Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sexism on the Steppe

 Mongolian women are the absolute best.  It's not enough that they be gorgeous (and they fact, they may be the most beautiful women in Asia.  As an objective observer with vast experience with aesthetics thanks to my training in the visual arts, I think they are).  They are also smart, and strong, and driven.  It was the women of Chinggis Khaan's family that kept the empire together as long as it was.  When I started teaching, I was disappointed to realize that I actually liked my boys better than my girls, whom I aspired to be a role model for.  In Mongolia, that's not a problem.  My girls are, for the most part, much more interesting and outspoken than my boys, and I love them for restoring my faith in our gender.

That's why I find it baffling that there are places that women can't visit here.  Not like a proper gentleman's club, but shamanist or Buddhist sites where they are not supposed to walk.  
We ran into this in June, when Wild Ass and our driver explained that we couldn't go to the top of Black Mountain, and regaled us with tales of women who had scoffed at this restriction to their regret.  I didn't think too much of it at the time.  As we neared Dariganga on Sunday and Enkhaa pointed out Altan Ovoo and explained that we could walk the kora around the mountain but not hike up it, I found myself a little insulted.
But whatever.  I wasn't that interested in hiking that hill - I needed to save my energy for Shiliin Bogd later that afternoon.  I was a little irked when Enkhaa explained that men who climbed the hill were supposed to leave refreshed, but that it didn't work for women.  However, I've visited the energy center in Sainshand - I didn't need this mountain to "refresh" me, and we were definitely allowed to climb this one. 

I've mentioned this before, but I'm not the fastest hiker; I prefer stopping to smell the roses (or shoot the pictures) to racing up stupid hills.  This is good, considering I am also not the most graceful person in the world and my family might be more than a little put off if I fell off the side of a mountain.  Unfortunately this meant that I was about 20 meters short of the top when some mean old Mongolian fart told Engrish (in perfect English - good for you, asshole) that we were not allowed up there.  He actually shooed us away.  And so now I was pissed.  It's possible that I mouthed off as we started trekking down the hill, about how we didn't need his stinking mountain and that I hoped he fell off the south side into China, f*ck you very much (I didn't realize he spoke English or it's possible I wouldn't have spoken quite so loudly.  Thankfully he never would have heard me over the wind, anyways).  Everyone we spoke to afterwards said that women were allowed on Shiliin Bogd, and that jackass was the only thing keeping us from checking out the view of China 3k away on the other side (it probably wasn't much of a view, but we didn't get the chance to find out).  It wasn't a wasted trip - it was still interesting to see the volcanic craters - but I would have been happy to stay at the nearby tourist camp and go up the next morning instead (for some reason, Enkhaa changed our plan when we got back down).  Engrish and I decided (in our first of many business plans for this trip) to come back and build our own tourist camp.  On another crater.  With the prettiest ovoo in Mongolia.  And only allow women to come.  And since there are so many volcanic craters we should be able to tap a hot spring SOMEWHERE, and that would definitely leave our guests feeling refreshed.


  1. I really love to read your blog and think you are a fine young lady. But why "stinking mountain"? In fact millions of our ancestors died defending those mountains. Just because you were pissed at that old guy doesn't mean you can say so.

  2. I'm sorry that I offended you. If you read my blog, you know that I have a lot of respect for Mongolians. "Stinking" is a figure of speech in American English, and implies no disrespect, only frustration. However, since this is my blog, this is precisely the forum for me to express that frustration. While I am normally very happy in Mongolia, sometimes things do ruffle my feathers, and I'm not going to pretend like they don't - it would be dishonest. I'm sorry if that upsets you, but it's my choice to make.