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Lydia Ko drives open menstrual cycle support for us all

Updated: May 11, 2022

In speaking out she is a winner in our new global menstrual culture, which will help provide menstrual cycle support for all.

“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 [physio] has seen me twisted, but it felt a lot better after he came. So, yeah, there you go.

"Lydia Ko, golf’s world No 3, has been praised for normalising the impact of periods on women in sport after rendering a male interviewer speechless with her answer to a question about some on-course treatment she received at an LPGA event in California" says The Guardian.

It's hard not to read this with eye-brows raised, somewhat bemused that a woman saying she's on her period would make headline news. 800 million people globally are currently on their period after all (WaterAid) and 50% of the global population (it's worth repeating this, often) have experienced a menstrual cycle at some point in their life.

Yet here we are - a professional sportswoman "rendering a male interviewer speechless" with her period-talk and it making headline news.

Ignoring the strange construction of the sentence in this article (which makes it sound like she has normalised periods through the act of silencing a man, rather than the normalisation of the occurrence of periods) and the strange image of a silenced male interviewer against the patriarchal backdrop of menstrual taboo that has silenced and suppressed the cycle for a 1000s of years, this interview, and the media commentary that has followed, is a perfect representation of the paradigm shift towards a new, stigma-free, menstrual culture and rapidly growing global menstrual movement, or, as I call it, menstrualism.

And it's athletes and professional sportspeople that are expanding the boundaries of menstrualism for us all. They are beacons of menstrual hope.

Menstrualists, like Lydia Ko and a number of other athletes and sportswomen, standing in their power, shame-free, and talking about period problems, as well as attributing tracking and training around the menstrual cycle to success, not only inspire a raft of conversations on menstruation but the potent mix in elite and professional sport of celebrity, science, entertainment (and money) inspires the menstrual revolution in the entire health, nutrition and well-being global market: it sparks and increases what, Camilla More Rostvik calls, the menstrual economy. It should aid support of keeping girls in physical education at school (37% said periods stopped them from getting active in school last year, Youth Sport Trust); it will help others simply speak out and, in doing so, create a society more supportive of the menstrual cycle experience.

In raising awareness of how she addressed her period pain to continue her performance, Lydia Ko did something else of interest: she brought into focus the importance of difference aspects of the health industry in supporting the menstrual cycle. She specifically mentions her physiotherapist who helps her with her period pain - this helps connect the need for holistic care in menstrual cycle support, health and well-being. Sure, an onsite physio will be part of Ko's core team but why should this level of care stop with elite athletes? Surely this raises the question of having wider access to integrative menstrual health care at work and at school too - it's certainly not easy to sit at a desk all day long with lower back pain (not to mention looking after the children at home). 90% of menstruators experience period pain (another statistic worth repeating, often)- YouGov. It's not debilitating for 90% - many just go about their daily life whilst experiencing monthly pain. Does it affect their performance? 80% in a survey from the British Medical Journal thought so - they claimed to go to work/school despite feeling "unwell" on their period and despite it affecting their productivity.

Lydia Ko could call on her physio. Let's also call for better menstrual healthcare for our girls, at school and for ourselves, at work and at home. Let's better support the menstrual cycle.

Because, in sharing her menstrual status, Lydia Ko went further than simply talking about her period and its affect on her performance, she calls to all menstruators everywhere: "I know the ladies watching are probably like, "Yeah, I got you".

Yes. We. Do.

In this interview Lydia Ko galvanises the menstrual movement. She is calling on us, on menstruators, to take interest in their own menstrual cycle, in the impact it has on work/education, family and social life - and to own it, to be brave, demand better, become menstrualists - simply by speaking out.

The media commentary that followed, which widely praised Lydia Ko and widely humiliated the interviewer, ("@JerryFoltzGC had absolutely no idea how to follow up") in addition should help ensure that, in the future, no interviewer (male, female or otherwise) will ever be left speechless on menstruation in sport again and all menstruators can feel empowered to share their Cycle-Day regardless of what they're doing, on the sports field or elsewhere; to drive open menstrual freedom for themselves and for a happier, healthier menstrualist society.

Kate Shepherd Cohen is Founder & CEO of Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS).


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