I had a very enlightening conversation in Switzerland today - the question arose as to whether clients might be asking themselves the question whether a female guide would be able to protect them in the bush?
At first, I was taken aback by this attitude but then I realized that this viewpoint is still a reality in our society. Two days ago, my friend who is a teacher, shared the story with me that the boys in her class asked the girls they considered it to be an insult when they were called boys based on their behaviour. Their answer was that is was not really. Although they didn’t feel it was super cool, they could live with it. This shocked the boys as they in turn shared that they felt very insulted if someone would tell them that they were acting like a girl’. A really sobering realization that women in our modern society are still too often considered weak and emotional (and as such inferior to men) and that this image gets imprinted upon us from a young age. This is where my point start. We seem to link typical female attributes to girls and strength is definitely not one of them. ‘So how is a woman supposed to protect me in the bush’ is a question a client might ask themselves. It is not only men but also women who have expressed these concerns.
Reality and experience actually show the opposite. Male guides tend to agree that female safari guides are more attentive to their clients, are faster at picking up on interpersonal issues and emotions and take better care of their equipment. They are less ego-driven, more committed and have a higher sense of responsibility. Therefore they take less unnecessary risks and often achieve better shooting results than men. It's not about muscle power, it's about mental strength. It is not about muscle power, but about empathy and a sense of community. It's not about muscle power, it's about technique. Now that you have read this, in your subconscious you might still believe that the need for muscle power is more important, don’t you 😉 This is probably due to the image people have in their head of the wilderness and life in the bush. Many of us take this picture as truth although many of us have never been camping or travelling in the African bush.
I am convinced that I am not in a disadvantaged position as a "Woman in Wilderness". As a woman I don't have to compare myself with men, but as a woman I too can play to my strengths. I don't have to be a better man, I have to be the best a woman I can be. We don't have to play according to the rules that are society prescribes to us, but we can create our own and achieve our successes in this way. I use my strengths cleverly and consciously, and most importantly, I am aware of my weaknesses and rather than let them bring me down, use my knowledge and connections to come up with solutions to circumvent them where needed. By no means I want to say that men are worse or argue against the male sex. Nor do I want to generalize or push a feminist speech. My intention is to encourage women to step out of this "victim role" that society pushes upon us and believe in themselves and their own abilities and capabilities. In the end it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. I am convinced that with my attitude and a certain degree of charisma, I will be able to convert the sceptics. Not by talking the talk but by walking the walk.
I am not naive and say that the attitude is everything. I am aware that injustice often prevails and that it is not so "easy" and straightforward. I don't want to gloss over anything here. As a woman in the financial sector and now in another male-dominated guiding industry, I have repeatedly experienced extremely negative and sexist experiences. But I don't want to give these situations and people so much power over my life. I can only influence my attitude and not walk through life with bitterness, but with courage and inspiration. I am the one making the decisions over my life.I am curious to find out to what experiences still await me as a "Woman in Wilderness". Which paths I will tread? Which obstacles will I have to jump over and grow from? I will gladly continue to share them with you in my blog.
Apart from the above – whether you are a man or a woman - the only thing that really matters is that I remain true to myself and stay authentic in everything I do. That way I know I will attract the right people and clients in life and the right doors will open. At the same time, it is important that I am aware off and address the potential concerns of clients rather than to be blind to them. These are my personal and current thoughts, probably, to a certain degree, coloured by certain experiences and privileges out of my "protected" little world. I am not interested in validation, but I rather want to start the discuss and have some people reconsider their thinking on this topic. If I am successful in achieving this, it will be more than I ever hoped for. So, I go on the safari of my life - with myself - in the middle of life.