One Florida

By Jennifer King
Featured Rightgrrl December 1998
April 21, 2000

In the past week, we have seen a great number of protesters - many of whom are not even Floridians, and more than a few of them notorious race baiters - get bussed into the Capitol in order to protest Governor Jeb Bush’s One Florida plan.

I can only relate to this group as an "oppressed minority" by relating my experience when I took up scuba diving in 1980. At that time, women comprised approximately 30% of all new scuba certifications. As I continued my education into the instructional field, women comprised about 20% of all new instructional candidates.

The standards we were given were rigourous, and were designed to test male candidates. (The scuba industry arose from the military "frogmen" of WWII) There was a group of female candidates that protested the standards on this basis, as well as on the fact that most women do not possess a ratio of upper body strength that is comparable to men.

However, those of us desirous for inclusion voted to accept the accepted standards - the same standards to which the men were held. We tired ourselves out. We froze off our collective behinds in the cold waters of Southern California. We were stoic, we didn’t complain - even when our waterproof mascara ran! In the end result, those of us that passed (over 80%) were acknowledged as respectible instructors; were respected for our knowledge; and were admired for our tenacity. Our biggest support came from those men who took the classes with us - and later, from other men who took our uncomprising instructor training classes.

These men knew that we had been held to the same standards as themselves. They knew, unequivocally, that we could be counted upon to tow them - or their students - through the surf. They didn’t doubt our abilities, they admired us as colleagues - because they knew we had all been through the same training.

However, let’s imagine that we - the women - had been held to a lower standard. Let’s hypothesize that women candidates were allowed to become instructors even when their scores on exercises would have failed the men. When we "passed" in this manner would it be any surprise that the men would resent us? After all, we had "passed" with lower skill levels, simply BECAUSE of our sex.

The pitfalls to this should be obvious. First, even qualified women instructors would be looked at with a touch of cynicism - "did she really pass, or did she skate?" Second, truly unqualified instructors would pose a hazard to themselves, their students and their fellow instructors. Third, the women themselves would feel inadequate - knowing that their training was not up to par. Also, isn’t it just a tad bit dehumanizing and demeaning to insinuate that we women couldn’t perform the same skills as the men?

Dr. Martin Luther King said he yearned for a society where people were judged, not by their color, but on their attributes. How then can his political descendents rally so strongly behind a system that judges people SOLELY on the color of their skin, and not on their personal attributes?

This article copyright © 2000 by Jennifer King and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.