It’s wild to think that an experience that affects half the world’s population – having periods – still remains taboo in many countries. Many of us will remember dying with embarrassment in the toilet stalls at school, panicking that someone would hear us rustling a tampon packet, and even now, plenty of women feel that telling someone they’re feeling rubbish because they’re on their period is unthinkable.
We definitely need to end the shame and silence around women’s bodies (as our campaign around women’s healthcare reveals), which is why we were cheering from afar when we heard Lydia Ko, a professional golfer, telling a male interviewer that she was experiencing some discomfort while playing because of her period.
Lydia was seen receiving some physio during an LPGA even in California, prompting reporter Jerry Foltz to ask whether the tightness in her back and hips would be a recurring problem.
‘I hope not,’ said Ko. ‘It’s that time of the month. I know the ladies watching are probably like, yeah, I got you.
‘So, when that happens, my back gets really tight, and I’m all twisted. It’s not the first time that Chris has seen me twisted, but it felt a lot better after he came. So, yeah, there you go.’
When her male interviewer floundered for a response, the New Zealander made light of the situation, saying ‘I know you’re at a loss for words, Jerry. Honesty it is.’
We can’t imagine there are many everyday niggles a male sportsperson would mention that would leave their interviewer lost for words, which just shows how far we have to go in normalising the discussion of periods, and the impact this has on women in sport.
Clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo, who has lots of experience working with high performance athletes, told New Zealand’s Today FM it was refreshing to hear a truthful account of menstruation’s effect on performance, rather than it being hidden behind other ‘ailments’.
‘It’s really healthy that we actually mention it as a normal part of sport that has to be factored in, not just physically, but also psychologically. We have to consider that people go through cycles and we have to think about that when we are planning training and events.’
‘Menstrual problems are a common part of elite sport, and finally we have a gateway to discuss it,’ Nimmo said. ‘So go Lydia, I say.’