“Uh-oh, here comes feminist Julia!” {Guest Post}

This is something I tend to hear when I take that final step onto my soapbox when women in sports are portrayed as sex objects. When someone makes a “harmless” joke about how women belong in the kitchen. Or when I accidentally turn on TLC during an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. I do not take the accusation that my angry alter ego is a feminist, because, I will proudly tell you that all of my egos are feminists.

If you are reading this, heck, you probably are too (although if you are male, the proper term is pro-feminist). Feminism and being deemed “a feminist” has just gotten a bad rep after a few women started burning their bras and villainizing every man on the planet. Being a feminist just means that you believe that men and women should have equal rights.

So, am I a feminist? Well, I wear a bra, and I will be marrying a man, the man of my dreams, in January. But yes, I am a feminist.

That is why, when I had the opportunity to work with Diva International, I jumped on it; their ideals of female empowerment appealed to me. As a female athlete, I live in a very strange world, where women are allowed to play (unlike in the past) but we only get sponsored if we are pretty. Well, and good at our sport.

But, first, pretty.

And when it is time to have our photo taken, we must be willing to be molded into a prettier version of our sweaty (or in my case, chlorine-covered) selves.

That being said, even though I don’t feel that I should be forced to look pretty on the pool deck when I have just finished throwing up because of pre-race nerves, I am a self-proclaimed diva. I love getting dressed up on my day off. I love having over-the-top manicures before big competitions like the Olympics. And, most people wouldn’t be caught dead sporting the flashy, gold sequined UGG® boots that I strutted around in on the pool deck this past season.

But that’s me, and I am going to be “girly”, but only on my own terms.

When it comes time to dive in the pool, I am going to be just as mean and aggressive as any male athlete, even though those may not be socially accepted “feminine” characteristics. So that is me: feminist Julia who loves to get her nails done and plans to take her husband’s last name.

We come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. When it comes to one of the big things that sets us apart from men—our periods—we are taught to deal with them privately. I grew up with a doctor as a father and the idea to never to be ashamed of something as natural as menstruation. In fact, neither my mom nor older sister were home when I got my first period, just my dad, so after finding one of my sister’s tampons and “fixing” the issue, I headed downstairs to announce that he had been right all along, and I did have a uterus after all. I hit puberty late, and didn’t get my first period until the age of fifteen, so I had figured there must be something wrong with me.

From that moment on I wasn’t very shy about my period. I swam with male coaches almost all my life, and when you are jumping out of the pool mid-practice and they want to know why, I wasn’t afraid to tell them. Even with cramps, fatigue, and irritability aside, training at an Olympic level means at least two hours in the water twice a day, and constantly having to change a tampon can become a huge hassle. I can’t count the number of times that I didn’t have a tampon after practice and was forced to go to the weight room extremely uncomfortable.

That is where The DivaCup comes in.

When Diva International sent me a sample of their product, at first I was a little bit… freaked out. I mean, using the cup meant I was going to have to get pretty close and personal with myself, right? But then I realized: what the heck am I so worried about? It’s only me and it’s my body. So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried it during our Olympic staging camp in Sardinia. I was so glad I did! No more getting in and out of the pool, no more wet tampons after workout. Just a little cup that I needed to empty in the morning and before I went to bed! Everything that needs to stay in The DivaCup does, and pool water remained where it belonged: in the pool.

The Olympics are extremely stressful. In a time when I was at maximum stress level, worrying about my period should be last on the list. Thanks to The DivaCup, it was eliminated from the list and from my mind entirely!

There are always a few things I need to take to competitions with me: my pillow, my lucky sports bra, my sparkly UGG boots… and now, my DivaCup! Finally, a technological advancement that makes being a woman even better.

Canadian Olympic Swimmer, Julia Wilkinson
Julia Wilkinson has been swimming competitively since the age of 8 and is not only a two time Canadian Olympian swimmer, but also currently holds the Canadian record in the 50-meter backstroke with a time of 28:09 sec. In addition to being a competitive swimmer, Julia is a guardian to her pet hedgehog Roxy, is a guest writer for CBC’s blog and SwimNews, a musician and even has a sandwich named after her at the much loved sandwich shop, York Street Kitchen on Erie in her hometown of Stratford, ON.

 

 

Be Empowered by Cycle Charting!

I have a confession.

The last few months I’ve had to check my menstrual mobile application to find out the start date of my period. Of course I had symptoms that indicated my period was near, but it was my App that told me when to expect my cycle.

I used to be a pen and paper cycle charter who was really good at counting the days of my cycle, and for a while this worked. However, as most of our daily practices have moved from paper to screen, charting my cycle on the same device that holds my grocery list, calendar and appointment times just made sense.

Although my dependency on a Mobile App may appear problematic, having an archive of my menstrual cycles in one place (and without sticky notes or illegible writing) has empowered me to be an active participant in my menstrual health. I’ve noticed trends in my mood and eating habits that are directly linked to certain symptoms of my cycle and have benefited from being able to plan important events and vacations around my period.

You’re probably thinking, that’s neat, but charting is just not for me.

I used to be skeptic too, until I realized just how much I didn’t know about my own health. Over the years I have learned that when it comes to the menstrual cycle, you can never know too much!

I started tracking my cycle about six years ago. After a number of routine tests, uncomfortable doctor visits and a few not so fun prescription trials , I was left without answers concerning my irregular cycle symptoms and an overall sense of powerlessness over my menstrual health.

In the midst of my frustration, a good friend recommended that I try charting my cycle. She explained that charting could offer insight about every day of my cycle and maybe even provide answers to the questions that were left unanswered.

Realizing I had nothing to lose (and curious about what I might learn), I headed to my local book store, picked up Toni Weschler’s (2006) Taking Charge of Your Fertility and with highlighter in hand, began reading. (Note to parents: Weschler’s (2006) Cycle Savvy is a great introductory book for teens about puberty, the menstrual cycle and charting).

While the uncomfortable symptoms remained, within a number of months, insight, answers and empowerment abounded. I was immediately hooked on charting!

Charting empowered me to experience my cycle with a new outlook! It helped me learn what foods contributed to my pain, when I needed an extra dose of Vitamin D to help with my mood and thanks to my newly gained knowledge of cervical fluid, when to throw my DivaCup in my bag!

Although I can’t list them all, here are a few things I’ve learned from charting:

  • The 28 day cycle length we learn about in school does not apply to every woman. In fact, every woman’s cycle is unique and varies in symptoms and length. (According to my Mobile App, my cycle is 30.23 days!).
  • By identifying when you are ovulating, you can determine when you will get your next period – approximately 14 days later.
  • Your cervix goes through changes throughout your cycle – opening up and turning soft during ovulation and then returning back to its firm state quickly after.
  • There are more hormones circulating through a woman then just estrogen and progesterone during her cycle. The follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone play very important roles.

So my confession is a proud one: I confess that I use a menstrual mobile tracking application and cannot imagine my cycle without it!

And, given the day-to-day nature of the menstrual cycle, and the fact that it occurs, everywhere (work, school, home, social events etc.) is all the more reason to start tracking your period.

To help you get started The Diva Team has added a new webpage called Chart Your Cycle. This web page was designed to offer some helpful insight on charting the various stages of your cycle, cervical fluid, mood changes and of course physical symptoms. Our web page also features two menstrual tracking tools: MyMonthlyCycles.com and Alt12 apps’ mobile application, PinkPad.

 

 

We have featured these two tracking tools because of their unique features, easy-to-use calendar layout and each company’s commitment to empowering women. Both MyMonthlyCycles and PinkPad allow you to set personal reminders (such as a reminder to chart your daily symptoms), predict future cycles and help identify trends and reoccurring symptoms. MyMonthlyCycles also offers symptom charts as well as a PMS, breast exam, fertility and peri-menopausal trackers.

One of the unique features of PinkPad is their online community which provides a forum where users can talk openly about menstrual health issues.Users can post questions and poll the community on various topics like menstrual cups, period cramps and vaginal care.

The best part about charting your cycle with one of these useful online tools is that it takes little to no time and can be done anywhere! With the possibility of entering your data online or entering it directly to your Smart Phone or Wi-Fi device, you can easily track symptoms as they occur.

Most of all, it is important to remember that charting is not just for those with problematic periods.All women can benefit from learning more about their cycle.

The Diva Team is excited for the opportunity to play a part in your personal menstrual empowerment story. Become a Tracking Diva today by visiting our Chart Your Cycle web page and posting your charting story, questions and insight below!

Introducing a Military Diva, Cpl. Stephanie McKee {Guest Post}

As many women have said, after they have had their first Diva experience, “Why didn’t I know about this YEARS ago?”.

Cpl. Stephanie McKee

Growing up, I was always very active in sports, Girl Guides and The Royal Canadian Air Cadets. I would go camping any chance I got. As much as I LOVE camping, nothing is worse then having a visit from “Aunt Flo” when you’re trying to enjoy the wonders of nature; the inconvenience, the mess, trying to hide pads and tampons in your hiking pack or pockets.

But, like every other woman out there, you just make the best of what you have to work with, even if that means using disposable tampons and pads.

When I was 26 I joined the Canadian Forces. Anyone who has seen an “Army” movie or even the Donald Duck Disney cartoon knows that when you are on Basic Training everything HAS to be in just the right place – folded just the right size with nothing extra showing, or let the push ups begin!!! While at training, we were allowed one box about the size of a shoe box to keep any personal things: a book, hair products, letters from home and a three month supply of “feminine hygiene products”.

I wish I had The DivaCup then!

Military field training exercises during basic training are not your everyday “camping” experience. You can be on your feet 24/7, every minute there is something to do (and you should have had it done 10 minutes ago!) and time to change or check a tampon or pad is nowhere on the schedule. Even if you do find a few moments to steal away and find a “Johnny on the spot” you then have to remember which of the 38+ pockets you hid your back-up product stash in.

Although my period care routine had its challenges, I made it through basic training and soon started my career in the military. Within three months I was on my way to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Similar to basic training on deployments you have VERY little space for personal items, bathroom facilities often leave you dreaming of the comfort of home and you cannot just run to the corner store each month to replenish your femcare supply.

Many places you get deployed to do have some sort of store set up where you can buy things you might need, but the chances of having your brand or style in stock are slim. And then there are the regular concerns of using disposable tampons and pads, the increased number of occurrences in recalled products and all the chemicals, waste and cost that is no good for women or our environment. Sadly I’ve known many women who have suffered through TSS related symptoms because they simply did not have the time to change their product, or the right product on hand.

But, all this changed when I discovered The DivaCup!!!

With The DivaCup, I am confident that while on the job, my period is well taken care of. With 12 hours of leak-free protection, I can achieve my goals with renewed confidence. I tell every military woman I come across about The DivaCup. I also work with a number of youth groups with girls aged 12-18 and I suggest The DivaCup to each of them. While a bit different at first, the girls are curious and for many of them, this is the most period talk they will have all year! I’m excited to be a Diva and to be able to say that when it comes to period care, there is nothing else I would wear or trust to care for my cycle than The DivaCup!

Cpl. Stephanie McKee
Corporal Stephanie McKee joined the Canadian Forces in the year 2000 and since then has received a full range of experience serving as a Reservist and a Regular Force Army Supply Technician. In addition to providing support to Canadian communities, Stephanie has served in Afghanistan (2008) helping to establish peace building initiatives and supporting combat rolls. Stephanie also works part-time as a Guide at Treetop Trekking and mentoring youth between the ages of 12-18 with the Air and Army Cadet program. When not working, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her family outdoors and is often found fostering kittens and puppies from her local animal shelter.

A Note to Diva Moms and Diva Dads

When you have daughters, there comes a time in every parent’s life when you need to talk about periods. Whether it is because she has questions or needs some guidance on which product to use, she will need some help, even if she is too embarrassed to ask.

While talking about the menstrual cycle can be an uncomfortable topic for some, it can also be a conversation that can add more depth and insight into the relationship you have with your children. Many times it is uncomfortable because we often don’t know what to say. And many moms, even after years of having their period, still don’t really know how to best explain the menstrual cycle.

But both moms and dads can contribute to the conversation as well as play an important role in shaping how young women (and young men, for those of us with boys) will view this fascinating life process. 

We all know that it may not always be easy to describe the ins and outs of the menstrual cycle. However, not talking about it can have damaging effects on your daughter’s self-esteem and perception of her menstrual cycle.

Our website has a number of resources about the menstrual cycle to help parents and teens get started like our All Things Period and Moms web pages and coming soon, Dads web page!

Whether we like it or not, our culture often portrays the menstrual cycle as something that should not be spoken about, should be hidden, disliked and often as a topic dads should not discuss with their daughter(s) and especially not their son(s) — we’ll save this topic for another day.

The Diva Team wants to challenge this popular belief by offering some advice from both a Diva Mom and Diva Dad in the hopes that any Diva parents who are just starting the conversation with their daughters (and even those whose daughters are older) will be empowered to start the conversation today!

Message from Mom:

Talking to my daughter about her first period was a bit difficult for me because it came with the realization that my little girl was growing up. I knew it would happen, but not so soon. She is also my youngest, so it hit even harder. Just yesterday she was riding her tricycle, eating popsicles and today she is trying on bras and getting her period, and yes, is also experiencing some interesting moods and emotions.

I think the best thing I did for my daughter was talk openly about periods, long before she started hers. I wanted to make sure there were no surprises and that she knew what they were really about.

The easiest way I found to bring up the topic was to talk about my own experience, and how I felt when I got my first period. I didn’t go into a sex talk, I kept it simple and to the point. I talked about it being a unique part of being female, was honest about how it may feel uncomfortable and that I used to get cramps, and she may as well, but that was perfectly normal. I shared with her how to take care of her period and what she would need if she was at school. We even put together a few supplies for her to carry in her backpack, in case it started at school.

By bringing up the topic of periods, it also gave me an opportunity to let her know I was there for her, and that she could talk to me once it started. I was surprised to learn that many of my daughter’s friends had not told their mom that their period had started and I realized then how lucky we were to have such open communication between us.

It has been almost a year since my daughter started her period. Her journey to womanhood has begun… I have come to realize that her period was only the first step in that journey. Every day, the best thing I can do for her is to love her, keep the communication channel open and respect the woman she is becoming. She will always be my little girl, even when she is all grown up.

Message from Dad:

When I was asked to write about speaking to your daughter about period care, I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. It brought back memories and even “butterflies” in my stomach; the same as you have when you start to imagine talking to your daughter for the first time about boys, sex, or period care.

I’m blessed to have a lot of great women in my life and so the “talk” should be easier for me right?

Honestly, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

The best advice or counsel I have received and would like to share with other Dads on the subject of period care draws from experiences over the years from all the wonderful women in my life.

Let me start by saying that if you are a Dad and are going to be talking to your daughter about her period, you are one lucky man, and should consider this a privilege. You have a beautiful life in your care, and you should be proud to play a part in her upbringing. A daughter’s first period is but one beautiful and great milestone in her life and one that you should help her feel good about. There are so many firsts in our children’s lives, first teeth, first words, first steps, toilet training, school, riding a two-wheeler, etc. that I think a first period should be welcome and treated as a part of growing up. It is another part of the wonderful woman that your daughter is becoming.

Like her first home run, first goal or dance recital, you should be proud that she is growing up… and she will be too. Talking about the experience itself should be gentle, thoughtful and approached with pride. Help your daughter feel that this is good news and you are proud to see her grow. If you are proud of her, and see this as a great milestone, she will too.

We are not ashamed of having to go to the bathroom, or brushing our teeth, or showering so why should anyone be ashamed of talking about period care? A private conversation on the couch, or at the kitchen table over a glass of chocolate milk, can be a good start. Above all, if you are proud of her, she will see it in your eyes, and hear the gentleness in your words. Given all this, how could she not feel good about herself and her period?

We’d love to hear some tips and insight from parents ands teens about how to have an informed and thoughtful conversation about the menstrual cycle and period care.

Share, learn and be empowered by the Diva Community!