I want my free­dom for my daugh­ter

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL -

It hap­pens fre­quently enough that you could al­most call it a reg­u­lar event. Tues­day, ad­mit­ting to per­haps be­ing “crazy,” two ad­ven­tur­ers left St. John’s in an at­tempt to row to France. They hope to be safely across the At­lantic by mid-Au­gust.

They’re trav­el­ling with dried food and protein bars for the jour­ney, and plan to burn up 4,000 calo­ries a day, row­ing in shifts for what they ex­pect will be 60 days on the wa­ter. They’ll have a shore-based sup­port team, in­clud­ing a longdis­tance med­i­cal ad­viser.

At least one of the men, 24-year-old Brian Conville, has ex­pe­ri­ence: he spent 48 days row­ing from Cal­i­for­nia to Hawaii. His fel­low sailor, 20-year-old Joseph Gagnon, has sailed across the North At­lantic with his par­ents. Ad­ven­tur­ers have left St. John’s to row the At­lantic be­fore. They’ve also at­tempted kayak cross­ings, solo sail­ing trips — even wind­surf­ing.

Some make it, oth­ers don’t, and end up need­ing res­cue, some­times ex­tremely com­pli­cated, long-dis­tance res­cues in har­row­ing weather con­di­tions. Some have made it barely past the Nar­rows; oth­ers end up miles out in open ocean.

These row­ers are head­ing out on an ocean that just wreaked havoc with a trans-At­lantic sail­ing flotilla of well-equipped, ex­pe­ri­enced ocean sailors. That storm was se­ri­ous enough that five peo­ple had to be res­cued and three ves­sels aban­doned; the con­di­tions in­cluded seas of 15 me­tres and winds at 130 kilo­me­tres an hour.

These row­ers won’t face any­thing like that, if they’re lucky.

But the ocean is cold, fierce and un­for­giv­ing. As ad­ven­tur­ing be­comes a con­stant — and as so­ci­ety con­tin­ues to rec­og­nize those who climb the high­est peaks and run across the dri­est deserts as wor­thy of praise — it might be time to think about ba­sic ground rules.

Put it this way: if you fall on the East Coast Trail and need a med­i­cal res­cue, fair enough. A tum­ble off the North Head Trail on Sig­nal Hill shouldn’t mean you have to pick up the tab for your own high-an­gle res­cue, nor should get­ting into trou­ble on a July sail or motor across the bay mean a five-or six-fig­ure bill for mar­shalling the trained peo­ple and equip­ment needed to save you.

That is, of course, one of the rea­sons we all pay taxes.

But when it comes to ex­treme ad­ven­tur­ing — when it comes to risks be­yond the norm —per­haps we should be ask­ing some­thing more.

One thought? An in­surance pol­icy to cover the cost of res­cue. Why? Be­cause in­surance com­pa­nies are very good at man­ag­ing risk. Be­fore is­su­ing an ad­ven­ture pol­icy, they would be sure to ex­am­ine the com­pe­tency and prepa­ra­tion of those in­volved, in­clud­ing whether or not pri­vate sup­port teams are close enough to take ac­tion, and what res­cues might in­volve.

To the cur­rent set of row­ers?

Good luck on the ocean. We hope you won’t need it.

As I lay on the cold ta­ble, my rounded belly ex­posed to the ul­tra­sound tech­ni­cian, I heard her words ring clearly in my ears: “My guess would be ... you are hav­ing a girl.” This spo­ken as­sur­ance left me both elated and strangely fright­ened. As the day went on, I had an un­ex­plain­able hol­low feel­ing in my gut. I would have to raise a daugh­ter. This should be an easy task for a woman to do, shouldn’t it? Then why am I so afraid of fail­ing at this?

As I con­tem­plated these thoughts and feel­ings I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, I came to re­al­ize quite sim­ply: the world is a danger­ous place for a girl.

Per­son­ally, I have never been phys­i­cally vi­o­lated or at­tacked be­cause of my sex, but I have sur­rounded my­self with enough strong-willed women to not be ig­no­rant of the vic­tim­iza­tion of women in our so­ci­ety. How can I pos­si­bly pro­tect my child from her seem­ingly in­evitable future re­al­ity?

If I dis­sect each day, I have been ex­posed or in­cluded in a form of sex­ism daily. From cat­calls start­ing in el­e­men­tary school as I walked to Tim Hor­tons in be­tween dance classes, to feel­ing the need to jus­tify my iden­tity as a woman by danc­ing a cer­tain way with a name­less man in a club, I have been shaped to be­lieve I am pre­dom­i­nantly a sex­ual be­ing.

These con­stant ex­pe­ri­ences can ex­plain one of my un­cer­tain­ties that is in­volved with moth­er­hood: breast­feed­ing.

I am ded­i­cated to do­ing all I can to breast­feed my child, as I feel strongly about the ben­e­fits it has for an in­fant. But why is this nat­u­ral act some­thing I feel shame over do­ing, es­pe­cially in pub­lic? I have come up with so­lu­tions to my “prob­lem” of feel­ing in­se­cure about breast­feed­ing, mainly re­sort­ing to the idea of hav­ing to pump to feed my child in pub­lic.

I talk my way around the deeper so­cial norms by ex­plain­ing that I sim­ply do not feel com­fort­able ex­pos­ing my­self in pub­lic. It is about me, not those around me. But is that the real rea­son? Or have I been con­di­tioned to be­lieve that I am a sex­ual ob­ject that should hide my­self away to give sus­te­nance to my child? I was told in school to cover up, to make sure my kilt was at a cer­tain length. Are these sim­ple rules now plac­ing me in a po­si­tion of fear to do some­thing I was cre­ated to do: nat­u­rally feed my child?

My deep­est fear lies in what so­cial norms have been in­grained in me that I will in­her­ently pass on to my daugh­ter. We need to rec­og­nize and think crit­i­cally about our own ac­tions and not just place blame on oth­ers’ re­ac­tions. How can I per­son­ally make a change?

I had a pow­er­fully vivid im­age that came to me re­cently: my daugh­ter, grown into a young woman, rid­ing horse­back in this open meadow with the ra­di­ant sun beat­ing down on her. Her hair is blow­ing care­lessly in the wind and she is smil­ing as wide as can be. She is free.

This im­age makes me stop and re­al­ize that this free­dom I see her hav­ing will not come to her freely. It must be taught, shaped out of the un­fair world she will live in. I must take re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­still this be­lief of de­served free­dom in her, by way of demon­stra­tion. That re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on me now, and oth­ers to con­tinue to make im­prove­ments in what we teach young girls is ap­pro­pri­ate or in­ap­pro­pri­ate to do with their bod­ies.

I can start shoul­der­ing this re­spon­si­bil­ity by feed­ing my child where, when and how I choose, as it is my God-given gift to do.

Sierra Nose­wor­thy, St. John’s

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