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No Man's Land Aims to Dismantle Expectations

No Man's Land Aims to Dismantle Expectations

Photos courtesy of Michelle Smith

The second annual all-women adventure film festival, No Man’s Land, premiered last week in Carbondale, Colorado to a sold-out audience. Local families, friends, and supporters came out to view films that featured women exploring, adventuring, and living out their passions. Aisha Weinhold, the found of NML, made it happen with electric success despite the early naysayers that told her that she would have no luck finding enough material to exclusively showcase adventurous women. With submissions rolling in, Aisha proved those shortsighted, nonbelievers wrong – big time.  NML will welcome 2017 with a jam packed schedule with showings in numerous venues throughout the Pacific Northwest, various places all over the country, as well as Canada and Sweden.

Committed to building a strong community for women of the outdoors, Aisha hosts an evening of beers and discussion every night before the official festival screening. Dubbed “Ladies’ Night,” this casual and friendly evening encourages women to come together and discuss what it means to be a woman in the outdoors, our relationships to each other, and how gender comes into play, or not, when getting after it.

Common ways women are denied agency or are undermined:

  • When men speak on behalf of women, they deny them agency. Instead, men should allow women to speak for themselves.
  • Dismissing or lowering the value of a work created by a woman

The women of “Ladies’ Night” revealed that many women grow up thinking that they are not a “girl’s girl,” or that they didn’t get along with girls growing up so they tended to form bonds with boys. The idea of being the “token girl climber” also came up. The “token girl climber” is the insidious and ugly feeling that a woman might get when she has been the one and only woman in the group of all guys climbing and hanging out, and suddenly another woman enters the dynamic. Many women around the circle of Ladies’ Night admitted to feeling as if they were in competition when a new woman entered the picture. They felt the heat of sizing each other up as if there could only be one “cool, badass, climber chick” in the equation.

This sense of competition can be found in any realm of a woman’s life, not just climbing, of course. From an early age women are taught by our society to undercut one another. We live in a society that teaches women that their value and worth depends on how they are received by men. This impulse women feel to self-promote and respond with indirect aggression towards one another is indicative of our culture - a culture that teaches women to degrade each other in order to make themselves look better. But how exhausting is it to have to constantly tear others down in order to build yourself up? It is a recipe for the worst kind of failure. This warped behavior only backfires and leads women plummeting into a deep hole of self-loathing and insecurity.

Even more despairing is the other side of the story: that we might not be competing with each other, but that we are competing ourselves. A woman might see another woman enter the room and do a comparison analysis. Instead of seeing another human walking through the world we see what we aren’t. We see that we are not as pretty, smart, friendly, lovable, funny. This projection is detrimental to our own growth, power, and worth.

What is empowerment? It's not a Dove ad campaign. It's not learning how to lean in. If we really want to empower ourselves as women in the world we have to empower ourselves through our thoughts and actions. We have to empower all women through our thoughts and actions. If we want to empower ourselves we must pierce through the dirty filter of a life lived to compete and compare. We must see each other as teammates, equals, friends, teachers, mentors, and allies. In order to dismantle the patriarchy we have to exhume ourselves of this nasty habit of tireless scrutiny. We are taught that women are innately catty or dramatic. However, this view only plays into patriarchal stereotypes and damages our ability to see the best in ourselves and others.

In these conversations we need to work towards inclusion of all genders. Gender and sex are not binaries, cut and dry. Gender and sex exist on a spectrum. Our world relies on flawed logic - that we can only choose from two categories. However, once we free ourselves from binary thinking we will unveil the possibilities, the advancements, and the revelations necessary to live in a more equitable world.

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Gender Spectrum

Gender Binaries Hurt Us All

Myths about Non-Binary People

Male vs. Female Brain is a Myth

Policing Female Athletes

"NonBinary" is Now a Legally Recognized Gender in Oregon

Dangers of Male/Female Binary

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