I’m not much of a “gear,” person. I don’t have to have the best of everything; my bouldering outfits usually consist of whatever I can pile on top of myself to keep from freezing if it’s too cold outside. My gym wear usually consists of old t-shirts and leggings under athletic shorts. However, I agreed to go out bouldering with the gang on a thirty-four degree day; preparations were necessary. I set off to REI to find something that would prevent me from dying of exposure.
What I found was prAna’s flannel-lined boyfriend pant. The sizing surprised me — not only was I able to fit into a size zero, but even with a pair of leggings underneath it, they were still a little big. I would not recommend these for any of you chicas that fit comfortably in something like a Forever 21 size 0 — you’d probably be swimming in them. I’m really glad I was able to try them on, because I probably would have ordered a “2” online and then been super bummed when they fell off my butt into a flood of fabric on the floor. They’re also a bit long, so be prepared to roll the cuffs.
These are a lot more flexible than they look. They’re a cotton-poly-spandex blend, so there’s a bit of stretch to them, and not once during our session did I feel like they impaired my movement. They’re lined with super-soft flannel, so it feels like you’re slipping on a pair of pajama pants. Paired with my leggings, I couldn’t even feel how cold the rock was. And as for what makes up the most of bouldering time — standing around — these pants definitely made it more comfortable.
Original retail price was $100, but I got them on sale for $70. These are easily the most expensive pants I’ve ever bought, especially given the fact that I bought them for what essentially amounts to rolling around in the dirt. If they hadn’t been on sale, there was no way in hell they would be coming home with me. Now, I realize the high price actually covers a lot of things, most importantly the use of non-sweatshop labor and sustainable production techniques, etc., which is why I was willing to pay so much in the first place. However, I was definitely nervous about taking such an expensive gamble on a brand that I had no experience with. Luckily, they’re great! A+, highly recommend.
Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, briefly discusses the history of the medical profession and its views concerning and treatment of women. The authors discuss how so-called medical and scientific logic have basically been utilized as weapons against women.
Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the medical community postulated that women were inferior and inherently ill. The very fact of their womanhood caused them to suffer from deficiencies that men were unaffected by. The mere presence of the womb, of reproductive organs, caused women to be chronically ill. Because of this, many physicians and spouses of the women in question prevented women from being active or pursuing intellectual activities. Not only did this view allow for women to effectively be “from participating in life outside the sphere of the home, it also provided doctors (almost all male) with an endless supply of patients. Womanhood was an illness to which there was no cure, but there was always a “treatment” that was available for purchase.
One thing the authors do bring up is the question of how sick some of these women actually were. Of course women faced medical obstacles that men didn’t (like childbirth and a higher probability of contracting TB), but it seems sickness became like a hobby to women in affluent households; it gave them something to think about, somewhere to go (various appointments/visits to doctors’ offices), and a strange sense of importance (“I have a problem to be solved. I must do something about it.”)
The authors postulate that the physical fitness/abilities and treatments for women were divided down class lines. Upper class women were frail creatures who should not be overworked or over-stimulated and who should not take part in any intellectual or strenuous outside-of-the-home pursuits because they were in danger of falling ill. They had a natural delicacy that prevented them from participating in such active schemes. Women of the lower classes, often consisting of women from races and origins deemed “unfavorable” by the upper classes, were naturally suited to hard work, but were carriers of disease and would bring filth into the homes of the rich families they worked for. These two narratives were essential for keeping up the status quo: if all women were weak, how can society force lower class women to work? And if all women are strong, how can society force women with class or racial privilege to remain silent?
All of the above just barely taps the surface of the issues the book explores. Anyone interested in the conjunction of feminism and medicine should definitely read this book. Ehrenreich and English leave us with a few thoughts on the implications of this system: by developing our views of our bodies and our health through the filter of the patriarchal system, how can we form ideas about what constitutes a true “female nature?” They also stress the importance of viewing health and feminism from many different perspectives; the health issues and access facing affluent white American women are different that those facing poor immigrant women of color. If we’re working together to find solutions, we need to make sure those solutions include all women, not just some.
WHAT IT IS: The Thing Around Your Neck, by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a collection of short stories that deal with feminism, female autonomy, and the struggles for identity people face in a country that is rapidly changing around them as well as when moving to a new country. The majority of the main characters of the stories are young females, and although the situations they deal with vary – in one, a woman moves to America for a better future, but is abused by an uncle and forced to make her own way in the world; in another, a young woman is married to a man and moves with him to Brooklyn, where she finds out he is not what she thought he was, and also that he wants to squash her Nigerian identity out of her – through each of these stories, Adichie very clearly articulates hardships many women (particularly immigrant women) face.
WHAT I THINK ABOUT IT: First of all, Adichie’s writing is simply beautiful. The novel reads like tributaries flowing into a larger river; it’s graceful and purposeful, with each word exactly the right weight for the story. Aside from being beautifully told, these stories all feature strong women. Even if Adichie doesn’t leave us with concrete solutions for these women’s problems, we are left with the idea that, using their inner strength, they will be able to overcome them. Even when feeling lost, abandoned, beaten, and scared, Adichie’s women show strength, grace, and determination; they are feathers quills of steel.
WHY I READ IT: Like many people, I first became aquainted with Adichie’s work from being exposed to the sampling of her TED talk in Beyonce’s song “Flawless.” I watched that talk and several more, and upon learning she was a writer, I became interested in reading her work.
WHAT IT IS: If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino, is a novel that presents itself as a collection of short stories. Or a collection of short stories that presents itself as a novel. Or a novella connected by a series of short stories; I haven’t quite decided which. The chapters of the novel are divided into two parts: the first part describes the adventures of “you,” an avid reader who goes in search of the missing parts of a recently purchased novel, and the second part is the beginning of each novel “you” find.
The beginnings have two things in common: they leave off at the climax, and they are never continued in the rest of the book. Indeed, that is the quest of “you” – to find the rest of the novels to which these introductions are part of.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT IT: If on a winter’s night a traveler has been one of the most difficult books I’ve read in the last year. It mainly seems to be dealing with questions of authority, authenticity, and trustworthiness. Can I believe what an author says in his books? Is what the author describes a true belief or a contradiction meant to point out an inconsistency? Like the mirrors described in one of the novel beginnings, this story acts as a kaleidoscope, infinitely expanding and reflecting and collapsing back upon itself.
To be honest, I’m still not sure what I think of this book. Was this a true meditation on the purpose of readers, writers, and novels in general? Or was it meant to point out the futility of such questions? I don’t know, I don’t know! But it’s definitely on my list of must re-reads.
WHY I READ IT: My partner gave me this book as part of my Christmas present. He got me “Cosmicomics,” also by Italo Calvino, for my birthday, and since I enjoyed that one he figured he’d might as well get me another. Plus one to him for deductive reasoning.
WHAT IT IS: Bad Dirt is a collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx. Many of the stories center around the small Wyoming town of Elk Tooth. The stories feature a vast array of interesting characters – state Game Wardens, uncomfortable New York transplants, vegetarian bartenders, and grotesque high school bullies all grown up – and describe problems they face and the interesting ways they solve—or don’t solve—these problems. These small-town dramas are all played against the backdrop of beautiful and cruel Wyoming landscape.
WHY I LIKE IT: Proulx uses a mixture of magical realism, desolate landscapes, and black humor to tell her stories. The stories themselves are all about deaths; they describe the actual bodily death of characters, the death of relationships, the death of the emotional self, and the death of the wild-west countryside and rancher lifestyle. They are about characters desperately trying to get themselves out of difficult situations – some of them with ingenious, creative solutions, and others with nothing but bad luck and even worse endings. However, even when things don’t work out for the characters they way they (or the reader) would want, Proulx adds just enough humor to keep us from giving up on them. Overall, I felt this was equal parts deeply sad and deeply funny.
WHY I READ IT: I found this book while aimlessly wandering through The Strand’s fiction section. As a result of my recent cross-country drive, I’ve lately been really interested in stories about the West and living in the western United States.