Lydia Ko in action during the final round of the Palos Verdes Championship. Photo / Getty
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko this week sparked a global discussion with her frank comment about having her period during her most recent tour event. The global response, while positive, can teach us a lesson.
Ko’s comment was a subtle and brilliant way to bring to light a topic that is generally not discussed, not only in sports but in many professional environments.
We mustn’t lose sight of the actual opportunity here – the chance to normalize the subject of menstruation. It’s 2022, and many people still seem to be both in shock and in awe of what the Kiwi said.
We immediately saw the discomfort in the pause and stutter of the Golf Channel Reporter Jerry Foltz as he Interviewed Ko. She eventually helped him out of his awkwardness.
“I know you’re at a loss for words, Jerry,” said Ko.
Then came the Headlines. Now of them acknowledging the need to normalize the subject. But to normalize talking about menstruation, we must do this in a less obvious way.
Otherwise, we completely contradict ourselves.
Women talk about periods. In offices, on a night out, and even in the team changing room; Ko’s remark wasn’t shocking to us.
But men were taken aback. Of course, and we can’t blame them. And honestly, good on the men for giving it a go.
But did the golfer’s soundbite warrant that much hype? After all, it’s just a woman talking about her period.
As females, we want Women’s issues to be discussed. We want the subject of menstruation to be Normalized. But for athletes, we don’t want it to become an excuse for performance.
I don’t speak for Ko, but I’d suspect she would feel the same. She didn’t bring up her time of the month as an excuse for her third-place finish, she just naturally answered the question about the Physio treatment she had received.
So how do we educate? How do we change the repercussions that follow a small comment on periods from a Sporting Legend?
Maybe this whole experience Highlights the importance of women covering female sports. It’s easy to imagine a female interviewer handling the comment more comfortably.
Female Voices could have more normal – and comfortable – discussions on the subject. This would create a safe place for learning and training for young female athletes on a pathway to becoming greats.
Talking about Women’s issues should mean avoiding that fascination and shock – and we might just encourage both women and men to genuinely normalize these conversations.
Just like Lydia Ko did.