Word X

Carrot, me, and Orbit hitching to the Badwater Basin to begin the Lowest to Highest Route in Death Valley
Carrot, me, and Orbit hitching to the Badwater Basin to begin the Lowest to Highest Route in Death Valley, Oct. 2014

The point of my last post was simply to show that females don’t have a word to refer to the act of being deprived of their strength. Men do and that word is “emasculate.” For now we’ll say X just means what the word emasculate means and it’s gender neutral. And so, our problem is fixed… we’re just going to have to make some shit up.

Why do I bring this up? Well, there have been instances on trail where my hiking abilities are questioned because I am female. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re not that kind of person. And I believe you!

Things not to say to a female hiker:

“You’re fast for a girl!”

“Is your boyfriend carrying most of the gear?”

“I’m impressed that you can keep up with him!”

“Do your parents know you’re out here… ALONE?”

“Is he dragging you up the trail?”

See the problem? We need a word because these are instances where being female has a lot to do with the nature of the off-handed comment. I could say I felt emasculated by what that person said, but I’m not male. I can’t say that this person deprived me of my femininity, it wasn’t my femininity that was in question.

We could just end this discussion now and say that that person didn’t deprive me of anything because we all realize how ridiculous and out dated it is to say such things! Just know that it happens, misogyny is still around.

So when you meet a female on trail, please don’t make any assumptions.

For more on this topic, check out this article from Backpacker Magazine: http://www.backpacker.com/trips/long-trails/appalachian-trail/going-pharr-as-a-phemale-gender-equality-on-the-appalachian-trail/

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18 thoughts on “Word X”

  1. I think the word you want is ‘insulted’. What they said is a backhanded comment meant perhaps to compliment you but instead called your abilities into question just because you are female. It is a sexist view point and I can see how that bothers you. Does a term need to be created? I’m not sure. People say insensitive things all the time without thinking about what they say. What comes to mind is that you can never change other people and their viewpoints. You can only change yourself and how you react to them.

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  2. Undermined. You were undermined, and that can happen to anyone, male or female, when dealing with people who are a bit limited in the imagination department or can only feel empowered when they put someone else down. Don’t let anyone undermine your strength and power, girl…although I know that’s easier said than done…

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  3. Hi chance I understand your dilema and agree its not fair. Maybe some gender neutral words need to be coined. In reality ours is a very gender driven language built over thousands if years. From whatever original incarnation. Only in the last 20 – 30 years have we tried to change some if it. as most (but still not close to all) of the human race has realized we are equals in many ways. Your best bet might be just to look them in the eye and say ” I’m pretty much a bad ass all by myself” and keep on going. Your friends and in this case your followers also know this to be true. Does it really matter what some stranger thinks?
    Well my 2 cents for whats it’s worth.
    Keep on hiking and doing your thing. We are here with you.

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  4. William Safire, S F Chronicle came up with defeminate for what you are describing. The “men” who say those things to you are threatened by your gender, not just on the trail but everywhere in their lives. You know that, you’ve experienced it in other areas of your life, every woman has. I see it regularly in my life, it is one of the things that contributes to my lack of respect for men. I’m a man, so they think I am like them and say things in front of me you would not believe. I will tell you that all men are not so biased. You should remember, men are the weaker sex and the smart ones know it.

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    1. How refreshing coming from a man! My husband has known this his whole life; having been raised by a single mom of 4 boys following his fathers death at age 6. He intuitively knew that women are strong…..so he would not have been satisfied or challenged had he met a woman below those expectations.
      One point that has not been discussed is the rise in pop music of the strong female voice. Joni & Janis had it in the ’60’s, with a recent resurgence that I believe began with Gwen Stefani, Alanis Morrisette followed by Beyoncé. To the left, to the left was a VERY strong female voice. There are others, like the young woman who sings All about that Bass (positive body image.) we are moving, albeit slowly in the right direction. (Disclaimer – I generally don’t like pop music.) Having worked as a nurse practitioner, I can tell you women are strongest. Ask any nurse!

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  5. I’m 6′ 2″ at 200 lbs and my wife is 4′ 11″ at 98 lbs. She has way more strength then me with having to put up with so much of my crap. If you & Carrot passed me on the trail I would fall to my knee’s and beg you to slow down so I could at least hang out with a couple of Bad Ass thru hikers for a few hours..

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  6. I am a guy who has hiked for over forty years. Yes, I have run into a lot of a**holes in my life and sadly sexism still abounds. Unlike you, I have allowed career, family and material/financial obligations to limit my childhood dreams of thru-hiking. I just hope that my health will allow me to fulfill my dreams when I retire. If I ever have the privilege of meeting you on the trail, I will salute you, tell you how much I admire you and how damn jealous of you I am. It normally is not advisable to give people unsolicited advice but let me offer you just this…never lose your joie de vivre or lose sight of your dreams.

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  7. I’ve been using the word “infantilize” to describe this phenomenon lately. For example I went to the Banff film festival and the films were awesome but only one of them had a female athlete- a badass slackliner. And instead of focusing on her strength and skill and the fact that she can slackline over, like, giant canyons and shit, the film totally infantilized her. Mostly the film was a dude slackliner talking about “how beautiful the female form looks on a slackline” and then some scenes of her talking about her boyfriend and how she shaves her armpits. So she’s crazy strong and that strength, in the film, is taken away from her.

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  8. Also that is a terrible photo of me, and I’m mad at myself for even caring, because I really like the photo in general. Women are supposed to look “cute” all the time and it’s this crazy pressure and I hate it. SET EVERYTHING ON FIRE

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  9. I’m with you Carrot! On both posts. But I can tell you this for sure: we’ve come a long way from the ’60’s, when Gloria Steinam & other feminist voices were heard. We have not arrived. There’s still a very long way to go, and MUCH work to be done! Keep on being trailblazers! (Pun intended.)
    Burn down the whole fucking house!

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  10. For what it’s worth, I there are several gender neutral words that are desperately needed in the English language. In my job, I would LOVE to have a gender neutral version or Mr. and Ms. and a gender neutral version of Sir and Ma’am.

    Also, I totally get that’s not the point of this blog. Your blog’s point is an excellent one.

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