Don’t you hate it when you’re just about to drift off to sweet slumberland, about to say “night night!” to social media, but then at the very last moment, you notice an infuriatingly gender-stereotyped post from an organization whose image is built on (some version of) feminism? Yeah, me too.
Yesterday’s good night’s sleep was ruined by this article from Bustle. If you don’t know Bustle, it’s a blog/website/”lifestyle brand” (because that’s a thing now) that describes itself as being “for & by women who are moving forward as fast as you are.” In the case of women rocking the outdoors, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be very fast.
When I first saw the headline – Everything You Need for a Girls’ Camping Trip – I did a little snort-laugh. I came across the link on Facebook; it was a sponsored ad from Bustle and Barefoot Refresh Spritzers, whatever the hell that combination of words is supposed to mean. Regardless, the guffaw was because since it was from Bustle, assumed that I’d click on it and arrive at a righteous, satirical blurb saying something along the lines of “whatever any human of any sex or gender needs for any camping trip.” You know, because feminism and all.
I should have known better.
While I like to think that the article was written with the best intentions, I was sorely disappointed to find it a staunch reinforcement of the rugged outdoorsman stereotype, and of its counterpart — the YOLO-pleading, eyeliner-slinging, but-I-might-break-a-nail whining, “I’ll just stay here at camp and play board games and make you guys some sandwiches for when you get back from your hike”… girl.
First of all, why do “girls” need to have our own, separate (and most assuredly not equal) guides to enjoying the outdoors? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are some things we need to do a little differently. For example, as an ACA-certified canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard instructor, I sought a lifejacket that was practical and rugged, but would snugly and safely fit my womanly curves. Let me tell you about the many color options. (And don’t even get me started on pockets.)
But living with a pink, floral lifejacket isn’t even the start of the deep and dangerous gender divide of outdoor recreation. This post is getting long enough as it is, and plenty of more articulate (and less frustrated) people have written plenty of worthy words about it. So read up:
- “The outdoors gender gap needs to be closed” by Liz Thomas
- “Let’s Talk About Women and Men and the Outdoors” by Mark Robertson
- “Closing the Gender Gap in the Great Outdoors” by Katherine Oakes
I’ll stick to what I came here for: that bothersome headline from Bustle. In the comments section on Facebook, one reader defended the seemingly sexist clickbait, pointing out that the article really does contain some useful information for beginner campers who might be nervous about spending their first weekend away from civilization. And that’s absolutely true.
But here’s the question: why didn’t they call the article “Everything You Need For Your First Camping Trip” or “Everything A Beginner Needs for a Beginners’ Camping Trip”? Why do we have to jump to women — sorry, not even women, but girls?
By doing this, Bustle has directly marketed to women in the outdoors, and made two very dangerous assumptions about those women before even reaching the first word of the article: that women are (A) inexperienced and unable to use the internet machine to teach themselves how to tie a knot and (B) more interested in spritzers and Instagram than forging a genuine connection with nature and making meaningful memories.
So I’ll step down off my soapbox with one final thought. Should those of us who have a bit of outdoorsy experience under our Patagonia strap-style belts be writing smart, accessible, fun articles to help acquaint people with the outdoorsy lifestyle, and to help them have a comfortable, fun, stress-free first experience in the outdoors so that they don’t run away crying and never come back? Of course.
Should we be confusing that with “LOL camping 4 girlz”? Probably definitely not.
If you’ve read the articles linked above (and beyond!) and are ready to get outdoors yourself, here are some great resources for any beginner in the outdoors — girl, boy, woman, man, none of the above, all of the above, in between or around the above, whomever:
- “So You Want To Go Backpacking For The Very First Time”, Gizmodo
- “Lessons From First-Time Campers and Backpackers,” Backpacker.com
- Outside magazine’s “Beginner’s Guide” series
And if you’re as self-righteously pissed as I am about using “girls” interchangeably with “helpless n00bs”, here are some organizations that are doing great things to close that outdoors gender gap, and you should totes support them: