At Women Offshore, we lean into discomfort. We talk about the topics many people would prefer to ignore. Establishing boundaries with coworkers, baring our own whale’s tails, and overcoming societal disapproval of raising a family while working on ships, to name a very small and select few.
Why do we insist on leaning into discomfort? We have one word for you:
We believe in personal and professional growth. We believe that if we lean in to the topics that make us uncomfortable, we become more adept at tackling these situations, should they arise in the future.
We also believe, that what we learn while leaning in should be shared with others – those lessons learned may help someone overcome similar obstacles.
Growth is not easy, but it CAN be easier if we grow together.
Recently, a reader of ours wrote us about an awkward situation she experienced on board a ship she used to work on. Knowing that other women and men have experienced similar situations, we asked to share it here. We are proud and most humbly privileged, to have been permitted to share her story of how one voice – her voice – created change. Read it below:
What’s on TV?
“Without much to do at sea, having television is a great privilege that can kill a lot of time. Most ships I’ve worked on had a network that played movies and shows, 24/7. When we had satellite communication, certain channels could be set to broadcast on all screens aboard the vessel.
On one of my previous ships, each cabin had its own TV with access to 7 channels. Each Sunday, the captain and a crew member would pick what to broadcast on these channels, including what pornographic content would be shown for the week.
I didn’t watch the television, so I was unaware of this racy channel. That was, until we sailed to Africa for a new assignment and lost all of our channels, except one; the 24/7 pornography channel.
I was usually the only female on board with, around 70 men. On this particular trip we had 4 females on board, including myself. One of these females, who held a senior position, came to see me and complained about the channel. She remarked that it was completely disgusting and stated, ‘How in this day and age, could this be allowed?’ She alluded to the fact that the company was promoting and normalizing the mistreatment of females by engaging in making the pornography readily available, among other points of disdain.
I thanked her for coming to me and proceeded to give the problem some serious thought. I’m not naïve to think that both men and women don’t view pornographic material from time to time. However, the company was promoting this, on the televisions, for all to see. Was this the extent of the value that the company deemed sufficient to place on their female coworkers, colleagues and employees?
I decided the matter was too important not to elevate and raised it with the captain. I suggested other options for the channel. He laughed in my face and told me that if I didn’t like it, I shouldn’t watch it. He added that the females on board were being petty in bringing up the complaint.
I was not impressed with his response, at all. I decided to email my HSE manager, at our head office. Following that and unbeknownst to me, my manager had informed the head of operations – a woman, who I’m sure, was very shocked to hear of the issue. She went to the marine department and fleet manager of the shipping company, who took immediate action and spoke with our captain, on the phone.
The same woman who came to me with the original complaint, came to me shortly thereafter to thank me – the channel had been taken down, ship-wide.
Another female employee found out what had happened and also thanked me, she said she was scared to tell anyone how sickening she found it to be.
Sadly, I got it in the neck after that. The captain called me into his office, told me that the issue wasn’t important enough to have been brought to his attention and that he had much bigger ‘fish to fry,’ than the topic of a television channel. Obviously frustrated, he asked me if I had realized what I had done.
Apparently, not only had porn been banned from being broadcasted on board, it has been banned throughout the entire company – from all of the ships in their fleet. He attempted to shame me, in demonstrating that everyone would know that I was the reason for their new (and obviously, quite unpopular) policy.
I was ensured by my manager that they had told the captain to treat the circumstance with the utmost sensitivity, and that I was to be kept anonymous. Unsurprisingly, he had already told the chief officer. Not to mention that it seemed that many other crew members knew, as well. He tried to tell me that women watch more porn than men and was concerned that crew members would be upset that they couldn’t watch it on the ship’s televisions – as if to imply it was some kind of right, like getting 3 square meals a day.
That trip was absolute hell and I received very little support at every turn. I overheard many of the male crew members talking angrily about the channel being removed from the TV list.
Luckily, I never went back to that ship as I was, fortuitously, offered a better job.
I hope that no other women ever have to go through this type of situation. I wouldn’t change how I handled it and will always stand by my female colleagues no matter the consequences!”