how to treat women divers

On facebook today, I became quite angry over a post from a diving agency.  The text was usual enough: “What is the most important piece of diving equipment?” but the picture is what really pissed me off.

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 5.19.11 PM
we’re all geared up to scuba dive! Wait, are we forgetting something? nahhhhh

The picture was of two girls, bikini clad, making duck faces.  One of them had a regulator slung over her arm.  The focus of the picture was not the regulator.

This picture encompassed how many women feel about the diving industry.  Objectified. Used as props.  And then, disregarded.

The comment section had an interesting argument flaring up.  At least a few men had noticed that the women had little to nothing to do with diving equipment. Most of the remarks were  about “diving” with the women and “women that pretty don’t dive”.  Things like that.

So I thought I’d write a post about how to treat women divers, which (spoiler alert!) is really just an allegory for How You Should Treat People (in general).

1) Don’t make assumptions.   Men on the boat call me sweetie. They ask me if I need help setting up my gear.  They offer their assistance in case I’ve forgotten what a regulator is, or which way my tank goes. News flash: don’t assume a woman doesn’t know what she’s doing because she’s a woman.  Don’t assume anything. I won’t assume you know what you’re doing, just because you’ve offered your services.

2) Don’t belittle questions.  If someone asks a question, and you know the answer, give it.  Don’t talk down to someone. Don’t belittle or chide them. Asking a question sometimes requires bravery, don’t punish someone admitting what they don’t know.  Encourage questions.  Encourage discussions. And if you don’t know the answer? Defer to someone who DOES. Everyone can learn something new.

3)Don’t treat women divers as wives or mothers who are just “tagging along” treat them as fellow divers, out to enjoy a dive, like the rest of us.  We all got into diving for different reasons, and it doesn’t really matter why, what matters is that we are here now, together, and we want to dive.

4) Don’t make sexual remarks about women behind their back (we hear that shit). What do you think, this is Mad Men? This is the 1960’s? Just because you treat diving like a boy’s club does not make it so.  This is not YOUR club.  It is OUR club. Remarks like that may be overheard by other people, making them uncomfortable and creating a hostile environment in general. This is kind of along the lines of, if you don’t have anything nice to say: keep your mouth shut.

5) Encourage divers.  Realize that everyone has different needs and responds to different things.  Could you imagine if you were the reason someone quit diving? Your bad attitude made them never come back? That makes you part of the problem. When more people are happy and helping the industry grow, everyone will benefit.

6) Stop making all female dive gear in pink and purple. Obviously, this isn’t aimed at divers but at diving equipment manufacturers.  For the love of Garibaldi, some women like pink, some women like orange.  I had a nasty shock the other day when a perfectly inconspicuous wetsuit turned into a floral nightmare once it hit the water.  Imagine my shock, a little warning here guys!!And how come I don’t see that happen to my male dive buddies? Never once has one purchased a black and grey wetsuit, jumped in and then had flowers pop up all over! Women, like men, enjoy many different colors.

wonder which one is marketed to me?
wonder which one is marketed to me?

I love scuba diving, and I love scuba divers, but I still see a lot of shit that seems to be ingrained into people.   I have purposely sought out female instructors to lead me, I have surrounded myself by strong women who work in the industry, I defer to their advice when I am confused or annoyed.  And I teach women to scuba dive, and make them feel welcome in my community, the one that I am building, along with others who are ready to leave this machismo attitude behind in the dust.

But more than that, I try to make ALL divers feel welcome, feel excited, and try not to exclude anyone who might be the next Cousteau, who might find the cure to cancer in tropical reefs, who is inspired to be a better person, or to preserve the world because they have been exposed to the ocean.  It’s not about gender, it’s about excitement, exploration, inclusion, and fun.


PADI Statistics collected between 2007-2012. How have you made this bar graph more even?
PADI Statistics collected between 2007-2012. How have you made this bar graph more even?

* you can download more PADI statistics here:

8 thoughts on “how to treat women divers

  1. While I agree that the scuba industry… and most others… objectifies women… and sadly now, me too, the best advice I can offer is to get over yourself. Take a look at your header picture… what are you wearing?

    By all means let’s move along and promote the sport without the tits and ass… without the washboard abs and styled hair. Let’s just get out there and dive.

    My experience with women divers and women in this industry seems to be a little different to yours. I have been lucky enough to train some pretty kick-ass women technical divers and count some female divers among those who have mentored and supported me through the years.

    So, be careful not to confuse the shit that uninformed marketing departments do with how industry leaders think.

    1. Thank you for reading! I agree with lots of your points, and I too have been lucky to train with many women, and alongside and under many women. However, the statistics tell us that we’re not anywhere close to being 50/50 as far as numbers, and I don’t think it’s because women are less interested in diving. I think it’s because (and, my experience is not everyone’s experience at all) a lot of places make women feel uncomfortable in the community. Other women I have spoken with have had similar experiences, but again, it is not the experience of EVERY woman, or person.

      As far as my header: my personal blog, or how i choose to represent myself, as a woman who LOVES being in the water, I think represents me well. The picture shows me free diving, with turtles, and smiling, because this is what I love. Marketing departments are how companies choose to represent themselves. It may not be how their higher ups think at all, but someone has signed off on this marketing, and allowed it to represent the company, which happens to be an international certifying agency. And I find it very strange that anyone would think a picture of two babes with one piece of diving equipment is related to a discussion about diving equipment at all.
      Many thanks for reading, doppler. Let’s all get out and dive!

  2. J smith

    So let me get this straight. You call yourself an underwater “babe”, have a pic of yourself in a bikini, and you are upset that men treat you the way you act? Perhaps you should look no further than your mirror for someone to blame…

  3. CM

    Seriously? Women, and men, may choose to wear whatever they wish. What’s sad is the assumption you are making that it has to mean something. “Men treat you the way you act”? There is nothing in Merbabe’s photo that suggests she deserves to be talked down to, etc. That’s the equivalent of me treating you like scum because you have a scruffy beard and dirty jeans, for example. You are suggesting that if a woman chooses to wear a bikini that means you have the right to treat her a certain way. Bogus.

  4. MC

    I too noted the irony of this thread being posted in a blog called ” The Merbabe Adventures: adventures of an underwater babe,” and the fact that the supposedly ire-inspiring photo is not far removed from the banner photo directly above it. The very name of this blog is an overt sexualizatiion of the female diver, likely intended as a marketing ploy that is not unlike the one being complained about in this blog.
    That being said, what bothered me most about this piece was the single-minded conjecture involving the statistics.

    Yes, there are a higher percentage of male recreational divers – that is not in debate. However, not mentioned as a possible reason for that phenomenon in this article is the fact that recreational diving is an incredibly expensive sport, and the upper income bracket of western society is still very much male dominated. The sad fact is that single men are still more likely to be able to afford to pick up diving as a hobby than single women.

    A second possibility is the fact that dive tanks, lead weights and fins are HEAVY. Women are more likely to find this discouraging than men when deciding if this is a hobby they want to pursue. Anecdotally, having attended dive certification classes and having parents who were dive instructors, I have witnessed this first hand, as many of the women in my own class decided not to continue to pursue the sport due to the weight of the gear and the effect that had on their comfort level both in the water and entering and exiting. In many places, such as the region where I dive, diving is also very COLD – which is also likely to be more discouraging to women as it is to men, as the average woman is physiologically more prone to the cold than the average male.

    Lastly, and this is purely anecdotal, I’ve found that a good percentage of the men I dive with are middle-aged men who dive as an excuse to get away from their wives for the weekend – many of whom are skeezbags – and the reason for this notable phenomenon that there aren’t many attractive female scuba divers may very well be the fact that any woman who even remotely qualifies as semi-attractive instantly becomes bait for sexual advances and crude jokes from the sexually frustrated, middle-aged, white, high income boys club that is and has always been the established diving community – which includes dive instructors. It takes a special kind of woman to decide to say eff it and dish it back and put up with that crap.

    As to taking offense with the direction of marketing in recreational diving – pink and purple biases exist in all markets where women are involved, and you would be hard pressed to find a market-place in this generation that is not smeared with sexual advertisements. At this point most of us are jaded to it. I find it hard to believe that such things would offer a significant enough discouragement to prevent someone who has a passion for diving from engaging in the sport. It wasn’t enough to discourage you, was it? I believe that the above stated reasons are more likely to account for the difference in the male-female ratio of certified scuba divers.

    In reflection, Chauvinism is slowly being phased out in western society. Millennials like myself find it less tolerable than past generations. The places where that culture still persists are primarily the places where old, white men with money continue to hold dominion: congress, corporate leadership, and yes – the diving community. As those old men die and begin to be replaced by men and women of my generation I believe you will find those crumbling, old, narrow avenues will suddenly feel much wider. Perhaps this will reflect in the certified diving statistics. Perhaps it won’t.

  5. Good article and I don’t disagree with you… I did notice that it was a Woman that wrote the original article that’s posted on the PADI blog….Does this make it any different??

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