In the fifteen years I spent as a professional riverguide around the world, on expedition trips lasting up to five days in inaccessible and remote wilderness, I was witness to a wide range of rowdy behavior. Riverguides are perceived as gods in these unique circumstances. For a starter, we’re in charge. We decide when to stop for the day, when to have lunch, every decision you can imagine. Because that is our job, it’s what we’re paid to do. The customers are in our care. Our job is to get them through safely and give them a great time. In that order.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to step in over the years to diffuse a tricky situation. After a long day rafting, with all of the adventure and excitement, sitting around the campfire after a good dinner, beer, wine and whiskey flowing like water, people get excited. They overstep the boundaries. A good proportion of the time the attention is very well received. Sometimes it’s not. That’s when I’d step in and quietly have a chat to one of the clientele. I wouldn’t embarrass them. I’d just gently but firmly make them understand that while everyone was here to have a good time, not everyone’s definition of a good time was the same. Sometimes I had to speak to guides too and remind them of their professional responsibilities.
Believe it or not, a lot of those conversations that I had were with women. And they were the hardest to pacify in these situations. When an aroused woman with a few drinks under her belt in the middle of the wilderness with no perceived repercussions has set her sights on a potential conquest, good luck standing in her way. I myself was on the receiving end of many unwanted advances under these types of circumstances. But it was part of the job. While men who have gone too far tend to revert to chastised boys, I found that women could get nasty. It was not uncommon for a rejected woman to poor scorn on her target’s manhood. This was not just an implication that his sexuality was suspect. It was all too routine for it to be disparaged.
While these circumstances were tricky it in no way detracted from my job. I didn’t get hung up on them in any way. I dealt with them and moved on. People do weird things when their psychological barriers and internal inhibitors are down. I’m not going to judge them on that.
Unlike some. The Huffington Post has an article out titled,
Out Here, No One Can Hear You Scream
The dangerous culture of male entitlement and sexual hostility hiding within America’s national parks and forests.
Male entitlement and sexual hostility? I read that and my bullshit detector goes up. Could it be that the Huffington Post has an agenda here? Well, the Huff Post as it is known, is as one-sided as a piece of buttered toast. It is quite simply a propaganda tool for the liberal left. A bastion of screaming SJW harpies. And the writer of the article is Kathryn Joyce. Joyce has good form in publishing anti-male hit pieces. Just scroll through that link and have a look. My personal favorite has to be, “Men’s Rights” groups have become frighteningly effective which is published on Slate, of course.
Joyce’s article is quite simply a total hit piece on men in the rafting industry. Over its inordinate length it goes into great detail on the awfulness of certain male riverguides who worked for the US Forest service. The propaganda takes off at the end of the second paragraph.
When Szydlo asked a coworker what Loeffler was like, the reply was cryptic: “You’ll see.”
No context is given to this so-called conversation as is no effort made to identify the supposed co-worker. This sets the scene for the entire piece. Joyce has taken several women at their word and published every one of their claims as if it were the Gospel truth. In the entire article not one effort was made to present the case for the accused men. It is as if they do not exist.
After setting the scene with more examples of horrible male behavior, Joyce goes into historical detail as to why the US Park service is a horribly sexist place.
This photo is included with the caption, Park ranger or Pan Am stewardess?, due to the fact that female rangers traditionally wore skirts. The implication is that this is a horrible sexist misogynist outrage which is then presented as clear evidence as to why the current service is a hotbed of the same.
Boatmen have almost total responsibility for their passengers—they keep the food and determine when and where to sleep, explore, or go to the bathroom. They also control the satellite phone, the only means of contact with the outside world.
The implication here is not that the guides are in control because that is their responsibility. The implication is that they are in control because they want to do bad things.
One of the female accusers is a woman named Cheyenne Szydlo. At the start of the article she recounts not heeding her guide’s advice and jumping into the water without her lifejacket which resulted in a bad swim. But this is spun into a recounting of how the guide had bad intentions towards her. Later in the piece,
After the scare in the rapids, she said, the uneasy balance between them shifted. Szydlo stopped laughing at his come-ons. Loeffler would sleep in late and then tell her they didn’t have time to visit her next work site. “This person was in complete control of everything I needed to survive,” she said. “I was terrified.” She began to formulate a plan to get out of the canyon if she needed to. “Even if there were trails to take, which in most places there were not, they’d land me in the middle of nowhere, in the desert, up on the rim,” she said. “I didn’t have enough food or water to attempt that.”
Was this woman an unwilling participant in a real life version of the movie The River Wild or was she a nut-job that made the life of the guide in question extremely difficult? We don’t know because we only have her side of the story. It is not at all difficult to twist around seemingly innocuous details to paint a biased picture.
Example after example are given, all without any attempt to balance the article with a presentation of the male half of the story. But the most interesting part of the article comes towards the end:
On the last night, the party celebrated with dinner and drinks. A woman who worked for a private boat company produced a novelty penis-shaped straw she’d received at a bachelorette party and dropped it in a colleague’s drink. People laughed and passed the straw around. At one point, Lynn was holding it when Loeffler tried to take her picture … Two days later, Anne and Lynn were called into the offices of upper management and informed that they’d been accused of sexual misconduct. In written statements, Loeffler and two of his friends claimed that Anne and Lynn had shoved the penis straw in Loeffler’s face, danced provocatively in short skirts, and, as one complainant put it, behaved “coquettishly” throughout the trip.
So two of the women who were making accusations against the guides, in this case the male was Loeffler, afterwards danced provocatively and pushed a penis straw in his face. These women had previously made confidential allegations against this guide, of which he knew nothing. Ask yourself this question; who makes sexual harassment claims against someone and then afterwards dances provocatively at them in public with a penis straw?
To say that this seriously undermines the previous harassment claim is putting it mildly. But the guide was smart. Loeffler himself made a complaint against the women which was acted upon. The two women subsequently lost their jobs.
In a meeting, Lynn said Chalfant told her that Loeffler’s charges couldn’t be retaliatory, since Lynn’s previous sexual harassment complaint was confidential. Both Lynn and Anne were informed that their contracts would not be renewed. In Lynn’s termination letter, Chalfant wrote, “We cannot afford to have team members in our employment who are not on board with management’s expectations and requirements.”
Could it be possible, just a little bit possible, that these two women would have a serious agenda and an axe to grind here? And why was Lynn’s complaint kept confidential but Loeffler’s was not?
“What happened to [Lynn] was the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen,” said Chelly Kearney, who had made her own efforts to draw attention to the treatment of women on the river.
We are not informed why it is horrifying for a woman to be fired for sexual harassment. It is just simply so.
Some former park employees now ruefully refer to the fateful party as “The Night on Cock-Straw Beach,” and the incident became an unlikely rallying point.
It is beyond belief that a sexual harassment episode of women towards men is then turned around and used as a rallying point by women to seek out so-called male harassers.
Was the cock-straw incident harassment? I don’t know, but I sincerely doubt it. Just like I doubt all of the other episodes in this article. As I said at the beginning of this piece, unwanted behavior happens on these trips but in the vast majority of cases it is dealt with there and then as it should be. If you begin labeling these instances as harassment then you better be prepared for the pendulum to swing the other way.
The Huff Post article is a hit piece on male riverguides. And it won’t stop there. Unfortunately this will just be the beginning. Just another episode in the Marxist cultural war between the sexes. I for one do not automatically believe these women’s claims. I am not so quick to crucify in public with no possible recourse the reputations of these men. Unfortunately it would seem that many of my fellow boaters have taken the article at its word. Such is the price paid when such biased propaganda is presented routinely as fact.