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From a theoretical perspective, I analyze the claim that women’s athletic performances are negatively affected by their menstrual cycles. To demonstrate the perpetuation of the belief that menstruation is a mythical debilitating bodily function for women and sport participation, an overview of Elizabeth Spelman, Simone De Beauvoir, and Iris Marion Young’s philosophical framing of somatophobia and menstruation is outlined. Analysis of specific examples of elite female athletes who have addressed menstruation in connection to their sporting performance are also discussed to emphasize how menstruation is linked to the frailty myth. I offer an analysis of the scientific literature on hormonal swings of the menstrual cycle and, the effects on sport performance to show that research is equivocal. Finally, a brief examination of feminine hygiene marking campaigns takes place to further emphasize the argument how the frailty myth is closely linked to women athletes and menstruation and how change can be created.
The author is with the Department of Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.