DeeperBlue.com stopped by the History of Diving Museum booth at DEMA Show 2018 to chat with Jill Heinerth and Renee Power about their book, “Women Underwater: The Comprehensive Guide for Women in Scuba Diving.”
Renee and Jill got the inspiration when they were co-teaching a cave diving course that just happened to have an all-female enrollment.
“It was a different experience than with men.”
And it was enough to start them thinking about the many ways that diving is different for women. Eventually, that germ of an idea became their book, which covers everything from practical concerns like gear and dive medicine, but also cultural concerns like sexism and unequal access.
“We wish we didn’t have to write it, that we lived in a world where it was irrelevant.”
But we don’t. For instance, although market research indicates that women make over 50% of the scuba gear-buying decisions (even when the gear isn’t for them), it is only in recent years that manufacturers have really started really designing wetsuits for women instead of just adapting men’s suits. Not until Jill herself spent one DEMA running around the show floor with a tape measure, demonstrating to manufacturers how women’s bodies have different torso proportions and head-to-neck ratios than men. They gave a shout-out to Aqualung and Dive Rite as industry leaders when it comes to women’s gear.
Though it covers the specific concerns of women in the dive industry, the book isn’t just for ladies. Men who operate dive boats, scuba shops, or gear designers can all benefit from considering and addressing the needs of their female customers. In rescue scenarios, for example, when a smaller person might be called upon to rescue a larger person, it becomes important to find adaptive techniques and strategies. Or aboard a boat, using the bathroom is usually a lot simpler for men than women, and if you want women to spend their money diving with your organization, these are the little everyday details to consider.
“Most people just haven’t thought of it. We don’t want to be man-haters.”
And for the most part it seems their message has been well-received. They estimate that 95% of the feedback they get is positive and supportive. The other 5% holds that even writing such a book is unnecessarily divisive, but a male reviewer defends the book, advising that if a book about women’s experiences in diving makes you uncomfortable, you should ask yourself why. Clearly this is an issue that matters to the dive community — Jill’s 2015 article in Diver Magazine, “Sexism: Alive and well in scuba diving“ is their most-read article of all-time by a large margin.
If you’re on the DEMA Show floor this week and interested in learning more about how women experience diving and the dive industry, stop by their booth to pick up a copy. For readers at home, it’s available on their website and Amazon for US$34.95/£27.35/€30.84.
It’s not too early to start Holiday shopping for the mermaids in your life!