YOUR LETTERS 16 | telegraph | nautilusint.org
| March 2012
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Warsash dresses are no symbol of sexism...
I am shocked, appalled and, quite frankly angered, by the comments of J. A. Lockhart on the ‘Your letters’ page of February’s Telegraph. I am a woman, I worked at sea for 10 years, I studied at Warsash and I wore a dress for my passing out ceremony. I was not encouraged to — I was just given the choice, and some girls chose to wear uniform. In no way does my choice of attire for this ceremony refl ect on my career at sea, in the same way that my choice to wear a skirt to college while I studied at Warsash did not refl ect on my performance. I passed my HND with Distinctions, I passed my orals fi rst time (unlike some of my male counterparts) and I received excellent appraisal from the vessels I served on. I worked hard because I wanted to and because I could, not through some need to prove myself. I would argue that the views of J. A. Lockhart, by drawing attention to such a minor point of the attire of women attending a party, are just an attempt to keep the argument of women at sea alive. For the industry, and the attitudes of those in the industry, to move away from these sexist views we need to realise that this industry is now genderless and we need to stop referring to ‘women at sea’ — there aren’t just ‘brave women’ heading to sea any more,
there’s a few girly girls too and everything in between. When I got married I wore a big wedding dress. Would J. A. Lockhart also argue that we female seafarers should wear full uniform on our wedding days too? Women wearing dresses to events is a harmless tradition that allows those of us that wish to wear dresses to a party. When my husband (who is a chief engineer) and I attend some traditional black tie events he wears his uniform and I wear a dress. I would feel a complete plonker turning up to a friend’s wedding in my full uniform and honestly I wouldn’t be comfortable.
I believe the reverse of this argument would be that the lads would not feel comfortable if they were encouraged to wear dresses to the passing out ceremony — although by the end of the night at our ceremony my male class mates were dancing round a pile of handbags wearing our shawls and fascinators, while us girls stood at the bar drinking pints. Some women like to wear dresses — get over it. Name & no supplied
I write in response to the letter passing comment on the female offi cers not wearing uniform at their passing our ceremony in November 2011, which marks their offi cial graduation from
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Last month we asked: Do you think there is still a future for the ‘dual offi cer’ system?
Warsash Maritime Academy. As a unique celebration of successfully completing initial training and certifi cation, the passing out ceremony is actually arranged by an offi cer cadet organising committee and the formal dress code (mess undress or black tie) is decided by this committee. While the uniformed option has prevailed for most events held, the ladies decide whether to wear uniform or evening dress. Irrespective of whether offi cer cadets choose to wear uniform (some ladies do, incidentally), evening dress or national dress, what shines through in all of the graduates — be they male or female — is their enthusiasm for the career ahead and their pride in being part of the Merchant Navy and the heritage that comes with it. We can be equally proud of
the young men and women who choose to pursue careers at sea and in the wider maritime industry today — the future of the industry certainly rests securely in their hands. ANDREW HAIR Director, Warsash Maritime Academy
I was saddened that the contributor in the February issue did not appear to wish to celebrate the achievements of the next generation of female offi cers within the Merchant Navy. Their expression of disappointment that the photograph of the passing out ceremony had been published in the Telegraph could be viewed as disingenuous in the extreme. As one of the cadets passing out, I wish to point out it was a conscious decision on our part to attend in evening wear and not uniform. We are a new generation of female seafarers and do not feel we need to dress like our male counterparts in order to pander to outdated notions of sexism.
Having communicated with the female members of my intake at Warsash, we wish to make our view clear: ‘We are now in the new millennium and as female offi cers we are determined to celebrate diversity within our industry and believe that merit should be the distinguishing feature rather than dress (party frocks or otherwise).’ mem no 195022
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I read your star letter ‘Sink this symbol of MN Sexism’ from February’s Telegraph in surprise. As a female offi cer within the Merchant Navy, I have never felt that I had done myself a ‘disservice’, nor do I feel that what I wore on the night of my own
passing out ceremony bore any refl ection on sexism within my career. I have worked for various
companies and never found any element of sexism from what uniform I was issued to wear — as apart from occasionally having to wear a skirt, there is no difference.
I cannot recall any male
offi cers I have worked with asking to wear a uniform skirt instead of trousers as part of equal rights. The ceremony is held on land, not at sea. It is a celebration of three years’ hard work, organised by the students and staff. It is very similar to end-of-school balls, and from my own experience I cannot recall any female wearing a bow tie and a penguin outfi t for that either.
Most colleges do not celebrate the passing out of their cadets, and I was very proud to have attended my own at Warsash. Having just completed my chief mate’s course at the same college, it was nice to see the passing out photographs from over the years on the wall in the administration offi ce — frocks and all. It is clear to see how many more females are choosing the Merchant Navy for a career, which is positive. Having spent my cadetship with a company where the formal night attire was a sheer blouse, which not only looked 50 years out of date, but was also see-through, not to mention the unsightly cravat around your neck — I was relieved to choose my own attire for my passing out ceremony. Ladies, wear your dresses with pride, it is one of very few occasions you will get to! SABRINA DUNKERLEY mem no 189487
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Celestial celebration in the Caribbean
Please fi nd another ‘sunset’ photo attached, taken last year near Cuba from the Maersk Erimo. WILLEM KUIJS mem no 1189029
Goodness gracious! Please allow me to set the mind of J.A. Lockhart at rest. Anyone who has frequented the bar at one of the country’s nautical colleges recently on a Friday night will have witnessed fi rst hand the preferred ‘uniform’ of the boys and girls of the future British Merchant Navy before heading out for a night on the town. However radical some of their attire may seem, it is my guess it was their own choice and not that of the college or company concerned. CARL V. PARKIN mem no 180553
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