Harrassment Part Two - What About The Boys?
It’s not a new subject. Females in yachting have the “traditional” role on yachts – cleaning and serving. Often they have to clean up after their male counterparts which isn’t exactly helping the equality issue but anyway this is a topic that’s been so widely covered that there’s probably not much we can add to that discussion.
So, what about sexism towards men in the yachting industry? Today’s society seems so obsessed with feminism that men have been a bit forgotten in our plight to make women the stronger, as oppose to the weaker sex. So many men are frightened to have an opinion for fear of being attacked by the uber-feminists who seem to use the F word as their cover-all trump card, and being labelled a misogynist.
“Bob” the butler, has years of experience working with VIPs. He made the move into yachting some years ago and was thrilled to be engaged as the chief steward on a 70m motoryacht. However all was not well when he arrived. As he later discovered, Bob was brought on board to replace the captain’s wife, whom the owner’s wife had taken a dislike to. The crew were in an awkward position, the interior crew felt loyal towards the ex chief who’d employed and trained them up, the captain was caught between a rock and a hard place (he couldn’t just leave a well paid job – they sadly don’t grow on trees and he probably had a gigantic mortgage!), and poor Bob became the focal point for their miseries. “I felt the hostility virtually immediately,” he explained, “at first people were just a bit off with me and I thought, ok we can make them warm up to me, but then the comments started. The guys started making digs about my sexuality because I enjoyed doing what they called women’s work. I thought if nothing else this would unite my interior team as the girls would surely call them out on their blatant sexism but quite the opposite! The girls joined in and I became the target of a rather nasty campaign.” Bob tried to be nice, he tried to be firm, but in the end decided life’s too short to work with narrow minded people and left the yacht. “The owner took me to his private residence where I run the household for him and his wife now, and to be honest I much prefer it!” so at least Bob came out a winner. And the crew in question got fired for being sexist bullies so let’s hope they learned their lessons; nice to see an owner taking sexism seriously.
“Charlie” the Chef had an issue with the stewardesses ganging up on him and acting like a “bunch of savages” whenever they had a drink off the yacht. “They’d come back to the yacht and in the end I’d have to lock my cabin door. They thought it was acceptable to crash in completely drunk and grope me. Ok, first time I shrugged it off, but it just got worse. I tried talking to the captain, I told him if I slapped their backsides and laughed I’d probably get fired not to mention slapped, so why is it ok for them to grab at me? He told me to man up. It continued with just plain nasty comments during the working day that I was “gagging for it”. They’d grab me when I was cooking, it was all I could do not to drop a pan of oil over them. They found it funny, I found it stressful. Needless to say I left after a season.”
Charlie has a good point – the pack mentality of drunken women can be terrifying. What’s the worst thing to encounter… a stag party or a hen party? I think we sadly know the answer. We’re not saying men in groups out partying are innocent angels but generally the trouble comes from groups of women. Speaking to a local yacht bar owner in Palma, “John”, he told us, “We recently had quite a nasty altercation here where the police were called and it was between two women. Girls seem to get quite violent after a few drinks whereas most of the lads just get silly and pass out!” Certainly a shift in trends there then. John reported the majority of issues he’d had with drinks getting thrown or tempers flaring in the past years had been mostly women, “I’ve been running bars for years, it used to be the drunken sailors but now.. it’s the girls. And it’s harder to deal with, you can hit a bloke but you can’t hit a woman even if she’s just thrown a chair at you.” Classy ladies, real classy.
“Doug” the deckhand lasted only one season in yachting. Doug had a girlfriend ashore, however one of the stews on his yacht decided she wanted more than friendship and what started off as being a bit of harmless flirting became unbearable. Stewy basically hounded him, and when he kept denying her advances, she started sabotaging his laundry. “She ruined my clothes, she did vile things to my sheets, she was just mental.” Doug remembers. “She started crying one evening in the crew mess then started hitting me! I tried to restrain her so she started hitting herself. Then she told the first mate I’d tried to grab her! They knew it was her, I’d told him all about the situation and the weird notes she’d leave me, and how I felt uncomfortable, but despite them understanding nothing was done about it. I can’t help but feel if the role was reversed and a male crew member had been hounding one of the stews and pestering her with sexual advances he would have been brought to the captain and disciplined. I resigned and walked away from the industry to save my relationship.”
It’s a very difficult subject to deal with in an industry with such old fashioned views with women in “women’s roles” and the men doing the “actual hard work” (that’s a quote from a captain who shall remain nameless before he gets slammed for being stuck in 1952). With society and social media full of images and stories of women overcoming their hardships to get the same opportunities and pay, where does this leave such a male dominated industry? It’s another issue for the captains and heads of departments to deal with; as most captains will agree – driving the boat is the easy part. Dealing with crew, is the challenge.