Pink + Blue = Purple

If you want to read other cruisers posts on this topic you can find them here or here.
This was a difficult topic for me to write about even though I had the advantage of being able to read what others had to say on the topic before writing this post. I've written before on topics close to this one. I've talked about how I am not an admiral and my struggle to find like-minded chicks in the cruising community.

Carol and I only have pink and blue jobs in the sense that we jokingly refer to anything I do as pink, anything he does as blue and anything we both do as purple (pink + blue = purple). This leads to pink jobs such as fiberglassing, blue jobs such as floor washing and purple jobs like oil changes and bread making.
Although most couples cross over gender lines a little, we find ourselves among a minority in the cruising world in which our jobs are pretty thoroughly mixed. We don't try to be equal in any forced or systematic way. Like most couples, we look at the list of to do items, play to our strengths and try not to saddle each other with any of our personal "most hated" tasks. We both know all of the navigational, weather, sailing and safety systems on the boat, not for safety reasons although that is important, but because we are both genuinely interested.

I think there are three primary reasons that gender roles come up so often in cruising publications and forums:
1) Women who were land-based powerhouses struggle with the realization that the strengths they bring to their cruising team are primarily pink.
2) Women who fall into pink roles, or desire pink roles, feel judged for doing so.
3) Women who don't fall into pink roles feel that pink roles are expected of them.

I want to add my thoughts on #3 to the mix.

We are a boat without a strong dose of pink. We don't care a lot about decorating. Neither of us is willing to cut our day of playing short in order to make something fancy for the potluck and so we only manage to do so on slow days.

I feel the pressure to be pink even though I am certain some of it is self-induced. I feel the pressure when people compliment me on the bread that Carol made. I feel the pressure when most of the women proudly unveil delicious dishes for the potluck and we have opened a jar of garlic stuffed olives or a big pot of rice because we were out kiteboarding all day. I see the women noting each dish placed on the table, helping to organize the flow of food, while the men (and I) talk about other stuff on the side (it will all work out, right?). On the slow days when I've made something fancy as well, because I do enjoy cooking, I feel a disturbing sense of relief at having met expectations permeate my normal sense of accomplishment at a fun task.

I feel abnormal when a fellow cruiser asks Carol if I am enjoying the chance to do some shopping (I like shopping?). I feel a little odd when, at a gathering on a new boat, I am looking around deck at how the lines are run and notice that all of the women at a gathering have skipped the exterior and gone down below to look at the interior.

I imagine that this same pressure is felt in reverse by guys who aren't terribly interested in blue things. Guys who don't find talking about engine bits interesting. Carol has always found it funny when someone asks him about something that I installed.

Finally, I wanted to add my own agreement to Behan's frustration that the dichotomy is still in place. Not ignoring that there are still gender roles, or that people fall into them, but that we still bother to think about boat jobs that way. I'm including myself in that. The reality is that almost no boat divides exactly along gender lines and almost no task on a boat is completely pink or completely blue.

If we think of a task as pink or as blue, as his or as mine, does that limit us from having the opportunity to try new tasks later in our cruising lives? Will we get stuck in pink and blue, mine and his ruts?


  1. I'll take some of the credit, or blame for this one. When you were growing up that's how we ran our house chores list... not by sex but by what needed to be done. Your dad made a point of showing you how to do "blue" things as normal. You learned oil changes, basic electrical, power tools, etc.

    Guess it came in handy.

  2. Cruisers after my own heart. Thank you for your candor. I am that guy, the only guy down below with the women noticing whether or not the bench (or lazarette) cushions pick up the hue of the woodwork and whether or not the color pops are coordinated. As for how the lines are run, "backward" is good enough for me. I didn't ask to be this way, it's just what I got. I sympathize completely with your sense of frustration and/or amusement at being pigeon-holed into a traditonal gender roles.

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  4. I think as you get more comments on this you will find you are not as much in the minority as you think. Throwing another (probably incorrect) generalization out there, I've seen the gender split more in retirement age cruisers and less so in our age group. I found as Nicole learned about the various systems on boats, her questions went from "how does that look" to "how does that work". We are both pretty critical and are happy to point out an ugly boat, but more often we return from visiting other boats and talk about the various systems we observed during our visit. As far as dividing up the jobs on our boat, it's limited more by which of us knows how to do particular things, and as Nicole learns more about repairs and I learn to cook more than mac and cheese, the overlap of purple jobs grows. This will be a good thing in our future as we throw caring for an infant into the mix as a first priority, and see who ends up doing the other jobs as they are needed.

  5. I love this!!! This is sooo how CB and I are...we each have a list of things we want to accomplish and just go for it. We are now working on opposite ends of the boat and working toward the middle...although I do tend to get all the nasty things...bildge, head, sanding and varnishing. Good post!

  6. As you know from a past rant - we feel the same way on our boat. Honestly, I'd rather eat plain rice and hear about your adventures kite boarding than know you stayed aboard to cook something grand just to measure up. :)

  7. Wow, we have been following you both since you joined the Wauquiez group.
    Thank you for your great job of sharing where you were and what you saw and felt.
    This post strikes home; I think that who we feel we are, pink or blue depends on our interests, how we were raised (as Valerie pointed out), where we are in life and who we are with.
    Personally, I married a woman who loves tools almost as much as me, but she brings experiences that I do not have and likewise, I bring experience that she does not have.
    Together, we can get anything done. And isn't that the key, complimentary attributes. We share and learn from each other. That makes us stronger as a team, and it makes our time together more pleasant because we know what to expect from the other.
    I am quicker at some things, she at others. I don't worry about what color the job is. If I can do it and have the time I do. Likewise, if she can do the job and has time, she does.
    it doesn't get better than that.

  8. @Valerie - I blame you and Dad for buying me (and Josh) our own toolboxes and letting both of us put barrettes in your hair ;)
    @Ean - Next party, we can swap name tags!
    @Hans38 - Carol usually gets the bilge but because I do it occasionally I'll call it purple.
    @Kyra - We have a rice date!
    @Cole - Totally agree. We self-label as "team giddyup" for similar reasons. It's just about getting it done and having fun.

  9. I think we have a pretty good mind meld going. Can I tell you how much I loved the "I am not an Admiral" post? Put a little more rice in the pot for me for a date with you and Kyra. :)



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