A Swimmer’s ‘Period’ Comment Breaks Taboos In Sports — And In China
Fu Yuanhui, a Chinese swimmer at the Rio Olympics, made headlines this week for telling the world she was on her period.
On Sunday, when she finished fourth in the women’s 4x100 meter medley relay, an interviewer found her doubled over and grimacing. She asked Fu if she was in pain.
“Actually, my period started last night, so I’m feeling pretty weak and really tired,” Fu told the interviewer in Mandarin, according to an English-subtitled video on Shanghai Expat’s YouTube channel. “But this isn’t an excuse. At the end of the day, I just didn’t swim very well.”
The interview turned Fu into an overnight sensation on Weibo, a Chinese social media site, reported the New York Times: She broke the silence around menstruation in sports.
According to The Guardian, one commenter wrote, “It is a normal physiological phenomenon, so why can’t we mention it? Fu Yuanhui is awesome!”
The swimmer’s remark also shed light on shifting Chinese attitudes toward periods.
“It tells us a lot about what’s going on in China today,” says Susan Greenhalgh, a professor who focuses on Chinese society at Harvard University’s department of anthropology. “The vocal empowerment of young people and the fact that gender issues are coming to the fore, it’s exciting.”
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Fu Yuanhui has won the Internet. -Emily