'That's What She Said' -- Sarah Spain Cruises With The Gronks
This past weekend Rob Gronkowski's inaugural Gronk Boat party cruise sailed from Miami to the Bahamas for three days of island-hopping, concerts and fun. Before the boat ever left port, the imaginations of intrigued landlubbers had already gone wild. Sex, drugs and body shots on the open seas! Creepy "bros," objectified women, players behaving badly! Once photos and videos from the cruise started to hit social media, those back on shore tried their best to spin them into something that might fit those expectations. Unfortunately, they didn't get much to work with, just scene after scene of people enjoying some good old fashioned (occasionally drunken) fun and displaying some incredibly entertaining dance moves.
From what I've read and heard since returning to shore, the narrative about the Gronk Boat seems to have been built entirely by people who weren't on it. Everybody from media hoping to expose some sort of wrongdoing by a famous NFL player to everyday people "concern trolling" over their imagined treatment of women on the boat. One tweeter said it was hypocritical for me to be a feminist and go on the Gronk Boat. Others asked why "any woman" would ever want to go on the trip.
What is it about a party cruise that's inherently "sexist?" I can't think of a damn thing. The insinuation that a woman going on a party boat is setting herself up for chauvinism is frankly insulting -- to both men and women. Frozen drinks, tropical weather, private beaches, intimate concert venues and dance parties are pretty universally liked; there's no reason why men should enjoy them freely while women are judged. Let's give all those "concerned" folks out there the benefit of the doubt that they don't believe that women just drinking and dancing is problematic. So if it's not the idea of a party cruise itself that's troubling, then it must be a party cruise with the Gronkowski family, right?
So what is it about the Gronks that makes some people imagine the worst? Is it just the neon outfits, the big muscles and the crazy amounts of energy? Part of the reason the Patriots' tight end is so beloved by fans is that he's fun-loving and down to party, but never comes across as mean-spirited, lascivious or creepy. He's perhaps the greatest tight end the game has ever seen, stays out of legal trouble and enjoys a good party in the offseason. Unless you're the kind of person who gets worked up over that one picture of him with a porn star a few years back, you'd be hard-pressed to find something he's done that's controversial. And while his Zubaz, tank tops and vocabulary ("chicks" and "bros" are two of his favorite words) might be a bit meatheaded, he's not someone who's earned a reputation for sexism or misogyny.
Men who like to work out, dance and party should not automatically be implicated as part of the "bro culture" that's become a talking point in recent years. Real, damaging "bro culture" excludes and alienates women and minorities, makes for an uncomfortable and sometimes hostile workplace or classroom, and isn't something to be taken lightly. It's unfair to point to the Gronkowski family as part of that problem, particularly when the Gronk Boat was remarkably inclusive and friendly to all.
From the two widows in their 60s who love the Patriots to the pre-teen boys who kept popping up at the concerts with their parents, everyone was invited to dance, jam out to the live performances and have fun. The concert stage wasn't restricted to "hot girls," there weren't VIP rooms where the celebrities disappeared all day and night, and there were no standbys of "Spring Break" culture like body shots, wet T-shirt contests or the like.
The boat seemed to take on the persona of its namesake, with everyone mirroring Gronk's innocent, fun-loving attitude. No fights, no name-calling and no cliques. Just people having fun, making new friends and partying together. I know that might sound impossible, but don't you think you'd be in a pretty good mood if you and your friends were partying with your favorite player and a handful of famous musicians on a beautiful ship in perfect weather?
Maybe it's more fun to hear people speculate about a nightmare scenario than believe someone who was actually there, but why hope for the worst? With our country perhaps more divided than ever, can't we celebrate the magical moments when people forget their differences and just embrace the good stuff? And if Gronk's ridiculous dance moves, an insanely entertaining Flo Rida concert, a couple of daiquiris and a 24-hour buffet are enough to get 750 people all jamming to the same beat, then I say "Where do I sign up for next year?"