Yesterday the Front Range Outdoor Women’s Alliance featured a video of Bolivian Aymara women who decided to climb a frigid, snowy peak. Huge skirts flowing, swinging their ice axes overhead, they made their steady way to the summit, then stood in a happy line and waved to the camera. It a simply lovely piece of film-making that demonstrates what determination can do in the face of male resistance.
These women, ranging in age from 20 to 50, determined that they simply wanted to know what it was like to stand on top of the mountain, then flew in the face of their machismo culture.
Good for them.
However, as any woman has learned who has ever braved exploration where men like to believe we don’t belong, there can a bitter price to pay.
Ostracization, both by men and other women, denigration, abuse, and, of course, sexual harassment and that good old standby, outright rape.
Ask any Outlier what it’s like to enter the Hallowed Halls of Guydom. What happens when you dare to do what the guys do, do it well, or the height of insults, do it better?
In the world of online gaming, for example, long seen as a community for males only, women gamers – and most especially younger women gamers who are good at it-are targets for particularly vicious abuse. Not by everyone, mind you. Research has shown that there is a segment of the male community that feels emasculated by talented women, and they target these competent gals apparently in order to reestablish their damaged manhood. ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3454588/Women-gamers-reveal-vile-online-abuse-receive-DAY-men-say-kitchen.html)
This is hardly new news. Whether it’s the military, the newsroom, any industry where males have held sway for lo these many years, where women have made inroads and not only been damned good at the job but in some cases been better at men, the anger can be breathtaking. For example, doctors (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/19/506144346/patients-cared-for-by-female-doctors-fare-better-than-those-treated-by-men). The results are in. The resentment is real.
In the elevated world of rock climbing, 19-year-old Margo Hayes nailed the single hardest piece of rock on earth in Spain. Most male climbers couldn’t dream of this accomplishment. The resentment that boils up among her male counterparts is often expressed in sexual attacks. They want to nail her for doing what they couldn’t. The honorable men- those who are close to her in competence- only see her as a superb athlete. She has rightfully earned her chops at the top of the pantheon of Olympic climbing. Queen of the Mountain.
Resentment against women for joining the military has long been expressed through sexual attacks. It’s no different in huge corporations, blue collar jobs where women are wielding heavy tools and machinery, working on oil rigs. Wherever they are new, they are being harassed. Especially if they are good at what they do, or commit the ultimate crime at being better than the men at their jobs.
The fastest and easiest way to diminish women’s accomplishments, whether in the workforce, in the athletic arena or elsewhere is to take us down sexually. That’s the guy way. It tells us we’re weak. Use that powerful upper body strength to do a proper beat down.
It’s the ultimate male macho march around the hen yard. See? I showed you who’s boss.
That’ll teach an uppity woman to stay home, cook and make babies.
In a classic example of how this kind of female trespass is handled, consider the 15-year history of sexual abuse by Grand Canyon river guides. Three male boat operators were found guilty of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment, threats and abuse. There were even wagers to see who could “get laid” the most. The 22 female employees of the Grand Canyon National Park finally fought back. Two of the men are gone, one is still employed. This is not an isolated incident by any means. Out in the wild, where there is nowhere to turn, women are on their own.
In the uber macho world of adventure travel, which is my industry, women are often not welcomed. Not only as guides, but also sometimes as consumers. Even today, despite all the metrics that shriek that women are where the money and future are, the marketing tends to be heavily male-centric. I sometimes struggle to book trips in places where a woman- at my age and traveling solo- is simply not taken seriously. It’s insulting and costly. And even at 64 I find myself fending off advances from guides when I’m on my own. I’ve trespassed. In other words, how dare you demonstrate competence in my field of play? Apparently the only response to that is to dominate sexually. Win at all costs.
Yet there are examples of where things are changing.
On the Tahuayo River not far from Iquitos, Ney Pia EdoAd takes clients out onto the brackish waters of the deep Peruvian Amazon. A slight woman in her late twenties, Nedy is among the best of the Tahuayo Lodge guides. She has a remarkable seventh sense for knowing where animals are, for seeing creatures and sensing them long before you do. Dr. Paul Beaver, who developed the lodge back in the 1980s, announced that there would be female guides alongside the men some years ago. The men who didn’t like it would get sacked.
When he hired women, some men griped. They were swiftly booted out. As the Lodge is the area’s biggest employer with the most lucrative salaries, this sent ripples through the community. Beaver had put his money where his mouth was. More women were hired. People’s livelihoods depended on collaboration. Beaver and his wife Dolly don’t tolerate abuse among their employees. This is how you effect change- by establishing a financial motivator, and then supporting that with education, time, and patience.
Ask any female Outlier who’s excelled in some male-dominated field. Who’s pushed a boundary. I write in this forum regularly about men who have climbed Everest (decades ago) who find it necessary to flay me alive for daring to be out in the world mountaineering, kayaking, cycling, paragliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding in epic conditions at my age, being in supreme condition. They are incredibly offended.
It has nothing to do with anything other than I had the nerve to enter their world and be good at it. While they are greying, shrinking and wearing soft slippers at home, I’ll be busting my butt in Kazakhstan by horseback and it PISSES. THEM. OFF. They fire off vile emails is an attempt to bring me down a peg. Shore up their shrinking manhood. In the eloquent words of Ellie, from my sports chiropractor’s office, we women have “peed on their bush.”
After I stopped laughing, I thought, Bingo. It always has to have to have something to do with the Mighty Tool, doesn’t it?
The Bolivian Cholitas who scaled the 19,974 foot peaks are likely experiencing their own form of both overt and quiet disapproval. However, the international exposure their feat garnered has also brought tourists and attention. Money. That softens the blow.
Today’s Superdads are bringing up little girls who box, skateboard, ski, jump, do martial arts, and battle with the best of them. Tiny terrific terrors. These are not your Barbie Doll babies. These are little warriors, brought up with a fundamental understanding of their inherent power. To a degree I’m sad I won’t be around to see the world they mature into, the landscape they will sculpt with these new attitudes. They will be unstoppable. What’s possible is the balancing of what each of the sexes brings- those widely varying skill sets that are so often highly complementary and do not at all need to be competing. And that is the whole point. Nobody needs to be “taught a lesson” here just because she wants to be out on the river. We all belong out there.
I’d just love to see some slimeball Grand Canyon guide try to put his hands on one of those girls. We’ll just see who’s floating down the rapids face down after that encounter, gentlemen.