“No Man’s Land” Inspires Change For Women In Sports

No Man’s Land, an all-woman adventure film festival, was screened in Love Auditorium in Olin Hall on Thursday, November 8. No Man’s Land is a compilation of female directed films highlighting individuals who identify as female and their presence in the adventure arena. The film festival’s aim is to “un-define feminine in adventure and sports through film.”

The event was co-organized by junior Karen Lawrence and sophomore Ali Altman. Both women are involved in Colgate’s Outdoor Education (OE) Program. Altman said after attending the film screening last year she felt inspired and empowered by all of the films.

“I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in. I think the conversation about women in sport and the outdoors is also very relevant to a lot of the leaders on this campus, and I felt like Colgate as a whole could benefit from the films,” Altman said.

Lawrence and Altman started planning the films arrival since the start of the school year. Lawrence stated that one of their goals in bringing the film to campus was to show the larger community that there are female role models in this area that can be looked up to.

“A lot of outdoor spaces and communities are run by men and this includes ours. They do an amazing job, but it doesn’t change the fact that there aren’t female role models. In OE we have the trainers to compensate for this lack of female leadership but the rest of campus doesn’t have access to this,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence and Altman believe bringing the film to campus opens up the chance for a larger dialogue about gender dynamics and norms in the adventure and outdoor realms, as well as recognizes female athletes and outdoors women around campus.

“There are so many women on this campus that lack the recognition they deserve for working twice as hard as men to achieve outstanding things,” Altman said.

Lawrence spoke to her own personal experience as a member of OE and as a female rock climber.  

“I have to do a climb that [men] consider hard for them to see me as a good climber,” Lawrence said. “Learning a technical skill is hard no matter who you are. It’s not that you have to learn more as a female leader, but I feel that I need to prove myself a lot more, whereas I don’t think men have that same feeling.”

 Senior Shana Shapiro, one of OE’s four trainers, related to this sentiment.

 “I’m really grateful that I haven’t felt many barriers being a female leader in the outdoors, but I feel the challenges most when I am adventuring with male partners. Whenever we encounter others on trail or at a climb, questions are usually directed at my partner and they are often assumed to be the leader even if they have less expertise than me,” Shapiro said.  “This can reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.”

Altman also spoke on her experiences as a leader in the outdoors.

“While I’m fortunate enough to be a part of an organization that places equal value on its female and male leaders, I do find that within the organization, the men that possess “hard skills” in the outdoors are often more celebrated than women who also possess these skills. I have also found that participants will often look toward my male co-leader for instructional and technical guidance, whereas I am more often trusted to tend to their physical and mental needs,” she said 

All three women spoke in hopes that bringing the film to campus and starting a dialogue regarding women in sports and adventure would help bridge the gap between technical skills and gendered stereotypes.

As a precursor to the film screening, during Tuesday night’s Ladies’ Hour from 7-8 p.m. at Colgate’s climbing wall, Altman and Lawrence posted posters boards asking various questions such as “Who makes you feel empowered?” “What makes a space feel inclusive?” and “What helps make a space feel inclusive?” as a way to invite participants to engage and reflect on the dynamics of the adventure spaces they partake in.

Lawrence said the goal in the next few years is to have a full week of discussion around these issues as a means to bring the community together through these films and activities.

Contact Alexandra Weimer at [email protected].