The Women’s Dive Day is an event organised all over the world, mid-July, by PADI since 2015; last year there were more than 700 events in 77 countries. Since I heard about it, I thought it was an excellent initiative. With only a bit more of 35% of women in scuba diving, I guessed it was a good way to promote scuba diving as a sport for everyone. Last year I tried to join an event in Switzerland but, having just moved from Scotland to France, I couldn’t join the event I had spotted in Geneva, as all the trains were fully booked. This year, I had anyway booked months in advanced a short holiday in the French Riviera, in my scuba home of Toulon, around Bastille Day (14th of July). It was perfect timing. This is how I got in touch with Diamond Diving in Golfe Juan, between Cannes and Nice, to join my first Women’s Dive Day.
The main issue: recognising there is one
There is something I’d like to highlight about what World Adventure Divers is about. The name of this website is plural because from the very beginning it has always been for all the scuba divers I’ve met travelling around the world, from any gender, country, and religion. I’m sure you noticed that even if I’m a female diver, I never wrote any single article specifically geared towards women in diving. Before anything else, I’m a scuba diver, a traveller, and an ocean lover. I’m writing for everyone. If I could, I would translate my articles in every possible language. I believe topics like “how to go on a scuba diving holiday without breaking the bank” or “how to do solo scuba diving trips” are for everyone. So you won’t find on my blog articles such as “how to take care of my hair when I’m diving every day” or “how to deal with periods on a scuba diving holiday”. I have nothing against these topics, and I know some female divers have some genuine questions about them, but then I would stop talking to all scuba divers. There are some great websites and forums which are specifically geared at female divers and are doing a great job.
However, I cannot deny I am a woman. There are things going on in the world about being a woman, which are of everyone’s interest, men and women. Sexism is real and depending on the country you are from, it goes from catcalling to limited opportunities in life. To change this we need to work on perception and to do this, we need everyone, men and women, making an effort on battling their own stereotypes (If you never listened to Emma Watson’s speech at the U.N. for the #HeForShe campaign, it’s still time to catch up).
Nevertheless, I used to feel like scuba diving was the space where I could really be free from any form of sexism, where we were among individuals as passionate about the ocean as about our latest regulator’s features, and that nothing else mattered. So until this month, I could have easily understood why on many forums, members were asking why we needed a Women’s Dive Day at all:
- “Since when PADI makes the difference between male and female divers?”
- “This is a childish issue.”
- “I find it nonsense. man day, woman’s day, -whatever for- day.”
Even a few months before I was surprised to read in groups testimonies of girls who suffered from sexism on multiple occasions they went diving. I couldn’t understand why in my case after diving in so many places, I had never faced it. And here comes my point: you never really understand something until it happens to you.
If you want to read more about sexism in scuba diving, which forms it can take and how it can limit opportunities for women in scuba diving, I recommend reading Jill Heinerth‘s informative article on divemag.com.
When life gives you lemons…
The day before, like almost every day, I spend a few minutes here and there on groups and forum, to answer a few questions about scuba diving and especially destinations. It was already quite late, as I had just returned from a friend’s Bastille Day BBQ party and finished preparing my scuba diving bag as we were due to leave early in the morning when I decided to check one last time my social media.
It came out of nowhere. I think it’s why I took it so violently. Basically, I had recommended a scuba diving centre, without despising on any other business as usual, and someone wasn’t happy apparently I had named their competitor. Publicly on the group, all I had were sarcastic comments beyond understanding, but I had the incredible pleasure to receive an insulting private message, sexist and misogynist insults. I won’t go into too much to avoid any libel lawsuit, as I am the one who is any way filing a complaint against the offender, but reading that I should mind my vagina was enough to take me out of control. Maybe because I was never exposed to such stupid comments in the past, I slept very little that night and cried for a good part of it. I was in shock. The next morning in the car, I dared to speak about it with my friends, and they both agreed the message was gravely insulting. I also wrote to the moderator of the group about the case, explaining what happened, and the offender was immediately banned from the group. It made me feel a bit better. At least, the violence of the insult was not something I made up in my head. It was real. Sadly too real.
It took me a few days, thinking about what happened, to realise that if this kind of extreme situation happened to me on the night before my Women’s Dive Day event, it was maybe the Universe telling me that it was time to speak out.
Why I loved my first Women’s Dive Day
Hopefully, from my first moment in Golfe Juan with Diamond Diving, all I found there were smiles and good vibes. Being a British-French couple, Alex and Noémie gather very international crowds of scuba divers in the French Riviera. Thanks to their warm welcome I could at least focus on the beautiful dives we were about to do together. At the welcome coffee, a piece of cake in hand, it was a pleasure to meet up with the six other ladies joining the morning dive. They were either local divers or coming from other European countries such as the UK, Germany and Sweden.
I took the opportunity to ask them why they joined the event or why they thought it was important:
- “It feels good for once not to be the only girl in the group.”
- “This event opens up opportunities for female divers.”
- “I never felt any difficulty myself to get into scuba diving, but I do understand that some girls need a little push to overcome fears.”
- “I like Women’s Dive Day idea, but maybe we should focus on recruiting more female divers through a free DSD program?”
- “I’m not scuba diving as often as I’d like to because I wish I had female diving buddies to go with.”
For our morning dive, Alex took us to “Miro’s Cave” near La Fourmigue lighthouse. Located in the bay of Golfe Juan, only a 10-minute boat ride from the marina, the maximum depth of this dive is 25 m. The site was named after the famous Spanish artist as originally it was one of his sculpture that was inside the cavern. Unfortunately, it was stolen, and now there is a statue of the Commander Yves Le Prieur, a French Navy officer who invented the first open circuit underwater breathing apparatus. For 50 minutes, in a 24°C water, my buddy and I dived between rocks, seagrass and caverns, underwater cameras in hand to find scorpion fish, moray eels, octopus, nudibranchs and even a giant torpedo ray! Miro’s Cave itself was a fantastic subject to photograph thanks to the statue itself, the bright blue light in the background and the thick layer of bright yellow encrusting anemones covering the walls of the cave. In the afternoon, we headed to Antibes Capes, at a dive site called “La Lauve”. It was another beautiful dive site with a shallow part made of canyons with sea grass on top, and a deeper wall with a sandy bottom. Again we got many opportunities of taking beautiful pictures with more colourful nudibranchs and an octopus.
After we rinsed our equipment and let our wetsuits drip-dry, we decided to go for lunch together to debrief this exciting dive. My buddy and I were quite proud of the torpedo ray and the rest of the group about the big school of barracudas they saw. While enjoying a Mediterranean lunch, the discussion quickly switched to scuba diving training tips. We talked about all our favourite specialities: deep, dry suit and nitrox were among the most popular. We also shared information about the best diving sites in France. We ended up adding each other on social media, making the promise of going diving together again in the fabulous marine protected area of Port-Cros and Porquerolles. I guess our lunchtime summed up well the point of the event: networking, sharing, inspiring.
To all the persons who asked me why PADI needs to organise a Women’s Dive Day, I can now answer that as the biggest scuba diving certification agency in the world, this is the least they can do.
On another hand, for 8 years, I could scuba dive from Scotland to Indonesia, from Patagonia to Egypt, without facing any discrimination. It shows another reason why I love scuba diving so much: underwater, I feel free to be myself.
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This article is an extended and more personal version of the article I published on PADI’s blog.
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