One for the ladies

The un-PC world of sixties boat advertising

Flicking through several pre-war motor boat magazines, I was taken by the targeting of adverts to an almost exclusively male audience, whether owner or skipper; the ability to navigate choppy waters and arrive in good shape, would be simplified if you made the best choice of builder, engine, radio and so on.

For the most part women were none existent in this story, occasionally seen sitting in the background, but when they did come to the front they were depicted as favoured guests, enjoying the event in a passing and genteel capacity.

No surprise in any of that, but what did strike me, was the way in which women were treated politely and with a sense of reverence.

Spin forward two or three decades to a supposedly more enligthedned time and one would expect to find a more balanced presentation. This was a post-war era, where women had proven themselves equal in design, manufacture and navigation of all sorts of machinery – from plowing fields to delivering aircraft and going behind enemy lines.

Sadly the opposite is true and the respectful treatment of women has transformed into something altogether more ephemeral… British Anzani, no doubt taking its lead from US WWII pin-ups, tells us she is well away – is the motor easy to start or is she one strong lady, I wonder? Neither I fear.

It was a short stroll from that to the era of bikini clad decorating vessels all over the London Boat Show. What on earth did accompanying wives at the time think about this I wonder? Or was it (as someone once explained to me) rather different… “You see David, the Boat Show died after it left Earl’s Court, because the women could go clothes shopping in Kensington, while the man bought a boat.” Discuss!