Well, if this isn’t the most adorable feminist moment in the history of the Olympics.
On Wednesday, famous sexologist and charmingly frank 88-year-old media darling Dr. Ruth Westheimer issued two statements on Twitter celebrating Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui—who famously told reporters that her race lagged because she was on her period this Sunday.
Like to congratulate Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui for saying she was off her game because of her period. It's natural not taboo— Dr. Ruth Westheimer (@AskDrRuth) August 17, 2016
Good sex takes good communications & if topic like menstruation is off limits then that makes talking about sex harder too— Dr. Ruth Westheimer (@AskDrRuth) August 17, 2016
“Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit weak,” Yuanhui told reporters for China Central Television, after her team came in fourth on Sunday. “But this is not an excuse.”
The 20-year-old Olympian has been widely celebrated for helping break the menstrual taboo, by talking openly about how being on her period affected her athletic prowess. It’s something every menstruating person knows all too well: that time of the month can lower your energy, cloud your thinking, and riddle your body with aches and pains. But even in 2016, people rarely talk about periods as frankly and casually as Yuanhui did on Sunday.
Yuanhui isn’t just making headlines for fearless period talk, though. The swimmer has also been deemed “the most lovable athlete at the Rio Olympics” and “Emoji Queen” for the expressive, silly faces she’s made during interviews and even medal ceremonies.
But back to Yuanhui being an accidental menstrual icon for pushing through the pain. For those who have never had the pleasure of experiencing cramps, doctors say they are officially as painful as having a heart attack. In a February interview with Quartz, University College of London professor John Guillebaud compared cramps with heart attacks, adding that “men don’t suffer the pain and underestimate how much it is or can be in some women.”
Yuanhui may not have won a medal for swimming on Sunday, but she damn well deserves a medal for swimming in a level of physical pain equal to a heart attack.