Dear Men of the Sailing World

Published on April 24th, 2023

We don’t typically publish anonymous reports but made an exception for this startling story:

I had a fantastic time sailing at the 2023 Etchells Worlds in Miami, FL. The level of talent is unmatched, and as a woman, it was also equally fantastic to see so many fellow ladies competing at an elite level. The story of women’s involvement in highly-competitive sailing has been told – there are too few of us. But the numbers are improving and that brings me so much joy!

But let me tell you about what happened as soon as the regatta was over. It’s quite the opposite of joyful. As soon as I wasn’t seen as an equal competitor anymore – no more deckbeaters, team shirts, zinc-white face – I apparently became an object.

I rarely dress up, because I’m just not that kind of girl, but I certainly like to on occasion. And I figured a World Championship awards party was such an occasion. I traded my Patagonia shorts for a skirt and sunblock for mascara. It’s fun to look pretty! But apparently that meant I was no longer your equal, but your prey.

No less than half a dozen men harassed me, beginning at the awards dinner and continually throughout the evening up until I had to fight past one just to get home. I knew some of them, but not well. We certainly weren’t friends. Others I didn’t know at all.

One picked me up – literally. Because yes, as a petite woman, it’s amusing to lift me up like Simba, I guess? And yes, I played along, even pretended to enjoy it, because as a petite woman, saying no to a man three times my size is infinitely scarier than anything I could ever encounter on the racecourse, and I’ve been on the bow in some gnarly breeze.

But this particular antic happens to me at least once a year. It’s sad that I’m so blasé about it at this point. I shouldn’t be. I should hold firmer when they blatantly grab my chest or butt while “testing their strength”. But that was just the beginning.

Later in the evening, one man said to my face, “I wish I could bang you right now.” I said I had a boyfriend and walked away.

We all made our way to the bar where a sailor was DJing. I loved the chance to dance in a circle of my friends and teammates, enjoying the end to a hard two weeks. I was just minding myself, having a great time. But every few songs, a man would creep closer to me. I’d glide away.

Then one put his hand around my waist and tried to pull me toward him (the same one who asked to bang me earlier). I pulled his hand off of me and pushed it back toward him. He looked offended, sad, defeated. I repeated that ‘dance’ with two other men who grabbed my waist and tried to pull our bodies together.

All who gave me these incredulous looks when I pushed them off – how dare I deny their advances! What made them think I wanted to dance with them? I didn’t even make eye contact with them. No, I was just a warm pretty body; that’s all the invitation they needed.

The crowd moved to a house party. I hung out and chatted, wound down the evening with friends. Gratefully, no one there really bothered me. Until I tried to leave.

A man walked up to the house as I was leaving – my Airbnb was a block and a half away so I felt it was safe to walk myself out of there alone. I was wrong.

“Where are you going?” he asks. “I’m going home.” He stands blocking my way. “No you’re not, give me your hand.” I step aside. “I’m going home.” He reaches for me. “Give me your hand.” I pull away. “I’m. Going. Home.” He steps toward me and reaches for my hand again. “Aw come on, give me your hand!!” His friend finally calls him over into the party.

I take out my house key and place it between my knuckles. Just in case. I walk the block and a half home, looking over my shoulder, making sure no one is following me.

I’m f#cking tired of this. My outfit change gives you no license to be a creep. Regatta after regatta, I have to put up with the same sh#t. You men know exactly who you are and I’m f#cking sick of you. I have no respect for you. I will never be on a boat with you.

I have half a mind to name you right here so everyone else can know what disgusting sh#ts you are. But the sad thing is, a lot of people already know who you are, and they allow you to continue on, and I will just be called out as a drama-starter. Because ‘boys will be boys.’ And I was ‘dressed like I wanted it.’

If you really cared about increasing women’s participation in sailing, then you would actually respect us. As people. Not just as sailors. And I truly appreciate all the men who do respect us and support us – you are thankfully the majority.

To the good guys – please help us put the creeps in their places. Because no matter how many times I said no, walked away, pushed them off me, it still didn’t matter.

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