An Open Letter to the Dudes of MMA

A while back, I heard a woman say that she wouldn’t donate money to Maine Maritime Academy until they resolved the issues surrounding the mistreatment of women.  When I heard this I took it with a grain of salt but later it actually kind of made me mad. I’d like to officially state for the record that I wasn’t mistreated.  Further, some of my best and truest friends are the Gentlemen that I attended Maine Maritime Academy with.

Was I harassed and teased mercilessly on occasion?  Yes.  Was it often times inappropriate?  Yeeep.  But, here’s the thing, I learned a lot from you guys too.  I learned how to stick up for myself.  I learned how to get along with lots of Dudes and be a woman in a male dominated world.  I learned that I could be myself and still fit in.

Remember that time I got in a fight at Green Street because I was wasted?  You put me in the back of a truck and took me back to the dorms where you snuck me past security…even though I was screaming?

Remember that time I was crying and barfing because I had a crush on my MTO and he left the party with another girl?  You rubbed my back and held my hair.

In more recent history (I’m slightly ashamed) I got drunk and was crying in a field because I was certain that I was going to end up an old maid.  I called you at 3am Hawaii time – the perfect time for a drunk dial – although, it was 9am on the East Coast (awkward) – I was sobbing and you know what you said?  Come back to Maine, Megan.  I’ll buy you a ticket and fly you out here to be with us tomorrow.

Gentlemen, I love you.  I do.  I really and truly love you.

While we attended school together we were essentially ‘raised up’.  (Getting spit out into the industry and having a good Bosun to school you up never hurts either…)  I look back on those years of my life and think, ‘wow I was young’.  This thought is quickly followed by, ‘my MMA Dudes really prepared me well for the industry’.

Throughout my career I’ve often referred back to my MMA relationships when I needed some perspective on gender issues at sea.  You may wonder what I mean (seeing as how you are all Dudes at sea and probably haven’t had too many gender related issues) – say someone is treating me like a dick I’ll think, ‘is he being a dick or is treating me like a dick’.  Strangely, there is a huge difference.  If it’s behavior that I’d allow one of you all to get away with then I let it slide.  Because, most likely he’s just kind of forgotten that I’m a chick.  Or say for example I’m having a confrontation of sorts, then I think, ‘what would I say to one of my MMA dudes’.

When I’m being teased excessively I have the guts to say, ‘okay I’m done being teased now’ before there are hard feelings.  When someone talks to me in a tone of voice I don’t appreciate I can say, ‘excuse me’ in such a way as to leave no question that they should think very carefully about what they’re going to say next.  Most of all, when someone pisses me off I can say, ‘I’m freakin’ pissed – shut the eff up’.

I value these lessons you gave me so, so much.

Recently, I had a situation on my ship – I pissed someone off – except, I didn’t know that I had pissed them off.  They never mentioned it to me – instead they talked about me – loudly to whoever would listen to them.  They called me every name in the book and, this being a ship, I heard about it immediately.

Do you know what bums me out about this?  No one gave me the opportunity to apologize.  I’d readily apologize for unprofessional and rude behavior.  Do you know what bums me out the most about this?  No one stuck up for me.   No one said, ‘don’t call her that – just go tell her what’s up - give her the chance to apologize’.

I was pissed and didn’t know what to do next so I thought, ‘if this was an MMA Dude how would I handle it?’ and then I realized there would have been nothing to handle– you would have told me where to shove it when I pissed you off!

I’d also like to think you wouldn’t have let someone sit around and call me names.

There is always a lot of talk about gender equality in the shipping industry.  It’s still true that women represent a measly 3-4% of the industry.  Why do women drop out of the industry?  I’m not exactly sure.  Some leave to have a family, some don’t like being away from home, and some leave because they don’t like working in a male dominated industry.

I’ve often wondered how I could help keep women sailing but am then stumped as to how I could help.  Make it to Captain and then provide a good example?  Start a mentorship program?  Visit academies and talk to young sailors?

Then I had an epiphany - I could be the Captain of a ship, managing a mentorship program and talking to young sailors on my vacations - It wouldn’t matter.

You Gentlemen are the key.

Please do me a favor.  When issues arise on your ships pretend you’re dealing with me.  What would you be comfortable saying to me?  What would you be comfortable listening to people say about me?  If someone was ranting and raving about me would you say, ‘man up and go let her know you’re pissed before talking crap about her’?  Because, the expression ‘man up’ sounds much better coming from a man’s lips than it does a woman’s.

I’d really appreciate if you start holding women accountable for their actions and then, start holding men accountable for theirs.  (Women aren't allowed to say whatever they want either!  When we piss you off - you have an obligation to say so!)

I know what you’re thinking, ‘blah, blah, blah – another feminist chick burning her bra’.  But listen, there will be chicks at sea who don’t belong out here – and they cause problems – and you can let those ones find their own way shoreside.  But there will be other ones (I’d like to think like me) who just want to do a good job and enjoy the sea – and those ones deserve your support.

MMA Dudes, when guys are sitting around at coffee time bashing chicks, can you just ask them to man up or shut the eff up?  That’s all I’m asking.

You’ve had my back for years.  You’ve seen the absolute best and worst of me.  You’ve been the best kind of friends a girl could ever have.

But, you’re not here all the time and, we Lady Sailors need someone who’s got their back every now and then.

Please remember me when some Lady Sailor needs someone to get their back. 

Normally, I try to keep ship business blog neutral but, I really felt like this was a message I should deliver – I apologize for the long windedness.  This is also the kind of post that makes me nervous to post - apologies to any and all who find it offensive!