Friday, October 01, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks, Book 37

Growing up I really believed that I could do anything that I wanted. It was instilled in me that it didn't matter that I was a girl. If I wanted to play basketball, then I should go for it. If I wanted to climb mountains, no problem. If I wanted to become president, nothing should stop me but myself.

The sky was {and is} the limit. As a grownup I have learned that it has not always been this way in our country and in some cases still isn't. For instance Daniel went on an interview last year where he was given the impression that the wives of employees were expected to stay home and take care of the house and family – he didn't accept that particular job. Being able to choose whether or not to stay home is different from being expected to stay home by men you have never met.

Throughout the world, opportunities for women are slim and equality is often a pipe dream.

Breaking Trail, A Climbing Life by Arlene Blum is her account of what it was like wanting to climb mountains in the 60s and 70s. Mountaineering was a boys-only club and generally women were only allowed to "tag along" in order to cook the meals and take care of the men. 

Arlene made great efforts in order to be able to climb the high mountains that she loved. She organized the first all-women attempt {and summit} of Denali. She participated in the first American attempt of Everest {where she was overlooked for the summit bid because she was a woman}. She organized an attempt on Annapurna I – the first attempt by Americans and it was an all-women team. In addition, Arlene made great strides in chemistry, making many discoveries.

As a woman, I am so thankful for women like Arlene, who wouldn't take no for an answer. Who kept working at it until they were accepted, regardless of their gender.

A few excerpts from the book: 
"It is so great to see another woman out here. Sometimes I feel pretty weird, liking to run, do chemistry, climb mountains." I told him about not being invited on the trips to Nepal, Afghanistan, and Denali, all because of my being a woman.

Climbing the ridge was an extreme meditation, thinking about my breathing and moving with focus, concentration and harmony. Where I placed my foot determined whether I lived or died – future plans, past regrets, and the normal clutter of my mind were silenced. I found a peace and distance from the world reminiscent of that I'd found as a child in our cherry tree or vacant lot watching the clouds.

Yousef explained that the women were curious about me and happy I'd come to talk with them. "They see you as a different sort of creature, neither man nor woman. You eat dinner, talk, and climb mountains with the men, but you look like a woman." 

...I felt a bond with the Kashmiri women whose lives were so different from mine. And I realized how fortunate I was to be able to inhabit two worlds – that of men, and also that of women.

The most important thing for the welfare of the world is to improve the status of women. A bird cannot fly on only one wing. – written in 1895 by Swami Vivekananda

"Something to do, someplace to be, someone to love. That is the tripod we all need for a happy life," my Sherpa friend told me. "When one leg is missing, the tripod is not stable."

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