Reading the Fine Print in These Books, It's Women and Children First

By Compiled From News Services | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 29, 1997 | Go to article overview

Reading the Fine Print in These Books, It's Women and Children First


Compiled From News Services, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Anna Seaton Huntington's "Making Waves" (Summit, $19.95), the story of the 1995 women's America's Cup team, provides an anchor for an episode that, until now, has been drifting in a sea of stories about women's sports. Was the team an advancement for all female athletes, as it was packaged by promoters, or is yachting simply so out of the average person's reach that the challenge of the Mighty Mary came off like a high-tech spectacle of riches with little relevance to anyone not on board?

The female sailors are portrayed as hard-core athletes, but "Making Waves" is not really about a courageous team effort. Rather, Huntington's cautionary tale is about the kind of charade of feminism that today's elite female athletes are susceptible to as women's strength is packaged and pandered to by marketplace forces: Men from the wealthy team owner down to the sailing coaches to the key fund-raisers called the shots on and off the yacht.

Huntington, an Olympic rower-turned-journalist, was asked by team owner Bill Koch to be part of the women's team. When she joins the women's team as a grinder, sailing's "beast of burden," she is both an outsider and the consummate insider. Huntington doesn't know much about sailing, but she has the explosive muscle power it takes to grind a crank that keeps the sails moving smoothly. Much of the book's drama - the play-by-play from the sea, the interpersonal dynamics on deck, the mechanics of the yacht, and the burning desire to beat the overtly sexist sailing giant Dennis Conner - serves as backdrop to the story of the team's voyage into the stormy, murky waters of gender politics in the 1990s. Her theory - that the leadership void among the female sailors aboard the Mighty Mary was created by men who set up the pyramid structure of the team with themselves at the top - is convincingly set out. …

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