, 2016 Continue reading the main storyShare This Page Share Tweet Email More Save 16 Photo Fu Yuanhui competing in the women's 100-meter backstroke final at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Credit Martin Bureau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images BEIJING — The uninhibited Fu Yuanhui, China's female swimmer beloved for her over-the-top expressions, has made waves once again. On Saturday night in Rio, she freely discussed having her period while swimming in the Olympics, breaking what has long been a taboo topic among female athletes. The video of her poolside interview quickly went viral. Ms. Fu's remarks came after the Chinese women's swimming team narrowly missed winning a medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay. In a post-race interview, Ms. Fu, who had already won a bronze medal for the 100-meter backstroke, could be seen crouching as her teammates were questioned one by one. As the commentator turned to her, Ms. Fu stood up, grimacing in pain. The commentator ventured a guess that Ms. Fu must be suffering from a stomachache, which Ms. Fu quickly corrected. “It's because I just got my period yesterday, so I'm still a bit weak and really tired,” she said. “But this isn't an excuse for not swimming well.” Ms. Fu's candor immediately attracted a deluge of comments online. On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, the hashtag related to the subject was searched more than half a million times by the end of Sunday, with many commenters expressing their support for Ms. Fu's openness. “Only those who have gotten their periods know how deathly painful it can be,” one wrote. “You are too awesome.” A male user wrote, “To compete during her period and still feel bad about placing fourth: Fu Yuanhui, you are amazing. You are our pride.” Today's Headlines: Asia Edition Get news and analysis from Asia and around the world delivered to your inbox every day in the Asian morning. Female commenters also took to social media to dispute largely male-driven criticism that swimming in a pool while menstruating was unhealthy and unhygienic. “Don't talk to me about staining the pool red or taking medicine to stop one's period,” a female commenter wrote. “Haven't you heard of something called a tampon?” In many parts of the world, menstruation is still regarded with shame and distaste, though that is changing. In the United States, creative hashtag campaigns on social media and online petitions have challenged the discomfort about period-related topics. Female athletes, including the former tennis star Annabel Croft of Britain, have criticized the silence surrounding menstruation in sports. In 2015, the American musician Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon during her period sans female hygiene products to protest period-shaming, crossing the finish line with bloodstains prominently on display. Yet more open discussion about menstruation has been more slow to catch on in China. When talking about their periods, if at all, women still prefer to use euphemisms like “a visit from my aunt” or “taking a break.” Television ads for feminine hygiene products are banned during prime viewing times as inappropriate. As a result, very few Chinese women use tampons, because it is widely, and falsely, believed that they can rob a woman of her virginity. This month, Chinese entrepreneurs plan to introduce the country's first domestic tampon brand. All tampons sold in China have been imported, and most are sold online. 16 COMMENTS In February, Anhui Province issued regulations allowing women to take up to two days off for menstrual pain, provided they could procure a doctor's note certifying their symptoms. However, critics feared the practice might have the unintended effect of discouraging employers from hiring women and pointed out that women might still elect to forgo a paid menstrual leave to avoid criticism from male colleagues. “Fu Yuanhui's comments have raised awareness, because Chinese society still approaches menstruation indirectly, even considering it unlucky,” said Chen Yaya, a feminist activist and researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “But there's no need for this at all. The period is simply an everyday phenomenon.” Follow Emily Feng on Twitter @emilyzfeng. Continue reading the main story Rio Olympics 2016 Complete coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games. 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More in Asia Pacific Go to the Asia Pacific Section » Indian Elephant Swept to Bangladesh by Flooding Dies of Heart Attack SINOSPHERE China Faces a Surge in Cardiovascular Disease, Study Finds SINOSPHERE Chinese Court Upholds Ruling Against Historian Who Questioned Tale of Wartime Heroes Go to video Hong Kong Protest Leaders Sentenced to Community Service Network Led by One Individual Carried Out Bombings, Thai Official Says Recommended for You Go to All Recommendations » WELL Taking Sports to the Extreme The dopamine rush of extreme sports matters at first but becomes less important with time, researchers say. SPORTS OF THE TIMES Officials Spent Big on Olympics, but Rio Natives Are Paying the Price Athletes Who Were Denied Their Olympic Medal Moments Because Others Were Doping Go to Home Page » SITE INDEX THE NEW YORK TIMES Site Index Navigation NEWS World U.S. Politics N.Y. 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