(After I wrote this post, I read the foreword by Maurice Herzog. I was a little too harsh, it seems... I assumed he would be a sexist because of some of the comments he makes in his book, but clearly he was at least later convinced that women should not bear the burden of unfair stereotypes. I didn't change the wording of my post, but just imagine that when I say Herzog, I mean the sexist contemporaries he refers to in his foreword).
I haven't quite finished Blum's Annapurna (I will by class tomorrow! I know you were all worried), but it was clear to me from the start that I would enjoy this account more than Herzog's. That's not to say I didn't like Herzog's narrative, but there's something about Blum's writing style that I find very appealing. The posts before mine cover the differences pretty extensively, so I won't go into detail here. Suffice to say, I'm pretty psyched to meet this lady.
As I was reading, I decided it would be an interesting experiment to try and read the text like Herzog, or any other male climber. I assumed from some of Herzog's comments ("a wife is always a problem"(Herzog, 3), for example) that he would have a generally negative outlook on women attempting to summit such a challenging peak as Annapurna, at least when he was in his climbing hay day. As such, I tried to look for any signs of what a male climber might consider feminine weakness present in Blum's text. I didn't have to look far. In the very first chapter, Blum describes her departure and expresses her unwillingness to leave her boyfriend: "I just wanted to keep hugging him and not get on the plane" (Blum, 12). On the facing page, she describes how she simultaneously fell in love with climbing and the man who introduced her to the activity. If I were a Herzog-type figure, I would claim that these moments demonstrate how women are too emotional and faint of heart to climb the likes of Annapurna. Furthermore, I would consider Irene's feelings for her children as proof that women should remain in the domestic sphere.
But I am not a Herzog-type figure. I respect Blum for incorporating emotions into her writing, because I believe they serve to demonstrate how women, as women, are capable of anything. They need not adopt stereotypically male behaviors in order to accomplish stereotypically male activities. Women, and men for that matter, can summit peaks while worrying about their children and loved ones back home, and how their appearances have changed since starting their journey. I think my favorite scene is in Chapter 9, where the women pass around a mirror and comment on the way the mountain has changed their looks. Blum notes that, "the higher we climbed, the better we all looked-- slim, tanned, and healthy. Many men, in contrast, take on a haggard look...(132)". This, to me, is the height of feminism. Women can do anything a man can, and look much better doing it.