August 16, 2016

Olympic swimmer explains her performance: "It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired..."

"... but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough."

Fu Yuanhui (of China) is getting a lot of attention for straightforwardly stating a significant concrete fact about her body. It's a matter of great personal privacy, something women take pains to conceal, and it's so pervasively common that it's not really an interesting fact. When do we ever need to know?

By saying "but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough" Fu immediately revealed a key reason why athletes don't say it: It sounds like an excuse, and it's an excuse so many others could make, so why invade your own privacy?

When Michael Phelps failed to win his last individual race, the 100m butterfly, he didn't tell us about his substandard sleep last night or a recent unsatisfying bowel movement. He said to talk to the guy who won and "I’m happy right now" and other conventional good-sport remarks.

But menstruation is different. It's a big, shared but mostly secret experience for women, and hearing an Olympic athlete admit it was a burden, an added challenge, is heartening, perhaps. And don't we wonder, watching women compete: After training so hard, how awful to have your period the day of the event... that's got to be happening to some of them... but who?
Chinese sports fans used social media to praise Fu for breaking the silence surrounding the menstrual cycles of female athletes. Many said they had not realised it was possible for a woman to swim during her period. “Our Ms Fu dares to say anything,” wrote one user of Weibo, China’s Twitter.
Imagine thinking it's not even possible to swim when you have your period:
Eight decades after tampons first went on sale in the United States, a deep-rooted cultural resistance and inadequate sex education in China are blamed for the fact that only 2% of Chinese women use them, according to one recent study.

China’s first domestically produced tampon – named Crimson Jade Cool – is set to go on sale soon with the businessman behind the initiative planning to target sport centres for sales.
Quite aside from the cultural change of using tampons, there's the switch to free speech:
Mark Dreyer, who is tracking China’s Olympic fortunes on the China Sports Insider website , said Fu’s popularity pointed to a healthy shift away from China’s notorious obsession with “robotic” gold medal-winning athletes. “She’s probably got more name recognition at this point than any of [China’s gold medalists],” Dreyer said.

“People are more interested in the personality side of things and the individual side of things rather than, ‘Here are 50 Chinese robots who are winning for their country and for their Party’,” he added.
I love seeing the love for free speech. As that person on Chinese social media said: "Our Ms Fu dares to say anything."

65 comments:

David Begley said...

Fu Yuanhui to land giant Chinese tampon deal. Count on it.

LarsPorsena said...

Odd. Female athletes at this level train so hard that they usually stop having their period.

Karen of Texas said...

@Lars - Not necessarily cease completely. They may only have one or two menstruating cycles a year. Some elite women athletes do cease menstruating completely but not all.

And wasn't there a female tennis player years ago who said the same thing?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Swimming in a pool is one thing but swimming in the ocean while having your period is just asking for trouble.

jaydub said...

There a mutilple ways for women atheletes to delay the onset of menstruation. There are also 4700 other women atheletes at the Olympics, and I would suspect none of them were taking a chance on jeopardizing years of training and sacrifice to nature's whims.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

“People are more interested in the personality side of things and the individual side of things rather than, ‘Here are 50 Chinese robots who are winning for their country and for their Party’,” he added. I love seeing the love for free speech.

Free flowing speech, cascading forth and washing over the listeners; refreshing.

HoodlumDoodlum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious George said...

Maybe she should take up wind surfing or one of the equestrian sports.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

If there's such a thing as synchronized swimming then why not . . . . okay, you can all finish that one on your own.

AprilApple said...

There a mutilple ways for women atheletes to delay the onset of menstruation.


Artificial hormones and birth control have side effects too.

Lyssa said...

I'm surprised that they don't use birth control pills to avoid this. Plenty of American women do that just to avoid the inconvenience on vacations. I wonder if that's frowned upon in China, too.

John said...

I remember reading of a study of Olympic level athletes and periods years ago. The upshot of the study was that where a woman was in her cycle, including her period, had zero effect on athletic performance.

Sounds like an excuse to me.

And I too will be interested to see if she becomes a celebrity tampon endorser. there was an Olympian some years back, perhaps in the 90s, who got a similar gig endorsing napkins. She was an acrobat IIRC but I don't remember her name. Kathy something perhaps?

John Henry

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

It must be rough on a female gymnast when she's got that not-so-fresh feeling.

Hagar said...

Same thing for taking your final exams. Life is just so unfair!

Karen of Texas said...

It has to do with body fat. Get down in the 15-16% ratio and you're going to have trouble. Women long distance runners are particularly prone to amenorrhoea.

And jaydub, that may be true. But while being on birth control can give you months of freedom, some women only have 4 periods a year, there are questions as to whether it's healthy. And even on bc, you may not bleed but you can still feel like crap 'cyclically'.

Unknown said...

So that's why the Olympic pool is so nasty?!?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

After training so hard, how awful to have your period the day of the event...

If that happened to me I'd be angry. So angry there'd be blood coming out of my eyes, blood coming out of my... wherever.

Curious George said...

"John said...
Kathy something perhaps?"

Rigby

holdfast said...

Women are just as tough, strong and capable as men. Except for the 20% of the time when they're not.


Speaking of which, the Marine Corps continues to waste our money to satisfy President Ash Carter's desire to create Combat Barbie. Expect more lowering of standards soon, Because Patriarchy and Guuurl Power:


http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/15/politics/female-marine-infantry-course/index.html


Gunbunny62 said...

Crimson Jade Cool, i'll make a note of that so i don't try and light a tampon next 4th of july.

Laslo Spatula said...

There are worse things than having your period at the Olympics.

Try anal leakage.

Laslo: one step ahead of the curve.

I am Laslo.

Sydney said...

The onset of menstruation for some women is often associated with dysphoria and physical illness- cramping, nausea, fatigue. We never want to admit it because to do so would suggest that we may be off our game for a day or two every month, unlike a man. Makes us seem less reliable or less capable or something. But it doesn't apply to every woman.

Rusty said...

Unknown said...
So that's why the Olympic pool is so nasty?!?

Don't
go
there
don't
go
there

No. It would smell like queef instead of farts.

rhhardin said...

You can time or eliminate periods with whatever's in the pill. You'd think they'd do that automatically for specifically dated events. Start early enough and you can do it with minimal intervention.

rhhardin said...

I was four seconds off my half mile for some final meet in college; flu turned up the next day.

On the plus side, those were the days when sports teams got steak for breakfast on meet days.

Now meets are meatless.

David Begley said...

Get serious people! How horrible must it be to be a woman - and even a man! -.living in China, Africa and the entire Middle East except Israel. Example: Story in Omaha paper about all of the burn injuries due to open cooking fires in Kenya. Local doctor invented a cook stove to solve the problem.

Conclusion: The rest of the world is a mess.

Aside: No grant from Clinton Global Initiative to fund or distribute Omaha doc cook stove in Kenya.

rhhardin said...

Kroger sells Sport Tampons, I noticed a while ago.

I assume they're loaded with steroids.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Brad?"

"Yes, Steve?"

"I didn't think it could get worse than anal leakage..."

"I feel for you, Steve."

"I mean, I'm just running, I'm doing my very best at an Olympic event, and then blood starts coming out of my ass."

"That seems to be what occured, Steve."

"I don't understand how this could even happen..."

"Well, you've had a LOT of anal sex these last few days..."

"You think that's it?"

"Just a guess, Steve."

"There WERE some rather large cocks."

"So you've told me."

"I mean, like MONSTER cocks. Practically bigger than my forearm."

"And didn't you say there was some fisting involved?"

"Oh yes: a LOT of fisting. Maybe some of those Rio men didn't trim their nails properly."

"That could be a problem, I would think."

"Now I'm all over the internet with blood coming out of my ass: my running shorts look like a shark attack."

"Maybe you should see the Doctor..."

"Really? Do you think there's a medicine that can tighten up my asshole before my next event?"

"That wasn't quite what I was thinking..."

"Because then I can go out tonight and party again, and tomorrow the Doctor could tighten my asshole."

"Keep Hope alive, Steve..."


I am Laslo.

Oso Negro said...

Oh, what bullshit. My daughter bled on the blocks at Nationals.

John said...

Under Cecescou Tampons were illegal in Romania. I wonder what they female athletes did?

I used to have a client, Native of Ecuador, studied engineering in Romania under a Cuban grant and wound up in Puerto Rico. He told me that he and his wife went somewhere in Europe and brought back a gift to a professor.

It was a carton of cigarettes with some packs removed and replaced with tampons and condoms (also illegal at the time). They told the professor that it had birth control aids.

The professor's wife told my client's wife a few days later that they appreciated the gift but it was very painful. Turns out that she was so unfamiliar with tampons that she thought they were to be inserted before sex for birth control.

And people wonder why I love my job so much?

John Henry

Unknown said...

re: the Salami Stove:

The Ugly American - Chapter 19, "The Bent Backs of Chang 'Dong"

Hopefully this nice woman won't make a wrong turn somewhere in the jungle and be murdered for her faith or the clothes on her back.

Fernandinande said...

Fu’s popularity pointed to a healthy shift away from China’s notorious obsession with “robotic” gold medal-winning athletes.

It's healthy to ignore the people who won in favor of someone who lost but complained about something trivial and common. Good thing she didn't complain in a robotic way.

“She’s probably got more name recognition

Their names are too weird.

Who's the president/dictator of China - Wu Deng? Deng Kung Fu? Wu Tang?

Scott M said...

And yet...infantry units?

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, I don't care much for the your writing that "Michael Phelps failed to win his last individual race, the 200m butterfly, he didn't tell us about his substandard sleep last night or a recent unsatisfying bowel movement." First of all (fact check!) Phelps lost the 100m 'fly, not the 200m. He won the 200m. Secondly, it wasn't a case of Phelps "failing to win" the race -- he lost to someone who posted a faster time than Phelps has ever swum in any Olympics, and I think a faster time than Phelps has ever posted since they banned the super suits.

OTOH, Phelps certainly did have an excuse. Schooling swam only four races prior to the finals of the 100m 'fly -- the heats and semifinals of the 100m freestyle (he did not qualify for the finals) and the heats and semifinals of the 100m butterfly. Phelps swam ten races in five days prior to the finals of the 100m 'fly -- the finals of the 4x100m freestyle relay (where he posted a heck of a split), one day later he swam the heats and semifinals of the 200m butterfly, the day after that he swam the 200 butterfly final (gold) and a half hour later he swam very respectable leg of the 4x200m relay (also gold), the day after those two swims he had heats and semifinals of the 200m IM, the next afternoon he swam the heats of the 100m 'fly and that night the finals of the 200m IM (gold) and the semifinals of the 100m 'fly. At 31 he had to have been beat to shit.

John said...

What David Begley said. Sometimes there are things that we take for granted like cookstoves whose absence creates real hardship. I also seem to recall that the smoke from cooking fires is a real health problem as well.

Our drugstores have whole aisles devoted to pads, tampons and other feminine hygeine products.

Not long ago there was a story about how in India millions, perhaps tens or hundreds of millions, of women use ashes during their period for lack of access to anything better.

Some guy developed a process to make sanitary pads that was simple enough that it could be done in any village and cheap enough that even the poorest women could afford it.

There should be a Nobel prize for things like this, the cook stove and other everyday things that have such tremendous impact on everyday life.

John Henry

William said...

Here is a cynical American observation: I don't just wonder if Ms. Wu will get an endorsement deal with the tampon company. I wonder if her brave announcement came before or after she signed the endorsement deal.

Ann Althouse said...

Hagar said: "Same thing for taking your final exams. Life is just so unfair!"

That made me wonder if students seek (and get) accommodations for exam if they suffer from painful menstruation. I found this question on a student chat forum:

"So next week I have 3 exams and I'am going to be on my period (my period is always heavy). I usually have really bad back pains, cramps here and there and I feel very light headed and dizzy... it feels like my head is going to roll off my neck or like im just going to collapse in general. I am afraid this will affect my exam performance  I try to keep my self hydrated during periods but after a while I feel like puking so I don't think its not a good idea during an exam. Paracetamol or co-domol almost never work with me and make me even more sick.  I don't know if I should mention this to the staff and if its even acceptable... I need some advice please."

Laslo Spatula said...

Hagar said: "Same thing for taking your final exams. Life is just so unfair!"

Try taking a exam with Blue Balls.

Yes, the instructor was THAT hot.

I am Laslo.

Sebastian said...

"mostly secret experience" Or so they think.

"Our Ms. Fu dares to say anything." No, she doesn't. Ai Weiwei, maybe. Even he has to be careful. Fu would be a fool.

Laslo Spatula said...

Calgon can be used to wash Rags.

Ancient Chinese Secret.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"@Althouse, I don't care much for the your writing that "Michael Phelps failed to win his last individual race, the 200m butterfly, he didn't tell us about his substandard sleep last night or a recent unsatisfying bowel movement." First of all (fact check!) Phelps lost the 100m 'fly, not the 200m. He won the 200m."

Sorry. Correction made.

"Secondly, it wasn't a case of Phelps "failing to win" the race -- he lost to someone who posted a faster time than Phelps has ever swum in any Olympics, and I think a faster time than Phelps has ever posted since they banned the super suits."

He failed to win. Nothing wrong with writing it that way. I see your point that Phelps wasn't so much bad as that the other guy was good, but I'm highlighting the conventional form of expression which excludes making excuses and calls attention to the goodness of the actual winner.

"OTOH, Phelps certainly did have an excuse. Schooling swam only four races prior to the finals of the 100m 'fly -- the heats and semifinals of the 100m freestyle (he did not qualify for the finals) and the heats and semifinals of the 100m butterfly. Phelps swam ten races in five days prior to the finals of the 100m 'fly -- the finals of the 4x100m freestyle relay (where he posted a heck of a split), one day later he swam the heats and semifinals of the 200m butterfly, the day after that he swam the 200 butterfly final (gold) and a half hour later he swam very respectable leg of the 4x200m relay (also gold), the day after those two swims he had heats and semifinals of the 200m IM, the next afternoon he swam the heats of the 100m 'fly and that night the finals of the 200m IM (gold) and the semifinals of the 100m 'fly. At 31 he had to have been beat to shit."

Right, and he refrained from talking about that. Others knew these facts and would say them, so not talking about them didn't keep them private like these other kinds of facts. I'm just highlighting conventional sports-speak, which is not to make excuses. If Phelps had personal facts about him that would be excuses, he did not tell us, and it's not the convention to tell us. In fact, it would be weird to say them. You're bringing up the known, public facts. I'm hypothesizing the existence of personal, private facts and guessing that Phelps would not tell us.

ndspinelli said...

I was at the 100th running of the Boston Marathon in 1996. We watched from the BC campus just after Heartbreak Hill. As the women's WINNER, Uta Pippig passed us, you could see menses and feces on her legs. Winners don't make excuses.

BJK said...

People are more interested in the personality side of things and the individual side of things rather than, ‘Here are 50 Chinese robots who are winning for their country and for their Party'


Maybe NBC Sports should cover the games for China, since they manage to give us both the personality / individual side of the games, as well as the people winning for their country.


(...at the expense of all the people winning for those other countries, and instead of showing more of the actual competition.)

William said...

Women's menstrual cycles are not my area of greatest expertise. I have been in the blast zone and suffered collateral damage, but I have no first hand knowledge of menstrual cycles. I, therefore, offer this suggestion in an extremely tentative way. The idea probably needs further refinement........Anyway, here's my suggestion: After living together for a few months, women start synchronizing their menstrual cycles. Perhaps if he women all moved in together in an Olympic Village setting a few months before the events, they would all be on the same clock and no athlete would have a competitive advantage over another........They could televise their stay together, like Big Brother. It would make for compelling tv viewing. It could be edited in an uplifting and edifying way to highlight diversity and increase tolerance for the different ways of humanity. Only the premium cable channels would get to see the showers.......As I say, the idea needs further tinkering, but it would be a swell way to augment world peace and make money for the IOC.

Bob Ellison said...

When Michael Phelps comes out as a women next year, this won't be a problem. He'll beat Ledecky in 2020.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, among athletes you "failed to win" if you didn't do your best when your best would have won. It's a convention of sorts. Phelps has the world record in the 100m 'fly of 49.82, which would have beaten Schooling's time in the 100m Olympic final, but that record was set during the era of the "high tech" swim suits. To my knowledge Phelps has never been under 51 seconds since those suits were banned in 2010.

Titus said...

When I marched in Drum Corps in the summer the women started having their periods at the same time. Why does that happen? It freaked me out.

I used to get into my mom's tampons when I was young and rip them apart. I was fascinated with tampon strings for some reason. I also loved to play cash register and use the blue bags.

Kristian Holvoet said...

Re: Michael Phelps
His excuse was he had already swam a LOT of events, including a final earlier that day. It would sound churlish to say 'I could have won, but I was SOOOOO busy winning other medals that I was a little substandard. If I could have just relaxed like my opponent, I could have won easily.' Of course he didn't say that (unlike, say Hope Solo who did insult her opponents).

The silver Phelps won here is also a contrast to the one he earned in London. He spoke (in interviews shown during these Olupmics) of obsessing over all the things he did wrong, the mistakes he made to miss the gold. From my layman's eye, he didn't make mistakes in Rio. He swam his best, and, this time, it wasn't enough. Could his best have been better by giving up other events? Probably. But he didn't, and tied with two other superior swimmers for the Silver. It seems like he is happy with choices he made on which events to compete in, so it may be easy for him to let it go. Really extraordinary.

The difference between Phelps and women dealing with hormonal cycles, Phelps CHOSE to compete in all those events, and, the women HAVE to deal with the cycles. I can certainly see the frustration, knowing that years of work may be a jeopardy because of 1-3 days which can vary just enough to never be quite sure if it will be a problem. Yes, all her competitors had the same risks / challenges, but I still have empathy for her.

eric said...

I'd love it if Jenner used this reasoning.

FredwinaD said...

It doesn't sound to me like she was using it as an excuse. She was just stating a fact of her life. No person, male or female, should be making any claims or assumptions regarding an individual woman's experience with her period. It's different for everyone. And it can be different for the same person in different stages of life. I can totally understand how her period could affect her athletic performance, especially on her first day of having it. Mine makes me feel like I've had the life sucked out of me on the first day. Also, for those saying "there are ways to avoid menstruation," those ways involve taking hormonal drugs. There are plenty of women (myself included) who can not and should take hormonal birth control for medical reasons. I'm surprised abut the ignorance surrounding this subject in these comments!

Char Char Binks said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
"Swimming in a pool is one thing but swimming in the ocean while having your period is just asking for trouble."

I read somewhere their periods attract bears. Bears can smell the menstruation.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

John Henry said...Not long ago there was a story about how in India millions, perhaps tens or hundreds of millions, of women use ashes during their period for lack of access to anything better.

Some guy developed a process to make sanitary pads that was simple enough that it could be done in any village and cheap enough that even the poorest women could afford it.

There should be a Nobel prize for things like this, the cook stove and other everyday things that have such tremendous impact on everyday life.


BBC: India's Sanitary Pad Revolution

The guy's name is Arunachalam Muruganantham. Note the capitalistic/market competition angle to the story--he started out by asking why the existing products were so expensive (and stigmatize) and set out to make a better, cheaper product.

Thus is the world made a better place. They guy's a feminist hero, or ought to be.

Bill said...

I love Fu. She's more typical of the Chinese than her 'robotic' fellow Chinese athletes.

jaydub said...

"There are plenty of women (myself included) who can not and should take hormonal birth control for medical reasons. I'm surprised abut the ignorance surrounding this subject in these comments!"

I'm surprised you think that most women, particularly highly developed atheletes, are subject to the restrictions listed for Norethisterone, the drug normally prescribed to temporarily stop periods from occuring. I suppose there could be Olympians with diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart valve disorder, heart rhythm disorder, epilepsy, varicose veins, migraines, asthma, kidney problems, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease, ulceratve colitis, and blood clotting which are listed as restrictive conditions, but I would assume they would be somewhat few in number. Regardless, it would seem that if one had 4 years to get ready for a few days of contests this could be worked out with one of the team doctors. Of course, I could be wrong. I'm fairly ignorant.

Birches said...

@Char Char

"Did you hear that? Bears! Now the whole station's in danger!"

If she wasn't menstruating consistently due to training, then this probably wasn't a normal, run of the mill period. I think that could knock anyone off their game.

n.n said...

What happens in the chambers stays in the chambers. The world was shocked by one-child, but is acutely phobic of selective-child. The Communists, ironically, are more open to discuss their darkness than their liberal counterparts.

Clark said...

I assume she was simply viewing the question as a truly technical question about what impacted her performance. She answered it honestly. It must be one of the most momentous occasions of her life to this point and she's probably being as much introspective as anything. What the hell happened? Well...this, for one thing... Sort of like a stream of consciousness thing. I didn't view it as an excuse and wasn't put off by the information.

holdfast said...

I've seen guys literally sh*t themselves on a ruck march an keep going. And that was just for some Army test. Suck it up princess.

walter said...

Maybe Steve was being fisted late into the nigh in the hotel room next to Phelps

"Our Ms Fu dares to say anything."

She's the Trump of the olympics. Had blood coming out of her whatever.
FU!, FU!, FU!

Mom2Es said...

There a mutilple ways for women atheletes to delay the onset of menstruation.

All the ways I know of are just variations on one way, which is administering progesterone or a synthetic progestin. Commonly-reported side-effects of progesterone supplements include dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, and fatigue. Depending on what one's periods are like, the progesterone might not be an improvement. It's also not fool-proof as breakthrough bleeding can still happen.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

I blame the sports interviewer. If you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question.

walter said...

She lost. Period.

SukieTawdry said...

The first day or two for a woman Fu's age can be brutal. I remember it well.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Thank God that won't affect any of the women who can now be in the infantry!

mikee said...

Ms. Fu dared not to say anything, just to say something.
Something actually rather innocuous but definitely personal.
That this something is amazing in China makes my heart bleed for the country.