Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Man Shadows

If behind every good man is a woman, what, then, is behind a good woman?

Pat and I were discussing a couple who are interested in joining the sailing club; I have met them, and he has not. I discovered that I could do a fairly good description of the husband, but when Pat asked what the wife was like, I found I could hardly say anything. “She was sort of in his shadow,” I finally concluded.

That led me to think about the women who are participating in the Adams Cup training and racing efforts, and how many of them are in some sort of man shadow – like a wind shadow, a zone of bad air that keeps them from gaining full speed. Some of them haven’t attended many of the practice sessions, not because they themselves have been occupied, but because their husband or boyfriend hasn’t been able to come, and they don’t want to travel without him. Some of them have extensive sailing – and even racing – experience, but they have never really been in charge of anything; their man has always been there to tell them what to do, and so they haven’t really learned anything. Yet others have a man pushing them, seeing their accomplishments as part of his own. These women get frustrated and burned out; the project is no longer something they want, but just another effort at pleasing somebody else. Finally, there is the opposite extreme, those women whose men just don’t want them to participate. I don’t think there are too many of those – but then maybe there are, since they wouldn’t even have tried to participate in the women’s sailing effort at all, which means I haven’t seen them.

This brings me back to something I mentioned in a post some months ago about women sailors: Who needs men? At least in the context of sailing, they just don’t seem to be all that useful. Even Pat, as wonderfully supportive as he has been, has on occasion crossed the line to become the pushing sort, and that’s left me feeling resentful.

The major factor I have seen blamed in women’s limited sailing accomplishments has been the lack of physical size and strength. But the more I look, the more I see man shadows as an even bigger factor. Clear air is vital, but many women just don’t have any.


Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...

A true test of any relationship is how supportive your better half is about what you are trying to accomplish. The best relationships have unconditional support for each other's endeavors.

Thu Apr 20, 12:51:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Tillerman said...

What a fascinating observation. Thinking about the women I know who are successful in sailing (other than as crew to a male skipper) they all pass your "clear air" test. I hadn't thought about it before but you are absolutely correct.

Thu Apr 20, 09:26:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think one sees very clearly, when one is sitting in a shadow. Why is the frustration with other women's behavior being blamed on men? Maybe some of the men want the Adam's Cup to get the women out from behind them.

Mon Apr 24, 06:48:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a similar discussion over at Sailingonline in yahoo groups the other day, in terms of long-distance cruising. Some guy was bemoaning the dearth of women interested in long-distance sailing, trying to blame it on women's stay-at-home nature... A few long-distance cruising liveaboard women cleared things up for him, raising the same sorts of points...

In the meantime, my keychain has an answer to your question:

Behind every great woman - is a man... checking out her ass.

Tue Apr 25, 04:24:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Certainly I didn't mean to imply that all of the problems were men's fault. Some women may simply be more comfortable in the shadow of men, and I even mentioned the example in my original post of women who were free but who didn't want to come down to the lake all by themselves.

But I think there is some conditioning in society that leads some -- not all -- women to defer to men, even if it's primarily on a subconscious level.

Also, women tend to be conciliators and negotiators rather than commanders. That can be good; if the crew feel valued, they will be more likely to work hard. But sometimes stern commands are called for in a race -- I want to shout, "Come to close-hauled!" (and have said command obeyed quickly) rather than saying, "Can you please sheet in the jib when you have the time?"

Wed Apr 26, 02:01:00 AM MDT  

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