Saturday 28 March 2015

Seasickness haha - and gender

'Hilarious' Seasickness: comic postcard representations of mobility's crucial cost, 1910-1960.

This is the title of a seminar I'll be giving for Liverpool University's Centre for Port and Maritime History.

It's on Wednesday 15 April 2015 at 5-6.30pm in Committee Room 5 in the Management School, Chatham Street, L69 7ZH. Contact +44 (0)151 795 3000 Email:

Seasickness is, or was, the elephant in the room for voyagers in the days before stable ships and effective motion sickness cures.
Seaside humour-type postcards were one of the few areas where the subject was raised.
A genre of popular art as well as text message-like communication, these cards were in a sense anti-cruise brochures. They aired a silenced aspect of the new phenomenon, recreational sea travel, i.e. sometimes unspeakable physical unease.
In a highly illustrated presentation I explore these postcards as a commercially-mediated way of discussing matter out of place: illness where there was supposed to be consumer pleasure at mobility.

Although I won't be focusing on gender, I started investigating this subject because it was gendered.
And I will be briefly discussing gendered representation in the postcards.

For example we see:
~ men, not women, as the main sufferers
~ female partners as breezy and blithe. They usually don't grasp that he thinks he's dying
~ no women seafarers, just non-seasick male stewards and officers
~ shared queasiness creates female-male liaisons. In other words, it's an odd chat-up opportunity.

Most cards (I collected them via eBay)weren't postally used. And almost none refer to mal-de-mer.
The one that does so most explicitly is from a woman on land., in August 1920, wishing her friend wasn't suffering like the poor chap featured in the postcard.

Women maritime leaders: new book

This month sees the launch of a new book: Maritime Women: Global Leadership. It's from the World Maritime University (WMU, sometimes jokingly nicknamed Women's Maritime University as its positive discrimination policies have been so successful)

The publisher, Springer's, website says the book:
~ Is the first book of its kind to focus on women in the maritime sector at a global level
~ Offers inter-disciplinary approach to gender issues in shipping
~ Covers women’s leadership in various maritime roles
~ Contains the overview of women's integration into the maritime sector

The editors are (see pictures, left to right) Dr Momoko Kitada (who has already written very interestingly about how women seafarers manage their identity strategies) Cdr Erin Williams of the US Coastguard and WMU lecturer Dr Lisa Loloma Froholdt.

The blurb says 'Even 20 years after the Beijing Declaration gender-related challenges at work still remain in the maritime sector, for example, lack of gender policy, difficulty in work-life balance, access to education, and leadership opportunities.

'The book addresses a series of recommendations that may further help the integration of women into the maritime sector.'


This seems a very good idea as women are still only 2 per cent of the world's maritime labour force.

Although WISTA International is very effective at networking women at the business end of the maritime spectrum, there are few women doing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs actually out sea.

Committed women making maritime policy can help bring on the woman captains and chief engineers, at long last.

* It would be good if the publishers made the price more accessible: who can afford that £100 price ticket?

Saturday 21 March 2015

Singapore Navy woman captain

(Lim Huay Wen image from

Today's Borneo Post has just published a light interview with commanding officer Lim Huay Wen. This week she met naval leaders from other countries at the military-industrial showcase event LIMA'15, Malaysia's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.

At a time when seagoing women high-flyers are still unusual in the naval world, Captain Lim was saying what many women in command of ships have been stressing for over four decades now: women's competence to command ships is not remarkable.
In her very positive and tactful account Captain Lim didn't go on to say, as women pioneers often do, that although women's competence may be equal (or even superior) to that of men, their opportunities to exercise their competence are not yet equal enough.
Women ashore, however, are involved at the highest levels of maritime security, including anti-piracy.

In talking to women maritime pioneers I've repeatedly found that they feel the press make much - too much - of women who've broken through barriers, or tried to. And too often at sea women are taken as signs of what other women are and could become (even though Lim's male counterparts would not be seen as symptomatic of all men, of course.)
It puts pressure on women to be unnaturally exemplary.

'Commanding officer Lim raises women’s pride at sea:
LANGKAWI: Lt. Col. Lim Huay Wen is no ordinary female officer in the Singaporean Navy. She is, in fact, the commanding officer of one of the republic’s frigate vessels.
At 35, Lim, who was appointed as the commanding officer of the Republic of Singapore Ship (RSS) Stalwart in January this year, is among the few women who had reached such heights in their naval career.“Definitely I’m not the first as there had been a few (female officers) before me who had commanded a navy ship,” she said when met during the opening ceremony of a Multinational Maritime Security Exercise 2015, in conjunction with the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA’15) here.

Lim was easily distinguished at the event as the hall for the ceremony was filled mostly by male officers but she apparently had no qualms about the situation.“It is not about gender. It’s all about capabilities,” she said.
Lim said she joined the Singapore Navy in 1999 after completing her national service and her family had been supportive of her decision.“As a woman, I want to do my part by joining the navy and my parents were very supportive of my decision,” she said.From then on she never looked back and rose up the ranks which offered her the opportunity to travel and experience the world beyond her homeland.
Since joining the navy, her tour of duty included a counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Eden and a military exercise in Hawaii.“As a commanding officer, this (the maritime security exercise in Langkawi) is my first deployment and I am looking forward to more deployments in the future,” she said.


Lim said her longest mission on a ship had been for 103 days when she was in the Gulf of Eden.
“Life on a ship is no different whether you are a male or female (officer). It’s (the atmosphere was) a tight knit situation and we are just like in a family with teamwork and working together to achieve a common goal,” she said. While it had been a smooth sailing career for her for the last 16 years, she said that she had learnt a lot along the way and her trip to Langkawi was no exception.

“LIMA’15 was my first experience to meet other navies from other countries. Meeting them really makes me think that life in the navy is very valuable.
“Whether you are from Singapore, Malaysia, United States or India (some of the countries taking part in the exercise), we are all the same. We as seafarers share the same understanding,” she said.


Lim, who had a crew of more than 75 personnel under her command in RSS Stalwart, said opportunities were aplenty for women to succeed in the naval career.
She said her career had so far taught her that there was no gender competition in the navy and everyone was judged based on merits.
“As long as you are ready to do the job, the chance to command a ship would be there,” she said.

She said that those who joined the navy were those who wanted to do their part for their love of their country.
“If you are adventurous and you want to get a taste of the world, this (the navy) is a place where you can grow up and contribute to society,” she added as an advice to other young ladies aspiring to follow her footsteps. — Bernama'

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