You do not know everything.
I have become overwhelmingly infuriated by how men (and it is always only men) are constantly trying to dissuade me from what I’m doing. Trying to tell me I’m wrong. Trying to convince me to give up. Urging me to listen to them or do as they do.
With every open question comes a retort of negativity. This is not a competition. You are not being helpful. I did not ask for your help in the first place. I am not an idiot. I am not a ninny. Nine times out of ten, I’ve gone further, faster and done it lighter and cheaper than you. This is not the first time I’ve left my house.
Just because things are difficult, it does not mean they are impossible. Certainly, if you’re doing it, it is not impossible. Why then try and tell me it will be worse for me. Stop laughing at me when I tell you my plans. Stop turning to the internet as fast as lightening to prove me wrong. Stop pandering me and infantilizing me by acting like you’re protecting me from myself.
I don’t care about the gear you have chosen. I don’t want to discuss it with you because it will ultimately lead to competitive bickering about all of my gears’ flaws. Do you think I’m unaware of the issues? Do you think I’ve come all this way with out considering them? Do you think I’m stupid enough not to care? Do you imagine I lack basic reasoning skills that would preclude making a valid decision for myself on what might work best for me? Wouldn’t it just be easier if I had a dick to whip out so we could measure them and get it over with? Do you think your thread for thread, chain by chain, mile by mile critique will get you laid? What is the deal?
I am so exhausted by the constant, depressing moral aggrandizement and countered chauvinistic belittling from men in the outdoors (or men who don’t step 3 feet from their computers but fancy themselves experts by way of penile exceptionalism). I am good at this. In many cases, I am better at this than you. As are my female compatriots who are shattering time, age, and distance records. I interviewed the father of the youngest Triple Crowner, Sunshine, and asked him why he thinks women tend to be better distance athletes. I loved his response: Men are too busy competing with one another over stupid things. Women figure out what is good for them quicker, often, and with conviction and push hard forward. Men are left back at camp analyzing what everyone else is doing wrong.
I have come across this time and time again. When I’ve written articles urging others to “Hike your own hike,” I was conscious of the fact that all my examples of such negativity have come from men.
Strangely, for as stubborn and (I am mildly uncomfortable with saying this, but eh) accomplished as I am in adventure travel, I still get worked up over the constant barrage of bull shit from my male counterparts. Just today, I was pushing hard on my bike through the Icelandic countryside, struggling immensely, but trying to focus on the joy of finally getting onward on my bike and reveling in the sunshine. I felt good even though things were hard and getting harder. I felt finally that if I had more time, I’d be able to finish the whole thing. I felt proud of myself and my endorphins were electrifying.
Then I ran into a fellow cyclist. A man.
He made me feel small. He made me feel stupid. He gave me a million things to do differently. He told me to change my plans and do what he did. This was a 3 minute exchange. I didn’t tell him that he was fat, slow, carrying too much gear, and stupid for wearing his constricting rain clothes all day, even in the sun. What good would that have done for either of us? But he made me feel miserable. I only made it 5 more miles past where I saw him. They were the hardest 5 miles of biking I’ve ever done. They were miserable. I stopped a hundred times to try and boost my morale, but he had killed it. Usually, these things can brush by me, but this time, since they were some of so many negative (and entirely unwarranted and unsolicited) critiques, it just made me snap. Each time I attempted to get back on my bike today, I felt weary and defeated.
I am a strong person and a strong willed woman. I travel on my own often. I have no great tolerance to sit around and wait for some dude to catch up or come with. If this man could bring me down so much, how many other women are deterred entirely from even starting?
So I urge you, men who love the outdoors or feel yourself an expert on anything, SHUT UP. Or at least learn what an actual conversation is. Trying to one up one another only sets us further apart. My accomplishments, be it with the shittiest gear, the lightest gear, the best time, or ten days behind you, in no way diminishes your accomplishments. We are all partners on the journey. You can come celebrate adventure with me, or you can just eat my fucking dust.
Ladies, please share this.
“You have galaxies inside your head. Stop letting people tell you you cannot shine.”