When September comes around, so does the Monaco Yacht Show. This tiny country to the south of France is a year-round haven for the lavishly rich; in fact one in three residents are millionaires. But it's the famous yacht show that really brings in the cash.
This show is a veritable playground for millionaires and billionaires who are in the market for their perfect yacht. Sofia Tindall, a freelance investigative journalist for Cosmopolitan UK, had the (un)fortunate opportunity to experience this annual trade show first hand. As a writer drawn to complex gender issues, Tindall's fiery piece on the yacht show for Cosmo UK was full of poignant observations. But in a recent conversation with SWAAY she was able to give us even more details on this patriarchal party capital.
"It felt like a completely different planet."
Though Tindall is no stranger to "wealthy environments," the degree of luxury on display at the yacht show was "overwhelming." As soon as she walked out of the train station, everything was about the money. The tradeshow showcased 121 yachts, the most expensive of which is valued at over $200 million euros with a weekly charter cost of $1.75 million, and the wealth ran even deeper than these massive ships. The tradeshow attracts an unprecedented number of wealthy professionals as a "super-charged environment to grow your business."
For many attendees, the Monaco Yacht Show is the place to spend money, but for some, in particular young women, the show offers a uniquely lucrative opportunity to earn it. Tindall recalls that "there were seven men to every three women," and generally these women weren't there to buy yachts. Amidst the thralling crowds of grey-haired men (the median age of attendees is 45 to 55) you are likely to find a few statuesque "twentysomething women." Some of these women are permanent features in Monaco but many more are simply trying to jazz up their resume with something "glamorous" and drink a few (or more) glasses of free champagne along the way.
With the gender representation skewing so distinctly male, it should come as no shock that the environment would be somewhat sexist, but what Tindall experienced there was truly otherworldly. And not in a good way. Though prostitution is legal in Monaco, at the Yacht Show this carried a different meaning for the women who worked at the events. One of the only two women entrepreneurs she met there advised her to be wary as a young woman entering this strange new world, "almost like a pre-warning,"
"This is a place where women are transactional, where women are like currency. And that was defined by the way people, especially men, talked about the women and why they were there." Tindall shares. "It almost became a sport for people to point out who they thought was a prostitute." This kind of interaction and behavior defined the atmosphere and set the tone. Even the working women were "treated [like] an attraction."
The majority of these women were simply hostesses, stewardesses or promotional girls. Tindall herself had taken on some promotional work on the last day of the show; all she had to do to qualify was tell them about her hobbies, share her Instagram handle, and submit her dress size. Though the form she filled out only gave the option of sizes 6-12.
The women of the Monaco Yacht Show are valued almost solely on their appearances. If the yachts are the gift, the women are the bow on top. At one point, Tindall played this part herself, though incidentally. Having been invited to brunch with Roberto, a yacht broker with "salt-and-pepper hair" reminiscent of an "old Italian grandfather" Tindal was guided by his arm around her waist and introduced as an "international diplomat." She spent hours with him and his clients, without ever truly understanding why she was even there. Before they all boarded a "dazzling four-tiered yacht," Roberto whispered in her ear: "Help me sell this boat." And to do that, all she had to do was pose for a few pictures and try to maintain a smile.
That was one of many experiences that was far different from what she was used to. Though she immersed herself in the wealthy lifestyle, working as a promo girl gave her the opportunity to also learn from her fellow women, later describing them as "incredible, smart [and] business-minded." She goes on to say how difficult their jobs were; on top of her responsibilities as an employee, Tindall found it exhausting having to constantly deal with different forms of harassment. "Guys would be grabbing you as you're walking along, pressing their business cards on you," she mentions. "It was almost like an offensive thing to say no." Additionally, it was extremely common for men to come up to women and ask what "price" they are. And despite all of that, these women, who are often categorized or seen as currency, worked hard.
"They were pushing for change in the ways that they could," she says. "I met women that were entrepreneurial in their own rights, their own fields."
Overall, the interactions between men and women were nowhere near what she was used to in London. But despite the circumstances (and the rampant sexism), Tindall clarified that she had a great time at the show. Her experience enlightened her to the fact that "the further you go up into wealth, the more institutionally patriarchal it becomes." And though the women she met there were all uniquely powerful, in the future she would love to see more women in the position of actually buying a yacht rather than acting as "window-dressing for the boat."
When we asked her about advice on how women can handle these types of situations at the Monaco Yacht Show, she provided these three tips:
WRITTEN BYChyna Inez Davis