The admission should have been a warning sign, but since it caught me off guard I completely missed its prophetic properties. The guy I was dating wondered if I was a lesbian after noticing that my music collection contained a large number of female artists. Oh, silly me. Of course you would question my sexuality being that I own both an Melissa Etheridge and an Indigo Girls CD. My mistake.
It took me a few years to break up with said boy, even after he repeatedly referred to women’s basketball as “lesbian ball” despite the fact that covering women’s basketball is perhaps my favorite part of my job. (Hey, it’s not a proud moment in my relationship history.)
This trip down memory lane came as I was thinking about the book Into the Wild (see yesterday’s review) which details the story of 20-something Chris McCandless, who gave up a comfortable upbringing to live off the land and meet his tragic end on a solo wilderness adventure in Alaska in 1992. The book offers insight into a few other explorers who lost their life (or faced grave danger) while seeking something both internal and external — a personal spiritual quest of sorts connected to the greater universe of nature.
And as I read and reflected, it occurred to me that all these explorers were men.
Why is that? Why are the great stories of adventure seemingly a male domain both experience by and written by men?
Perhaps I’m just woefully undereducated. So I did what any good reporter would do — I googled “women adventurers.”
I found the Top 10 Adventures Starring Women on biography.com on which I was pleased to find my woman, marathon swimmer Gertrude Ederle, and newspaper woman extraordinaire Nelly Bly listed but slightly baffled at the inclusion of Osa Leighty — a 16-year old who married photographer Martin Johnson who traveled the world with Jack London.
According to the website: “Martin Johnson designed some of the most advanced technology of the day and stood behind the camera while Osa guarded the shoot with her rifle. Her memoir of romance and adventure, “I Married Adventure” (1940), was a best seller.”
OK, I admit I know nothing about Osa and Martin and she might have well been an adventurer in her own right (heck, she DID guard the photo shoot with her rifle), but she’s positioned here in terms not of her own experiences but in how they relate to her husband.
Ah, stereotype, party of one?
My initial thoughts turn immediately toward the smattering of sociological theory I absorbed through graduate school including, yes … wait for it … feminist theory. And while I can throw about enough terms to create a somewhat valid-sounding argument (emphasis on the “sounding”) I find myself rejecting the impulse. There’s too much defending my “pro-woman” stance as not “anti-male” and the message gets lost in the semantics.
So instead, I thought about defining adventure.
For the celebrated male explorers, adventure seems to be defined by danger, physical feats and unknown territory.
But is that the only definition of adventure?
My definition of adventure is valid because it’s true for me. You may have a different definition. That’s fine. Further, there’s no saying they have to be mutually exclusive. They can co-exist, perhaps even inform and fuel each other. How’s that for unchartered territory?
And so in the spirit of Gertrude and Nelly and even good old Osa Leighty, I’ll spend this weekend crafting my own definition of adventure — by living it, of course, not just thinking about it.
For good measure, I may even play a chorus of “Closer to Fine” along the way.