Yesterday I had a gut busting, lively talk with a Warrior Woman out of Washington State, a fellow adventure traveler, kayaker, skydiver, and uber sportswoman some twenty years younger. This woman, I’ll call her Beth, has three boys who are about to head to college. She currently is the Director of Marketing for a South Asian-based travel company.
I’d reached out to her to link arms as I am building my new website and Facebook page which focuses on getting women over forty fit and into adventure travel. I need resources like Beth so that I can funnel my tribe towards her when they indicate interest in a particular sport, location, or need exercise advice. Beth is a fitness trainer, which makes my interest in her even stronger.
We spent more than an hour laughing uproariously. Two fit, world-traveled, outspoken women comparing notes about sports, men, and what it’s like dealing with the uber agro-, ego- centric world of adventure travel.
Beth, who is a very competent kayaker, reported a trip where she said that when her group got together, all the men “laid their d–ks on the table” and bragged about their kayaking ability. The next day, on the whitewater, those very people were the most scared and the least competent. I have seen this on every single trip I’ve ever taken, every skydiving drop zone, every horseback riding trip. The Mouth is the mouse.
As she is also an uber-competent mountain biker, she takes delicious pleasure when taking out a group of people, complete with twenty-something guys, who like to give her advice on how to jump the rock gardens. They are very condescending.
Girls can’t possibly know anything about mountain biking.
The way she explained it to me, through a grin, was how much she loved heading down the mountain at speed, coming up behind one of these guys ( who is going way too slowly), “tapping his back wheel and asking him to get the HELL OUT OF THE WAY, PLEASE.”
And he eats dust.
After working extremely hard with other women like her to get a highly accomplished female filmmaker in front of a group of (mostly male) adventure travelers at a conference, the emcee introduced the woman as having won her country’s beauty queen title many years prior. That had nothing whatsoever to do with her long list of film awards, her Emmies, her competence. The women sucked in their collective breaths and seethed.
Yah. You think? And the decades-old bathing suit competition had WHAT to do with her Emmy awards, precisely?
Beth’s husband, approaching sixty, complains that he doesn’t feel valuable any more. His many sisters gang up on Beth and accuse her of not taking care of her husband (what, he can’t microwave his own dinner? run the washing machine?) and she no longer can attend in-law events. What he doesn’t realize, and what his sisters don’t get, is that his opportunity for growth has nothing to do with being a provider. BMOC. The traditional roles. That’s not what she needs from him. He needs to redefine his role as a partner. As in, possibly, ask her what she needs. What a novel idea.
Her Asian company manager refuses to listen to her when she sends him very competent female American hikers of a Certain Age. These women – paying clients- get insulted (I’ve been there) are condescended to and even made fun of. Yet they are in terrific shape, athletic and perfectly able to do very challenging hikes and adventures. This man is losing market share, yet he will not listen to Beth. Part of the reason is the the fastest growing market for adventure travel is women, and in particular, women between 40-70. He’ll be out of business soon, so Beth is searching for another alternative. This man needs to redefine his role as a company owner. He won’t.
Being a Warrior Woman isn’t about being like a man or competing with them. This isn’t the 80s. It’s about living our dreams. She’s a dedicated mom, full of love and passion. As much as she’s a hard- core athlete, the second anyone got injured she’d become the most compassionate person in the world. We don’t turn that off just because we love these sports, decide to live out loud. Take care of ourselves in the wild. We’re still women. Girls. Mothers. Daughters. Aunts. Lovers.
And we still love to dress up and look gorgeous. You better believe it.
Men who are threatened by this don’t get the point. And they’re missing the opportunity here.
Traditional roles have been changing for a long time. Warrior Women like Beth find our deepest satisfaction living extraordinary lives. What she’s teaching her kids is to appreciate a powerful woman who lives life on her own terms. That’s a gift. Trying to dampen or rein in that spirit will shove her right out the door. The South Asian company owner will lose a precious resource. Her husband could lose a partner if he doesn’t see the opportunity to climb a different mountain.
That mountain is all about emotional maturity. We don’t need to be financially supported, or protected from the Bad Bad World. We aren’t Sleeping Beauty. We aren’t the idiot female running from the bad guy who trips in the woods and can’t get up. We’re the one who clocks the bad guy who’s running from US in the woods.
What’s available is true interdependence. Two very strong people adding value to each other. Valuing what makes each other extraordinary.
Appreciating this shift and the opportunity it gives men to explore different spheres of their nature is what is on the table. And yes, it’s hard. We know that.
The balance of knowing when to comfort, and when to watch us leap off the cliff is part of learning how to deal with the Warrior Woman.
There are more of us coming all the time. Better get used to having us around, guys.