Today is, apparently, PADI International Women’s Dive Day. Horray?
I keep a file on the phone/laptop synched notes app of topics to write on. When I am, say, standing in line at the supermarket and this or that idea pops into my head I dash off a couple of words to revisit when some spark of inspiration kindles itself into parsing 10 words into a million. Sometimes they sit there for a day or two - sometimes for a month or more. The one at the very top of the list slowly worked its way up there as others were struck out, but has now been sitting there for the longest. It has itched at me for months, but I’ve been deliberately avoiding it. It reads: Gender gap of divers Rec Tech Cave esp FL v Mex caves Why? That’s the thing that’s bubbled up in my head periodically. Why should it be that even though diving has changed, over the last few decades, from a sport dominated by 20 year-old, macho ex-military into the demographics we see today that a gender gap has remained? Most everyone is willing to acknowledge the existence of the “white-noise” sexism around the world and continues to be represented at dive sites. Lots of folks even make their best efforts towards egalitarianism. Obviously, given my narrowish interests, my subjective observations of the Mexican cave diving community are what piqued my interest about the whole issue. The balance here is somewhere around 3 to 2 with a tilt towards the dudes. This is, in fact, right about the ratio concluded by agencies like PADI and DAN who employ actually trained number-crunchers. But the balance diverges in the Florida caves. And even more on tech boats. Granted, the statisticians find that the gap has been narrowing over the years. But the disparity lingers on, like an embarrassing memory of what you did to that Christopher Lambert impersonator at your 11th birthday party. It was a few weeks ago it finally hit me that the reason I’ve been avoiding fleshing it out would be textbook mansplaining. I’ve got a couple of half-formed, unscientific theories. There’s been a conversation or two or ten over the years with women divers both newbs and vets. But, in the end, for me to talk on the subject like some sort of an authority would be almost like trying to write a first-person narrative novel about the life of a left-handed, Zoroastrian, lesbian, Inuit periodontist starting life over in Oslo. So… ladies? Whatcha got on the gender divide? Why’s it there? Do you notice it? As a recreational diver? As a tech diver? Why is there seemingly less of a divide among cave divers in Mexico than in Florida? Does it affect you? Positively or negatively? Does it bother you? Is it white-noise or is it imposing? Is there a way to create parity? To throw a total curve-ball into the mix: women of color, how does that additional variable affect your relationship with the sport and the community? I’m not gonna say it’s on my mind all the time. I’ve go the luxury of it not affecting me at all. Beyond academic curiosity, I’m mostly pleased I can take it off my list now. Oh, and old, white dudes: sit down and shush. You and I have had our turn for about 10,000 years now.