Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui exploded into the mainstream media recently and became an international sensation not because she’s a kick ass swimmer, but because she mentioned having her period on live television, apparently shattering a barrier into a world where women menstruate.
In China, menstruation is still very much a taboo. Women often won’t use tampons because it is said to rob them of their virginity. It’s simply not discussed. To many, having one’s period is seen as unlucky.
We’re no better in the states. Menstruation and shame go together. When I was a preteen, I was mortified by the idea, anxious about the day it would come. And the first time I tried to insert a tampon in order to go swimming, I didn’t put it in far enough and spent the day with too much of it sticking out. How uncomfortable that was. I was too embarrassed to ask someone for help. (Granted, this was the 80s and I do hope that things have changed somewhat.)
I had terrible periods when I was a teenager. I suffered from migraines and menstruation was so painful, I would often pass out. One time, I barely made it into the office at school before falling to the floor. I don’t remember how I made it onto the small cot at the nurse’s station, someone must have carried me. But by the time I came to, the principal and the nurse had already called my mom and were having a hushed discussion about the drugs I might be on. I was so out of it, so tired, and so embarrassed by the truth, I didn’t try and explain that I wasn’t high; I simply had my period.
(My mom set them straight.)
I once asked two, male running coaches on a live Facebook chat about what professional female runners do when it comes to menstruation and long races. My question was liked dozens and dozens of times by women. The coaches responded with, “Well, female elite runners have such little body fat, most of them don’t menstruate.”
Oh. Um. Thanks?
But that was my fault. What I really wanted to know was what every female runner might do to help ease the discomfort of having one’s period on the morning of a big race. Because most of us have body fat and therefore menstruate. So, I didn’t ask the right question.
Every single woman menstruates at some point. It’s the most boring thing ever. So why is it so taboo?
I have known men who wouldn’t go near me when I was “on the rag”. And I can’t imagine I’m alone in that regard. I’ve met women who won’t use a tampon that doesn’t have an applicator because she’s afraid of getting blood on her hands or “fingering herself”. (Which is simply hilarious.) And how many of us have heard the saying: “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.” Yeah. Yeah. Shuddup.
So not cool. But given how often we judge and shame women for breastfeeding in public, none of this should surprise me. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the following comment left by a man on an article about breastfeeding in public:
“Shitting is natural too, but you don’t see me doing that in public.”
But somehow I’m still surprised. I’m surprised something so biologically normal, something mammals have done since the dawn of time, something that exists so we can, is still considered so taboo.
The many double standards between men and women are so plentiful and so engrained in our daily lives, we don’t even notice how unbalanced it is most of the time. (Well, I don’t.) And then an olympic swimmer mentions having her period, and everyone goes nuts, and I’m left scratching my head, wondering how it is we are still all the way back here and not much, much further along.
Someone writes on social media about getting her period for the THIRD time on the morning of a half marathon and it’s met with an uncomfortable silence. (OK, that was me.) Maybe it’s what they refer to as TMI, but it seems strange to me that something so much of the world’s population deals with every single day can be considered Too Much Information. If I posted about pulling a muscle the morning of a big race, no one would care. If I woke up with a stomach ache, people wouldn’t think twice. But you mention menstruation and ew.
And it’s not about the blood. Noses bleed during sporting events, no one bats and eye. Nipples bleed due to chafing. Who cares? And if you forget the vaseline, chafing can happen between your thighs, sometimes runners even bleed, no biggie.
It’s not about the blood. It’s about the dreaded vagina.
Get over it. Get over the vagina. Get over all of it. Teach your kids using an open dialogue. Overcome all the shame. Fu Yuanhui should be hailed a hero for her swimming, not the fact that she admitted to bleeding every month. I mean, I am proud of her for doing so, and I think it’s awesome so many young women in China are cheering her on for her outspokenness. But we should be so much further along than this.
In truth, I sat down this morning with a cup of coffee wishing to write a post about The Diva Cup. It was going to be about how awesome it is. My friend Corie (who I adore and respect and will basically do whatever she tells me to do) made the final push. Prior this, women all over the Internet have written, “OMG! THE DIVA CUP! GET IT!” But I was always too afraid to make the leap. Until Corie told me to. And so. I did it. This is the first month I have used one and I feel like writing a broadway musical about it. It’s absolutely wonderful. I want to go back in time to when I was 13 and in that swimming pool. I want THIS wonderful invention.
I love it so much, I’m bummed I’m facing menopause and won’t need it for too much longer. THAT’s how awesome it is.
Go buy The Diva Cup*. And if you have any questions or you want to discuss just how awesome it is in the comments, I’m your gal. NOTHING is off limits.
I’ll go first: isn’t it awesome that with The Diva Cup you no longer have to pin the string between your asscheek and the toilet seat when you pee?
(P.S. This post is the blog equivalent to Pin The Tail On The Donkey. It’s as if I was blindfolded, spun around, and then told to find the point. Forgive me.)
*NO this is not a paid post. I don’t do that shit.