There’s a lot of conversation these days about gender equality with respect to income, career opportunities, education, and many other arenas of life. However, we tend to give it very little thought when it comes to participation in our hobby. Let’s face it, the perception—if not the reality—of the gender ratio in the marine aquarium hobby is that it’s largely tipped in favor of males.
But if this is true, why is it so? After all, there’s nothing inherently masculine about keeping fish and corals in glass or acrylic boxes. What is it that seemingly discourages many women from getting involved or, if they are hobbyists, from getting their voices and opinions heard just as much—or as loudly—as their male counterparts do?
As regular Saltwater Smarts visitor Louise Maggs helpfully points out, there are some persistent myths and misconceptions floating around out there that might be inhibiting women from participating fully in our salty pastime. That really got me thinking, so I’d like to dedicate today’s post to a discussion of those myths as I perceive them and invite all of you—whatever your gender—to weigh in with your thoughts.
Myth #1: Women just aren’t interested in marine aquariums
Anyone who has attended a major hobby conference (such as MACNA, which is coming to Washington, DC in just a few weeks) or spent any time perusing online forums or blogs knows this is patently false. Heck, just looking back at the comments I’ve received here at Saltwater Smarts over the past few weeks, I can see that quite a few of them were submitted by females. Clearly, gender has nothing to do with finding sea life fascinating and wanting to reproduce a slice of the marine realm in one’s own living space.
Still, there must be something underlying this perception. I suspect the gender ratio in our hobby resembles that of your average Rush concert (I should know, having seen them on every tour since 1982) not because women don’t find marine life interesting but because, for one reason or another, they don’t feel welcome here in the hobby. And that may have a lot to do with some of the other myths on my list, such as…
Myth #2: Women want to drive a wedge between their husbands/boyfriends and the hobby
Let’s call this one the “Marine Aquarium Yoko Myth”—you know, the perception that a hobbyist’s wife or girlfriend views his aquarium as competition for his time and attention and, so, attempts to sabotage his involvement at every turn. Are there some women that feel/act this way? I suppose so. But that certainly has not been my experience. I’ve been married to the same woman going on a quarter century now (we’ve known each other since grammar school), and she’s never been anything but supportive of my involvement in this hobby. In fact, one of her first gifts to me back when we were just dating was a 55-gallon tank and stand—hardly an attempt at sabotage!
Myth #3: Women resent the expense and/or mess of a marine aquarium
There’s no question that marine aquariums can take up/mess up living space and rack up the bills. So, when two people share a home and budget, there’s always a possibility that the addition of a marine tank to the scene will cause some tension and resentment, particularly if one of the two is a non-hobbyist or simply less interested than the other. But this can happen whether the dedicated hobbyist in the scenario is male and the non-hobbyist female or vice versa.
Falling back on personal experience, I have the good fortune of being married to someone who is extremely tolerant of my involvement in the hobby. Owing to my ever-present tanks (though I’m now down to just one), she’s never had a functional dining room in all the years we’ve been married. Besides that, recognizing how important this hobby is to me, she’s always been very indulgent when it comes to opening the purse strings to buy necessary items—even if it sometimes means making sacrifices in other areas.
Myth #4: Women are only interested if their husband/boyfriend is interested
I’m sure there are relationships in which this is the case, but more and more women today are taking an active interest in the marine aquarium hobby regardless of whether or not they have a husband/boyfriend who shares their interest. As I mentioned, we see this quite frequently right here at Saltwater Smarts.
What’s your take on saltwater gender equality?
So, fellow salties—men and women alike—those are my thoughts on saltwater gender equality. Now it’s time to tell us what you think! Let us know in the comment section below.