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Women and the West

Women and the West

It seems unlikely to find individuals who are able to crystalize your ideas about a topic in a way that not only encompasses, but surpasses your own feelings around the subject. In reading "The West, when women are telling the story"an article in High Country News' November issue by Emily Wortman-Wunder, I discovered two authors who spoke eloquently on topics I have been grappling with this fall. Their thoughtful insight into writing, the West, and women spark a new discussion about their interrelation, spurring me to delve deeper into how one might re-evaluate femininity in the context of the modern American West.

Blair Braverman, author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, and Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho, discuss with Wortman-Wunder the influx of female voices ready to join the ranks of famous nature writers. Several quotes from this article stuck a chord with my research into modes of femininity, coupled with a deep look at the role nature plays in informing and revealing identity. 

The full article can be reached here.

If you look at traditional stories of wilderness and survival — which is of course an adjacent genre to nature writing — we usually see men responding by taming the wild, making it civil, and women responding by going feral. After all, wild femininity is dangerous — that’s where witches come from, right?
— Blair Braverman, author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

Braverman speaks of gendered relationships between humans and nature and the traditional responses of men and women as depicted through writing. In crafting my collection of women's wear for the adventurer, I am prompted to address these typified roles, attempting to strike a delicate balance between strength and the ability to overcome extreme alpine conditions, the wild, raw gumption of a frontier-woman, and a gentle appreciation, respect, and awe for nature.

Even though where we lived was so far removed from society — it was so far away, and very difficult to access, and very wild — wilderness for us was not untouched by people. Previous occupants of the land were always with us in the form of old garbage or treasures, some from a decade ago, some from a century ago. The most amazing thing that I found was a boot, a woman’s or child’s boot. It was filled with ants and soil and was decaying, so old that it was made with tiny nails; the lip of the boot curled over and there was lichen growing on it. All of this is to say that people’s lives, and the hardship of people’s lives, was very much a part of our life. Wilderness is not just the trees and the animals and the flowers and the danger; it was also very much about people. Imagining this other family, homesteaders from very long ago, was a part of our experience.
— Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho

Ruskovich touches on another aspect of my research, that of heritage and layers of history. There is endless fascination in a drooping eave of a lone barn that mirrors the quiet desolation of an aging valley, just as there is endless fascination in the intricate handwork of an embroidered seat cover or monogramed handkerchief found discarded and lonesome in the basement of an antique store. These are the stoic, yet delicate, physical reminders of the ones who have come before us.

Finding Complexity

Finding Complexity