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.