Jenna Hart

2016 marked the end of my swimming career, and my fourth year on Berkley High School's team. The other captains and I wanted to make the best of the season despite recent hardships. In our first attempt to lift the girls' spirits, we put a new spin on an old tradition. At the end of each meet, a stuffed animal is given to the girl with the best performance (as determined by the captains). A frog by the name of Alfanso was passed around the team for many years. However, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and we were tasked with finding a replacement. After much consideration, we purchased a plush uterus and named her Womby. She was no more than a pink blob, two fuzzy Fallopian tubes and a smiling face. The girls immediately fell in love with her, not only because of her cuteness, but because of what she stood for. For one week out of every month, having a uterus makes swimming much more difficult than it ought to be. Cramps, headaches, nausea, and a host of other symptoms plague us. By making light of the pain that womanhood puts us through, we were able to move past it. Because of this, Womby quickly became an important member of our team. That alone made the backlash she caused all the more shocking. A number of parents stepped forward, expressing the belief that a plush uterus was "vulgar" and "offensive". They believed that a sex organ should not represent young ladies such as ourselves. They did not see how this "adult toy" could empower us. As a consequence of their protest, our coach demanded that we remove Womby from team activities. We were deeply hurt by the decision, and frustrated by the parents' fixation on an issue that impacted them so little. However, we refused to go down without a fight. With the entire team on our side, the captains and I approached our coach for the final time. When he refused to listen to our reasoning, we spoke with the athletic director, the counselors, and eventually the principal. We bombarded him with emails and phone calls, and at least a dozen girls met with him to discuss the issue. After only a week of intense protest, the principal ordered our coach to allow Womby back onto the team. Most were stunned yet excited by the outcome, and while I shared in their excitement, our victory did not surprise me. I knew we would triumph, simply because we never gave up. That, in a general sense, is what my generation does better than any other: we take action. We don't take no for an answer, rather, we fight until our goals are achieved and our dreams are realized. My generation believes in facing the problems that burden us, and doing everything in our power to solve them. Whether the issue is racism, homophobia, or the oppression of a plush womb, we make sure our voices are heard.