How does a woman cope with discrimination, being feminine and finding self-worth in the unforgiving environs of a mountain?
Positioned just above the equator, our country has a tropical season and looking at its geography, mountains and mountain ranges are a pre-dominant feature – a haven for mountain climbers.
But with all the beauty our mountains offer, they are unforgiving. The rise and fall are sometimes too steep and too dangerous, temperature dropping to single digit, trails too muddy and slippery, protruding rocks cuts without mercy, sudden rain soaks us to the bone and it breeds a variety of leeches that often leave us bloody.
We also have waterfalls and rivers that swell in mere seconds and is one of the leading causes of deaths for mountain climbers aside from hypothermia, getting lost or falling down a ravine.
With all the breakthroughs in technology which helps us, the risks to life are still omnipresent and as I have written on one of my previous posts, the risks on women are greater.
Men, generally, have always been and will be for centuries more to come, the stronger gender. They’ll be more agile and quick. I am taking the realistic view.
As female climbers, how do we cope? We adopt and maybe adopt too much.
I sifted through my network and found a few women climbers on my list (sighing deeply) I have been in the mountaineering scene barely 5 years and is not really that active. I hitch on climbs, I don’t belong to any mountaineering club and most often the ratio of women on a major climbs I’ve been with is 1:5.
But assuredly, the women I’ve come to know and been friends with falls into what I was looking for: strong, pretty and a lot of fun. So, I dropped a message on their inboxes and crossed my fingers they’ll reply.
On being feminine, Coleen doesn’t hesitate,
“Chances are you’ll get dirty and wasted so why put an effort in making yourself look good. Of course I didn’t really care but wherever I go and whatever I do, I always make it a point to look good or presentable at least”
She’s one of the few women I’ve been with who re-defines feminism in the mountains.
I, too, fall into the category of not minding how I look when I climb mountains. I’ve always been independent, stubborn, tomboyish, and cared less about the opinions of others or what they thought of me seems like a double edged attitude when it comes to being feminine.
And it wouldn’t hurt to emulate Coleen, ditching our own identity (even temporarily) as a woman because we climb mountains is something worth pondering about. And although I know some of you guys are raising an eyebrow right now and thinking bakit ka pa umakyat ng bundok? Eh, d nag-mall ka na lang sana.
As female climbers, we unconsciously copy our men’s mannerisms, act like them, jeer like them, tell or accept jokes which are outright unacceptable. We want to appear strong like them, be like them. Yes, we just proved that by surviving the trail but mountain climbing is not a contest of who’s manly enough.
Any sport is competitive but when it becomes a passion, the competition somehow morphs into something more meaningful – an adventure, an identity, freedom, a celebration of life.
Being feminine doesn’t mean being girly or wearing make-up or trying to be sexy, acting prima donna or donning a very short cut-off jeans on the summit of Mt. Pulag (I swear, I saw one). Being feminine means retaining our qualities as a woman even in the harsh environment of the mountains we climb and with decency.
And when the going gets tough, we still rely on our men’s (and guide’s) strength. It is always understated on our facebook or instagram posts and we often ignore it. But our men’s innate quality of lending a helping hand or even sacrificing for us is a factor why we sometimes survive the rough trails – the random kindness of a stranger.
And not minding all the help they lend us, some men like Kenneth look at us positively,
“I think female climbers are generally fun and generally have a well balanced self-esteem. They are disciplined most of the time”
(Read also why travelling full-time in this lifetime is not for me here)
I have never been discriminated in all the climb events I’ve been to or if I was, the men must have kept it to themselves. In this we are lucky that as a woman doing an activity dominated by (macho and feeling macho) men who’s egos can reach high heavens, we are never considered as the lesser specie but are seen as their equal and sometimes we overpower their physical strengths when we play our cards right.
On self-empowerment, self-worth and identity Kristine proudly declares that,
“Whenever we climb, it is not the mountains that we conquer but ourselves. Reaching the summit as fast as the male climber, surviving the dangerous trails of the mountains, being able to carry a heavy pack shows that we too have both physical and mental traits that can make us good or even better than some men”
Aside from proving that we can do it too, what matters are the reason why we climb. Mountain climbing empowers us; it gives color and meaning to our life.
It is not rebellion but a deviation from the what society wants us to be – docile, married, taking care of children and acting the part of the stereotype woman our society dictates or is used to. Mountain climbing was not designed for women but like our rebel counterparts who fight for what they believe in by holding a gun, we have integrated ourselves and will continue to survive the harsh environment of our mountains.
We thank our men like Randolf, who considers us unique, strong-willed, passionate and who rates our attractiveness on the scale of 10 out of 10 (applause! applause!).
“I think female climbers are the type of women who wants to make a difference; they go out of their comfort zone to separate themselves from other ordinary women and not to be stereotyped as weak and lousy”
We are indeed most attractive because we are doing what makes us happy. We just don’t exist but we live our life to the fullest by choosing how.
Let us stay feminine, strong, equipped, prepared and fit because that is how we can cope and keep up.
Happy trails, woman!#