Jul 12, 2011

Gender Sensitivity: A Mountaineering Perspective by Ms. Heia Natalia

Blogger’s note: I personally met the author of the article during the “Saragka sa Bukid Bulusan 2009” event. The roster of the outdoor peeps I am looking up to are mainly composed of men. It is a rarity that I admire a female outdoor person… and Ms. Heia is one of them.

For what I know, she has already achieved the status of “Everest basecamper”. She had climbed most of the hardcore mountains in the Phils., and she is an advocate for MFPI’s All Women’s Climb. She has also scaled Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia, and is planning to do Mt. Kilimanjaro come 2012.

What was stuck in my head was that, as a training climb for Mt. Everest, she did a dayhike of the mountain where I almost died… Mt. Isarog.

Gender Sensitivity : A Mountaineering Perspective
by Heia Natalia, MFPI Individual Member
- posted 04.13.04

“I think the whole secret of women’s liberation is for your man to find it within himself to do things that historically have been classified as ‘women’s work’, and his masculinity should never be questioned when he does these things”. (Jean Stapleton, actress and TV star)

Let’s be honest about something here. We all know that ‘mountaineering’ has been tagged as “man’s world”. But couple of years ago, women have already little by little delved into the activity. Some of them even gained passion for “mountaineering”. Why do you think so? The following discussions may simply address the issue.

Understanding Boys and Girls: Any Differences?

This part is for the BOYS. Do you remember when you were a kid playing “taguan”, “tumbang preso”, “habulan” etc. in your neighborhood? Noticed that you were all playing with the girls in the area? But, when the game is “piko” or “luksong lubid”, definitely the boys will shy away and will no longer participate? It will surely be the girl’s time to play?

Have you ever thought of why boys do not like color pink? And if a boy has a pink short, he will surely be teased by other boys and will be called “bakla”. So what’s the point here? The “norms” are clearly dictated by society.

The other side of course is natural. You boys begin to understand the “metamorphosis” of your biological nature. When you noticed that your neck is beginning to have a small “adam’s apple” and your voice seems to be lower, the more you never wanted to go out of your house. At times, you will notice also that you are beginning to have greater upper body strength, you easily build muscle and you have thicker skin.

As you grow older, you begin to have an increase interest in the opposite sex. This is of course the usual context. Deep inside, you knew that something inside of you is beginning to change you to become something else. This is the time you begin your adolescent stage. You go on a date and the your life goes on.

How about the GIRLS? What is their story? When you started schooling, you knew that you were different from the boys. You dress differently – skirts, tops with laces and so forth. But you never questioned why. You just accepted the fact that every time you have to put on your clothes, it has to be a skirt, a blouse or a “bistida”. Then, there came a time in your life when you started wearing the same clothes as the boys. You started playing the games that boys play – baseball, computer games and even basketball. But similar with the boys, you knew something is different inside of you – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Physically speaking, you are not strong as compared to the boys. On an average, men are larger than women. Men have greater spurs of muscular energy. Women’s pelvic anatomy adapted for child-bearing prevents them from running as fast as men. Weight, shape, size and anatomy are tangible and easily measured. At an onset, your breasts, hips and legs for instance, are filled out as compared to the boys. You don’t develop an “adam’s apple”. Instead, you have a very soft voice that any boy could dream to have as a girlfriend. Specially, when you have a charming smile, boys will surely die in front of you upon bestowing to him and witnessing your “Monalisa smile “.

Emotionally, you are more hot tempered specially when your underclothing is stained with blood the first day on a monthly basis. Because sometimes you never know the exact day “it” will come. You just know that you will have the next month. Reason for this behavior is more on hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle which result in a rhythmic variation in acuteness of perception, muscular coordination and even mental concentration in the course of each month. “Oh, the red flag is up!”, as the girls say.

Mentally since girls have four times as many brain cells you tend to be more keen to details. Because girls have more efficient access to both sides of their brain and therefore greater use of their right brain, you always like to plan ahead. But at times, you know that plans are never carved in stone that’s why you always go from one shop to another just to be able to decide which blouse you are going to buy. Girls generally can focus on more than one problem at one time and prefer solving problems through multiple activities.

And lastly, spiritual in the sense that the bible simply put “girls” as the shadow of men.

Bridging Differences

Although boys and girls know they have a lot of differences, they still could work together. They could still trek, be climb buddies or simply be together in an outdoor activity. But what then is the issue here?

Let us say the boys and girls are now “men” and “women”. Since in all relationships whether as friends or as a couple, the main ingredient why the relationship survives is communication. Both men and women communicate who they are, their values, respect and esteem for the other person. Thus, this ingredient should always be inside the backpack of a mountaineer. Every one of you should have a pack of “open communication” inside your load.

So it is understood that whenever a woman feels like peeing, the EL should inform the group to have a break and rest for a while. Similarly, the men may also pee. Here, decency and respect should be observed. The men should step out of the trail and find a place a little bit farther from the group just like what the women do whenever the call of nature occurs.

There are also cases that men generally discriminate women’s abilities in climbing. Often times, you will hear men will say that women will not be able to climb Mt. Halcon, Mt. Banahaw or even Guiting-guiting. Why say so? Because men will always have the concept of if they will be climbing with women, the number of hours in the itinerary will be longer as expected. Worst, if the men feels that since there are “physical” differences between men and women, the women may not be able to climb those mountains mentioned. In such cases, if this type of man who doesn’t have the patience or would like to have a “rat-rat” pacing on the trail or belittles women at large should never give any comment at all. There should be a paradigm shift for both men and women. So, it would be best for women to undergo sufficient training and education before the climb so as not to be underestimated by men.

In a group outdoor itinerary, another classic example will be that of giving out assignments.
Women automatically chair the food committee and the men handle tent committee. Let us all exercise “self-sustenance” as much as possible. Better yet, be sensitive on “gender issues”.

A Retrospect

The bottom line here is the acceptance of the male genre of the insurmountable differences of men and women regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Communication also plays a vital role. Individual respect for other people is another thing. These are the reasons why women in their capacity as “being a woman” keeps on trying to infiltrate the “man’s world” of mountaineering.

Aries, Elizabeth. Men and Women in Interaction, Reconsidering the Differences. Oxford University Press Inc, 1996.
Wilkins, Ronald J. Man & Women. USA: C. Brown Company Publishers, 1975.

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