Working at the Local Spelunking Club has made one of my pet peeves blatently obvious: Women who are afraid of their bodies. Or more specifically, afraid to use their bodies. Frailty is not sexy.
Spelunking is a very technical sport, requiring coordination, sureness, and strength through the entire body in order to perform at any level of proficiency. It requires pushing your body to its limits in terms of reach and flexibility, and moving confidently between those points. Above all, it requires working with your body and the equipment, and trusting both of those things to work at an optimal level in order to succeed.
Men who are new to spelunking will usually go one of two ways: either use their bodies to work with the equipment (these are the ones who “get it”), or try to muscle against it (which ends up being fairly amusing, and ultimately useless).
Women who try the sport will all too often seem afraid of their bodies, and the equipment. They have no sense of strength or confidence when trying to propel themselves, or using the equipment to do so. Their grip is light and unsure – tentatively touching things with their fingertips instead of using their hands to firmly grasp anything. Their arms and shoulders form a weak shawl around their bodies and their backs and necks curl inward, instead of adopting the strong posture that is not only required for the sport, but also shows that they believe they can stand up straight without breaking into tiny pieces (ok, the “spelunking” analogy is kindof falling apart, but just go with it).
And it’s not only in spelunking that this comes across. I see it everywhere. My old roommate who wouldn’t close her hand fully around a hammer, rendering it useless for actually driving a nail into some MDF. The girls I see around town who can’t seem to open a shop door, or whose larger-than-teacup-sized dogs seem to be walking them. Or the ones who shun any sort of activity where dirt may be involved, because “Ew – I don’t do messy, I might break a nail.”
Yah, it all annoys me – but most of all it disappoints me. Who taught these women that they and their bodies are anything less than capable of being strong and confident? Being a woman is not synonymous with being weak. In fact, I would suggest it’s anything but. A real woman has the strength to open the door for herself, and the grace to have it opened for her. The “Girl Power” movement started in the mid-90’s, and has been going strong ever since, so who’s still perpetuating the myth that girl = powerless?
But every once in a while I’m lucky enough to see a woman come into a Learn to Spelunk class who knows exactly what her body is capable of, and pushes it to achieve that. She intinctively feels the flow of movement, and her body and the equipment move in absolute sync. And she is a goddess. And my faith is restored.