Monday, February 11, 2013

Rejection of Conquest

To get to the point, Arlene Blum is my idol. Perhaps my excess of Women’s Studies courses and constant conversation surrounding gender roles help to frame this admiration; regardless, I am beyond excited for her class visit. I may have even checked online to see if her “A woman’s place is on top” shirts are still available for purchase. I fully intend on ordering one.

I knew I would love Blum’s text from the moment I opened the front cover: a quote on the page preceding the preface reads, “You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few moments, then the wind blows your footprints away.” My insides jumped for joy at this blatant rejection of the conquest mentality so prevalent throughout not just adventure novels, but historic environmental texts as well. Writings such as William Leiss’s The Domination of Nature and Carolyn Merchant’s The Death of Nature cite the historic evolution of humans’ relationship to the environment, dictated largely by desire for control and power.

Common diction surrounding mountain climbing similarly employs an authoritative viewpoint. We discussed in class Herzog’s war-like tone when referring to his expedition up Annapurna, frequently discussing his “line of attack”, “assault”, and “penetration” of the mountain. Beyond his violent word choice, he explicitly considers mountaineering a male-centered activity: the final line of his text reads, “There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men” (223). To counter this gendered statement, Blum concludes her epilogue with the statement, “And in the lives of women as well” (232).

While I did not find the quality of writing in Blum’s text to be far superior to that of Herzog, I very much enjoyed her frequently interspersed photographs from the expedition. Her accomplishment was very much achieved for all women around the world, climbers and non. 

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