Why Women Can’t Afford To Tear Each Other Down

20151004 Longs Peak-9

It had been weeks since the trip, since we’d all sat around the campfire. And I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it yet—exactly why that particular trip felt so strikingly unique. Until I sat over donuts and coffee with another friend a few days ago, and she asked about the trip. “You know what?” I said, only realizing it as I spoke, “It was amazing. There were six of us, all women, and it was nothing but positive and supportive. Not one person said one thing negative about anyone, anywhere, the entire time.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that’s unique. Women can be catty and judgmental, and shared schadenfreude can cloud over a conversation like the creeping fingers of a cold front. I’ve seen it throughout my whole life, and we outdoorsy women are not immune. I’ve found myself doing it, too, pointing fingers or judging instead of asking bigger questions or giving a woman the benefit of the doubt. The Internet and social media makes this even easier. We question others’ authenticity, we make snap judgments, we leave angry comments that we’d never say to a person’s face. And why?

A couple weeks ago a New York Times opinion piece, Why Women Compete With Each Other, asked that question. The author, Emily V. Gordon, laid out a couple different theories as to why women undermine and undercut each other, competing in indirectly aggressive ways. She concluded: “We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves — with how we think of ourselves.” Evolutionarily, our need to compete is outdated, she says. “But we don’t need to lower the stock of other women, either for the future of the species or for our own psyches.” And the thing is, we’re in a place right now where we really can’t afford to lower the stock of any women.

Over lunch last week, a friend and I were lamenting how few women’s stories were being told in this year’s Reel Rock Film Tour. We discussed how women are portrayed in the media, and how women are still generally underrepresented in the outdoors. And I said, Maybe we’re coming to a turning point. Many of us found our way to climbing, camping, mountain biking—or the outdoors in general—through a male friend or family member. But now it’s a part of our own identity. And the more we bring other women along with us, the more women will continue to feel at home in the outdoors—and the outdoor industry. The more women will feel like they really have a real stake in things. Like making climbing films. Or heading up outdoor companies.

But this hinges on one thing: Our ability to support and uplift each other. Outdoors women are diverse and complex—as are men. For example, for some of us, being able to climb as hard as a guy but dressed all in pink is the picture of happiness and equality. For others, wearing pink feels like a dreaded stereotype to be shed. Can we put aside our differences and support each other as fellow humans who find value in our outdoor experiences? Women have enough shit to deal with. Let’s not be that shit for each other.

10 Responses to Why Women Can’t Afford To Tear Each Other Down

  1. This. Is. Perfect.
    To this day I am fascinated that anyone would spend a single second of their life trolling others in any way.
    I am so proud to know you any many other incredibly strong women.
    – Kelley

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  4. Melanie Loseth says:

    This is very true; thank you for talking about it. One thing I’m noticing is that there is very little representation of older women who hike. I Instagram but went off of Facebook for the very reasons you discuss in your article. I am curious to know if young women are even interested to see and hear from older women who hike and I would like to meet other women who are older that hike. I’m curious to know where they go and what kind of hikes they do. (I’ll be 51 in just over a month) – Melanie

    • Robyn north says:

      I will be 57 in a bit and have hiked the TMB, EBC , ABC and Annapurna Circuit as well as the JMT. My husband and hiking buddy of 34 yrs just died of cancer so will be doing the JMT this summer with my 57 ye old high school girlfriend. There are lots of middle aged hikers out on the trail. Who has time and money? We do!

    • Melissa says:

      My mom is turning 59 this year and is an avid outdoor woman. She loves to hike and does a lot of it, but her first and foremost love is kayaking. She is incredible, does several weekend and a couple of week long camping/hiking/kayaking excursions every year with her outdoor group. ..even went on a trip of a lifetime kayaking in Belize. She is my inspiration and my first hiking partner back when she hauled me around the woods in a baby carrier 37 years ago! I’m trying to share that same love for the outdoors with my own children, especially my daughter.

    • Kerry Kells says:

      Thank you Melanie Loseth, very true. All advertising and many outdoor articles are promoted toward the younger generation of women. My mother once said “if you are a middle-aged woman, you are invisible”. But I refuse to believe that although advertising might support that theory. Let’s hope the outdoor industry and the outdoor community realizes that there are many, many active outdoor women in their 40s, 50s, 60s. Thanks to Hilary for pointing out that there is diversity in outdoor-minded women, even if it’s not the first photo you see.

  5. Ashlee says:

    Yes, Hilary! More love. More stoke.

  6. Amanda says:

    Well said! It’s a common topic in my group of outdoorsy ladies as well and it’s always great to hear about other women wanting to help make some changes.
    xo Amanda

  7. MollyT says:

    “Over lunch last week, a friend and I were lamenting how few women’s stories were being told in this year’s Reel Rock Film Tour.”

    And yet, a few weeks after Reel Rock, when the North Bend Theater was showing a ski movie made by a woman, featuring amazing women skiers, the theater was maybe half full. Same thing last year.

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