Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Opinion; Can female explorers save us from extinction?

The other night I went to the monthly lecture at Travellers Club and again the talk was by a young Swedish male explorer. Sad to say I’ve heard his story before, and each time it was the same: The hero conquering the earth. The male hero conquering the earth, to be more precise

So why is it male explorers need to declare themselves the best, the fittest and the strongest adventurers on earth? And why, oh why do they only talk about themselves?

We definitely need more female explorers, because without them we could become extinct.

Let me explain: Recently, I was sat next to a publisher of a famous US outdoor magazine. He sighed and said:

“Every day, as I receive letters and articles from people making expeditions and wanting to sell their material, I ask myself: “Hasn’t adventure come further than this? Is it still just white men with icicles in their beards dishing out the same old silly story?”

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I couldn’t agree more. As no doubt do many people in the extreme sports and exploring fraternity. I am so fed up with this macho nonsense! It’s time for a change. We need more female narrators. We need a female perspective and men have to start thinking more like women. I think this is crucial to whether the public remain interested in adventure and exploration in the future, or switch off forever.

What men often fail to note is that there are still considerable differences in how a story can be told. For example, this morning I was searching the internet for stories about Himalayan expeditions. I found this report by a pair of male climbers:

“It’s been a tough and troublesome today. Our backpacks weigh about 60 pounds. Today we struggled for six hours. Tomorrow we will continue and pitch our final camp at 7,500 meters. We won’t sleep much tonight, but we are feeling all right.”

Other than their closest relatives, I find it hard to believe anyone is really interested in this stuff. Personally, I find it mind-numbingly boring. Endless even.

So, let’s compare this with a separate account. This time from an expedition on the same mountain, at the same time, but written by a woman:

“Why am I never satisfied? I’m thinking I should have exercised more. I also think I should have been more mentally prepared. Actually, I’ve been preparing for five years. And trained five times a week. But I don’t think I’m a good enough climber. But that’s the way I am in everyday life as well. I could be better at cooking, decorating, fashion, my job. I could be a better wife, friend, and so on. Still, I am not giving up my dream of climbing an 8,000-meter peak. But will I make it?”

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Wonderfully thrilling! The fact that, in this case, the men reached the top and not the woman is unimportant. What is interesting, however, is her story. This is how tomorrow’s adventurers, when they are documenting expeditions need to be writing. This is how people lecturing should be talking. It’s the drama, the personal commitment we want, not another hero story.

An even better way is to recount the story of someone else; men should take inspiration from the achievement of others and not just try to impress with tales of hardship: We’re bored of it!

I worry that if we don’t change this male-dominated culture, we will see fewer professional adventurers and explorers, because less people will want to read about them. Women, save us from extinction!

Female explorers remember: Anything and everything is possible! We’ve known this for the last 150,000 years, maybe even for the last 3.2 million years, ever since the bipedal Lucy began her well-documented excursion…

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5 comments

  1. Please, let’s be serious. It is politically correct nonsense to say it is unimportant as to who reached the top. Delusional, even. Exploration is about making effort, and reaching, or striving to reach, new goals. Watering it down to politically correct domestic tales, so everyone can fancy themselves an explorer, will be attractive to some, but will convert exploration into feel-good mutual nurturing. Nurturing is fine, in many areas of life, but this is supposed to be The Explorers Club.

  2. I loved this post! Thanks, Mikael. As one of the explorers-without-beards, I sometimes used to have doubts about my blogs, wondering if they were too personal and if I should try to be more rufty-tufty and, well, male. But could never manage to pretend to be something I wasn’t.

    I discussed a similar point recently with Victoria Riches, who took part in the first all-female relay to the North Pole. Our conversation goes online at the Adventure Podcast this Wednesday (18th Sept). http://adventurepodcast.com. 

  3. If we look further into our readings, you can tell that one has far more filler than the other. His documentation has no details, while her documentation has details completely unrelated to the expedition. If you would like for documentation filled with emotion, perhaps you believe that woman should focus on writing stories about expedition or be brought along to write the story.

    Perhaps if you had more than 1 quote from each gender, I might be able to consider your side. If you can prove that a high majority of men are nothing more than ego maniacs and that women generally had all the relevant details, than you might indeed have a point.

  4. You articulated my own thoughts. As a female traveler, my every expedition is an escape from an uber busy lifestyle for a few days of tranquility, and a new encounter with a wide world, an opportunity to find innovative ideas and perspectives. But sharing them with others seems to be so personal. Our male counterparts seem more comfortable with this sort of exposure, though their focus is more on the what and where, than the who and why. And yes, we definitely need more female explorers to understand the cultural aspects and roots of a certain community and region.

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