My college boat club has two captains, one each for the men’s and women’s crews. Captains hold their positions for a year. One of the pair is chosen to be overall captain, a role with slightly more responsibility.

The overall captain is usually the men’s captain. One year, I asked the men’s captain, who was a friend of mine, why he had been chosen to be overall captain over his female counterpart. “Well, you have to liaise with the alumni for fundraising and so on, and they just don’t donate as much if they’re dealing with the women’s captain,” he replied. This was, apparently, common and accepted knowledge in the upper echelons of the club. Never mind choosing the better candidate and all that. Ah well, it was all #HFSF.

Ex-rower, UK


11 Responses to “Oarsome”

  1. Enoon Says:

    This one’s interesting. Assuming what he said was accurate and the alumni are sexist and quicker to open their pocketbooks for the man’s captain, what should the school do? I mean on one hand, they’re reinforcing a culture of sexism, but on the other, if their method of choosing the overall captain is a completely objective, “the overall is chosen to be the one who will bring in more money,” they’ve chosen rationally.

    I really do wonder how much sexism is the result of objective decisions within a sexist culture. I guess the appropriate response would be for the school/club to take the fiscal hit and have the position be elected or what have you?

  2. Jessica Says:

    Oxford or Cambridge?

  3. Jonathan Says:

    the existing alumni donors may be sexist, but i would be willing to bet that with a little work other donors could be found willing to make up the difference, surely there are successful alum who hesitated in the past to donate to the “Good Old Boys” club.

    seems like more of an excuse than a reason to me.

  4. n Says:

    I have no idea if it’s true whether it’s harder to get money when overall captain is a female. But it sounds like fundraising IS A MAIN FUNCTION of being overall captain right? They may actually have alternated the roles (man-woman-man-woman…) for some time and realized that the females always pulled in less money.

    That doesn’t mean that she is inferior or that women have a problem raising money. It could very well be because the people donating are inherently sexist. But if you want to keep the organization running you need donations and you need to maximize that.

  5. Brittany-Ann Says:

    I’d say that it’s bull, an easy excuse, because hey, the alum can’t defend themselves, right?

  6. A Different Sam Says:

    Accepting this as reasonable implies accepting every similar case of the we-want-a-man-because-people-trust-and-respect-men-more nonsense. Male captains attract more donations; make the overall captain male! Male shop workers attract more respect; hire males only! Male politicians are easier to look up to as leaders; don’t let women go into politics! And on, and on, and on.

    I find it shameful that there are people on MFIF who don’t normally Mansplain everything but are suddenly coming to the school’s defense here.

    • MissPrism Says:

      Well said.

    • Brittany-Ann Says:

      We grew up in the same world that everyone else did. We learned these things from the moment we were born–they put pink hats on the girls, blue on the boys. It’s easier to see the more overt acts than the covert ones, and easier to recognize the overtly ists thoughts than the unconscious, covert ones.

      Purging this crap is hard work–it’s not a sudden realization, with your isms being immediately purging from your system. It’s a continual, lifelong process. I still catch myself thinking racist things, and sexist things popping out of my mouth from time to time. I use “crazy” and “insane” more than I’d like to admit. But I know better, and I’m trying to do better–and every day I’m getting better.

      It’s as much about self-improvement as advocacy and spreading awareness.

      • A Different Sam Says:

        I think the word “crazy” has by now been completely divorced from actual insanity, to the point where calling the insane “crazy” would in many cases be considered offensive; I don’t think using it negatively outside of the context of actual insanity is still bad, just as using the words “lame” and “dumb” negatively is not generally considered offensive to those in wheelchairs or who cannot speak. The language has just moved on, and “crazy” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

        Unfortunately, I do find myself using “retarded” as a pejorative far too often…

    • Lbutlr Says:

      I certainly wouldn’t characterise the comments as ‘coming to the school’s defense’ but they are acknowledging that we don’t have all the information. What he said could be a load of BS, or it could be true. Or it could be that once there was a female captain and the donations were low that year so the assumption was made it was for that reason. Without more information it would be unfair to characterise this particular exchange one way or the other. It sounds suspicious to me, however. In my somewhat limited experience it women have been better than men at getting donations, but that was in a situation where we needed percentage participation and not overall money (that is, 10 donations of $100 were more valuable than 1 donation of $2000), so it’s not exactly the same.

  7. Mornington Says:

    This reminds me of my uni rowing club. I heard repeatedly – as the women’s captain – that the women’s crews didn’t deserve the same access to the boats, that buying new equipment for our crews was a waste (because it’s not like girls like sports, we’re only there as window dressing); at the same time it was suggested that the women do a nude calandar to raise money for the men’s captain to buy more equipment.

    The worst part – the women agreed with a lot of these sentiments; they didn’t want to be “pushy bitches”. My predecesor had been heard to comment that it was a good thing an openly gay first year had decided not to join (despite her showing a great deal of ability) as it would give people the impression that women towers were all gay.

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