SafeSail: See something, Say something
Published on May 1st, 2023
When we published the anonymous letter, Dear Men of the Sailing World, the author wasn’t anonymous to us. While the commentary may have benefited from her name, the internet is not always a kind place. Sailing is our recreation, our escape, and it was best to focus on the topic than the author.
The issue is women’s participation in sailing, and how the mindless minority of men are screwing it up. A lot of them don’t realize the impact of their actions, nor do witnesses recognize troubling behavior. Thankfully, it is an important discussion that now has traction.
In a ‘NOW WHAT?’ moment, our author returns with a plan:
I chose to publish anonymously, not because I wanted to hide my identity (and many who know me figured it out quite quickly anyway), but because although it was an account of my experience, it could have been any woman’s story.
As we’ve seen from the hundreds of comments and shares of the letter across a multitude of platforms, far too many women have revealed the same, or worse, experiences. In fact, multiple women have disclosed similar stories from that very night, and not just competitors, but women who worked at the event and even a sailor’s wife.
The outpouring of support from women and men alike has been overwhelming, and for that I am grateful. The swift initial action of the Etchells Class, whose president immediately reached out, and of the leaders of other classes and sailing organizations who have reached out to me asking what changes they can make, has been encouraging and inspiring.
There has also been an outpouring of anger and a desire for me to publicly “name names” to bring these particular men to the ultimate justice. I do not believe that this is the way to achieve what I and other women want. While I was very upset about what happened, and harshly reminded of my vulnerability as a woman, I was “lucky” it was not worse.
However, for many other women it has been. The list of names of men who have harassed women in sailing is dauntingly long, and making a public example out of a few will not do any justice for the other women who choose not to, or are afraid to, come forward.
I also have noticed that most of the people calling for such action have been men, and some have even tried to move forward< with that action without my consent.
To the good guys trying to be good guys – it still doesn’t count as being a good guy if you make decisions about a woman’s desires without actually considering them first. This mindset is part of the entire problem I’m trying to highlight.
Rest assured that these particular men will be watched, very closely, and that they are walking on very thin ice from now until the end of their days on the water. Any missteps from here on out may very well result in real justice.
I do not believe that making enemies of men and women, driving wedges and fear where there should be support and mutual admiration, is how we create a new culture of inclusion. Most strongly, I believe in long-term solutions, not short-term fixes. For that, the women of sailing have established a plan.
SafeSail.org has now launched to become both an educational and reporting platform for any sailing class and event to use to empower not just women, but any individual, to say something when they see something. Organizing Authorities who register are asked to appoint a person who can help or act accordingly, depending on the severity, by interceding as appropriate and as necessary.
Reports can be made anonymously or identifiably.
Ultimately, though, my original call to action was for men to stand up and speak out when they see misconduct, and that remains my strongest call. Ladies, I encourage you to stand up as well!
If you are unsure if someone is being harassed, just simply ask, “Are you cool with this?” If you know someone is being mistreated, just tell the offender, “Hey, that’s not cool,” or even better, lead them away somewhere else, and later after the heat of the moment have a solid peer-to-peer chat about their behavior.
Ladies, if you see one of your fellow women in distress, pluck her out of the situation, as it would take an entirely new level of gall for a man to try to fight you for needing a moment with your friend!
Standing up for others doesn’t require conflict, but SafeSail is now here for those who do not feel safe to speak out immediately and wish to still feel safe participating in the sport they love.
Women deserve that enjoyment just as much as men, and this lack of safety is one of the driving hindrances of our participation – it’s not just about racing roles. It is my greatest hope that harassment in all forms will end, and that the website will never have to be used. But it is up to you to fulfill this desire.
If you believe in our cause, in supporting the women of sailing, in providing a safe environment for everyone to enjoy the unbridled joy that is sailboat racing, please donate in support of this mission.
If you read my previous article and are suffering from a guilty conscience, wondering if I was talking about you, then you should most definitely donate!