Arlene's Blog

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Nov 4 Sparks flew during the panel

Hunter and Fanny Bullock Workman who pioneered new routes in the Karakoum

The darned TV alarm went off at 6:00 am for the second day in a row. I’ve got to unplug the TV. I felt some anxiety about the early morning three person panel on writing memoir which included David Roberts who wrote the critical and inaccurate Outside article about women climbers.
9:00 10:10 Book Festival Seminar V Writing a Memoir — Arlene Blum, Andy Cave and David Roberts
I wandered into breakfast, sat down at a random table, and saw to my horror Roberts was sitting across from me. Looking down intently at my plate, I tried to gobble my breakfast and flee, but people kept stopping by to congratulate me on my talk last night, and finally Roberts left, so I could relax and finished my breakfast.

Then on to the panel on writing the memoir. All went smoothly at first and indeed Bill Buxton, the moderator, made an interesting comparison between a dramatic fall I took on the North side of Mt Hood and an almost identical one Roberts took on an Alaskan peak. I was worried about being criticized as a woman out-stepping her ability, but Roberts had no such concerns

Based on this comparison Charlie Houston asked me:
Women like Miraim Underhill, Fannie Workman, Barbara Washburn, and Annie Peck did not experience sexism. Why do you think you did when they didnt?
(Charlie later told me he had long faulted me for my extreme paranoia on the subject of sexism).
I admire Charlie and wanted to explain the difference to him as best I could. I told him that women who were married to people in the establishment did not tend to experience sexism, but Annie Peck certain did. As it turned out, Fannie wrote about experiencing severe discrimination in "in the lofty circles".
I told the story of how when I was researching Annapurna I discovered that all the women who had attempt 8000 meter peaks before me had the same name in a listing of mountaineers: “And his wife.”
Then I found myself repeating the quote from Grant Barnes that anti-Semitism was also a component of my ill-repute of the AAC . Charlie denied it vehemently. David Roberts started a long tirade about their being no anti-Semitisim in the club. I was able to stop him by saying this was not appropriate for the panel and we could discuss it further later.

Then Bill asked David about his Outside article on the failure of womens climbing. David said it was just the title the magazine put on his thoughtful and nuanced story. I could not contain myself and said that to the contrary, the title did reflect his story which inaccurately blamed me for Vera and Alison's deaths. I said his story was poorly researched, hurtful, and I had been avoiding him for twenty years. His only response was to say that that wasn’t true.

To my relief, Chick Scott, one of the festival founders, asked what our favorite climbing book was. Mine has long been Lionel Terray's biography. David Roberts answered first citing the same book as his favorite. I wanted to remind him that a few years earlier he had written his favorite climbing book was Maurice Herzog's Annapurna, that was until he wrote his hurtful expose on Herzog.

I was so sorry that I had used the Grant Barnes quote and anti-Semitism had come up, but I was sincerely trying to explain to Charlie what I had learned about the antagonism the AAC had exhibited towards me. And I also regretted my sharp words with Roberts.
In the wrap I said I was sorry these unfortunate topics had been included. However for the rest of the day, dozens people came up to me saying that it was very important to say what I had said and that I had handled a difficult situation very well.
I later explained to Charlie Houston that I knew he wasnt sexist or anti-Semitic but these things did exit in the AAC. He told me I had long seemed paranoid about women's opportunities to climb. I tried to explain that it indeed wasn’t paranoia and thing he might have heard with me.

As luck would have it that night for the opening of the film festival there were assigned seats and mine was next to Dave Roberts. I said we needed to have the outside article he wrote in front of us before we continued our conversation. He again began a rant about there being no anti-Semitism in the club. We exchanged more adversarial words about this subject and I didn't return after the intermission.

Then I had a fun conversation with Annalise who is overnighting in luxury with our cousins in LA on her way from Thailand to receiving her NetAid Global action award at Lincoln center in NY next week.

15 books signed
Today: #14,999 in Books Posted by Picasa


  • At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting... Dave Roberts was chased out from Hampshire College for sexual misconduct with an undergraduate. He initiated a relationship with a student who was his advisee. If I recall correctly, he coerced her into rewriting her senior project since it included an account of their romantic relationship. There was so much wrong about the situation that we has forced to resign. As a climbing teacher at Hampshire he certainly personified the male climber as an arrogant, sexually aggressive and at times charismatic figure. I believe his fiction reflects this attitude pretty well. Oddly enough he was receptive to women climbers - but perhaps for the wrong reasons.


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