“I would have loved to have gone to such a thing. But I didn’t get an invitation. Because it didn’t happen.” Says Ria Le Chanje, a yachting professional who works in the crewing sector but was unwilling to state exactly where due to fears that stating the obvious may be deemed a firing offence. The obvious being?
“That in large part yachting remains an archaic, patriarchal culture with generally poor representation of non-white crew members, and separate, harder avenues for women and non-white men attempting to work around those ingrained barriers. And effectively nothing is being done about it.” Ms. Le Chanje says with emphasis, and then glances over both shoulders and under the table, and checks she didn’t bum dial anyone on her phone, and wonders out loud if an unaccompanied dog in our vicinity can talk, and who his master is, and if maybe we should speak in some sort of code.
And thusly passes another year in which no symposium occurred, or forum, or conference, or sit-down, or round table, or town-hall, or serious article, or leaked email chain, or Facebook group, or industry-wide memorandum, or cautious mention after a heated thumb war between friends, or anonymous note on the crew mess board, or you get the idea, it didn’t happen.
If industry-wide equality were a yacht not only would it’s keel not be laid yet, it wouldn’t have made it to the planning stages. It wouldn’t even be a project the shipyards aren’t able to comment on due to confidentiality. No, if equality onboard yachts were represented as a boat it would still just be a rather nice drawing of a tastefully futuristic, well-balanced motor yacht, sketched on a napkin by a Burger King employee at the corner of 17th st. and US 1, and done between shifts then thrown away before anyone could see it, gone into the bin with the rest of the refuse of excess.
Why is this issue still in Burger King?
“Two reasons,” Say anyone who has considered this honestly, “Those who would benefit most from change on this front are not, generally, in a position to effectively promote it. And, on a related note, those who would like to see that change happen for it’s own sake, who believe in equality because it benefits everyone, think that, sadly, any significant adaptation is unlikely to occur. And that all one achieves by raising the issue is alienation of many who like the business just fine the way it is. And that business, and those friendships, matter more than pushing the issue. So round and round we go.”
“Yep, I’d say thats about it.” Agrees Le Chanje. “Additionally, on most of the boats I worked on, when I asked why the industry is so visibly lopsided, I was told it’s because that’s the way the owners like it. The funny thing is I’ve never heard an owner say that, or found anyone who personally had either. And if they actually did say that, why would you work for such a program?”
She adds that similarly when she asked why there were so few female captains and officers on large yachts, she was generally told there was nothing stopping them. “Which I think totally misses the point. For a women to break through layers of built-in stigma takes more than just a passive, ‘have a go lass.’ It takes actively helping women who show an interest in those avenues, and mentorship, and encouragement, and outreach, and all the things that men on boats get by default through the normal processes of training the next generation of yacht crew.” She stops and eyes the dog for a moment before adding, with feeling, “And don’t give me that shit that women are just going to leave to have babies. Many of us won’t, and those who do can work a rotation, or find single-port jobs just like all the dads out there. Why the hell not? Just try it and see.”
There’s so much work to do. Its almost like there should be a conference or something, with accepted best practices being raised, and the inauguration of programs to help correct this divide, and to bring an industry that so badly wants to be taken seriously into the modern day working world, where making things fair isn’t just a step in the painting process.
Edited to amend ‘paternalistic,’ to ‘patriarchal,’ in the first sentence of the third paragraph. 12-Mar