Here is a fascinating discussion of women who have submitted Mount Everest over the years and the challenges they faced based upon social expectations for them as women in Eastern and Western cultures. After one professional climber told National Geographic that she, like many working mothers, felt guilty at leaving her children behind, reader response was ferocious. Readers responded to the article stating she had “pre-shot her children” and accusing her of having “cheap, self-serving arrogance.” A Nepalese woman who holds the record for summiting Everest 6 times is working as a maid because in her culture, educating women is not seen as a priority and she can not read or write.
Some of the issues faced by Western women climbers is grounded in our historical view of women and sport. From the article:
In the 19th century, when mountaineering was developing as a sport, the playing field was highly restricted. Victorian society largely believed that women could not endure robust physical activity. One prevalent theory blamed the uterus and the ovaries. These organs were thought to dictate everything about a woman, from puberty to menopause, including her athletic capabilities….
Naturally, mountaineering was out of the question. As physician Karl Gerson warned in 1898 in the German Journal of Physical Education, “Violent movements of the body can cause a shift in the position and a loosening of the uterus as well as a prolapse and bleeding, with resulting sterility, thus defeating a woman’s true purpose in life, i.e., the bringing forth of strong children.” A woman needed to stay home and go easy on the uterus. Future generations depended on it.