Come as you are – getting more women and girls into the outdoor and adventure culture

Come as you are – getting more women and girls into the outdoor and adventure culture

By Maja-Cæcilie Friis Glavind (AKA M.C)

It’s International women’s day. And while I believe it’s important that we fight for equality and show sisterhood every day of the year, it’s a good opportunity to reflect upon why it’s so important to keep inspire women and girls to be part of the outdoor and adventure culture.

I see a lot of changes happening right now, where more and more women enter this area, that has previously been (and still is) male-dominated. But we’re far from there yet, and we need to keep pushing and changing the culture.

So why is it so hard for women to join the outdoor and adventure scene?

I don’t think it’s specific to this scene. I see the same thing happening in other industries. Last week I listened to an episode of the podcast Fries Before Guys (It’s in Danish, but big recommendation if you aren’t listening to it already!), where the two hosts had a conversation with an award-winning bioengineer about being female in a male-dominated industry. She explained how she and other women in the natural sciences always have to over-perform and get top grades to justify the fact that they’ve chosen this career. If you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry, you have to be almost over naturally good at what you do, to claim your right to be there.

Later that day I had a conversation with some friends about women in the music industry. And we talked about how a female drummer or rapper instantly gets judged whether she’s good or not because of her gender. A male drummer is way more common, and you only notice if he’s exceptionally bad or good. It’s okay for him to just be average. However, women in this industry too, have to be extremely talented to get recognition.

I think the same goes for the outdoor and adventure culture. We do see female expedition leaders, female athletes, and female captains. We are getting more and more badass role models, which is awesome. I definitely admire them, but when it comes to myself, I feel exhausted. And as a woman past 30, I know, I’m not going to be the next top athlete.

Just to put it out there, I’m 110% sure that I won’t win any Olympic medals in this life or do a triathlon on the North Pole. Even thinking about it is ridiculous! Like most of us, I have never done professional sports, I sit too much down in front of a computer and quite often I fail at talking myself into going for a run.

So, if you know you’re never going to be amongst the best people in the world at it, then why bother, right? If I’m not that good, I probably won’t fit in…

Wrong! This is what needs to change. There IS a role for us “ordinary women” in the outdoor and adventure culture, and it’s crucial that we take it – on OUR terms, in the way that WE like. And there’s plenty of reasons to do so.

Showing future generations what we can do

We need more female role models so outdoor and adventure sports feel as natural for women as for men to take part in. And to get more women involved, we need to lower the level, that we think, we need to perform at to take part. It’s about the small things we do, that we often have a tendency to put in a gender box.

If kids experience their mum being as good at maths as their dad, perhaps they wouldn’t see themselves as good at maths/bad at maths based on their gender. The same goes for music; if more women play around with the DJ decks at a private party, perhaps we would see more women headlining festivals and in the producer chair?

 

In the same way, we need to gender normalize even basic skills in the outdoor and adventure culture. It’s 2021 and about time we stop thinking, that it’s more natural for men than women to:

  • Chop wood
  • Get dirt on our close, show sweat, and get bruised
  • Drive fast
  • Fix a bikes
  • Take risks
  • Make a campfire
  • Be wild
  • Go fishing or hunting
  • Be courageous and push the limit

Imagine being good at all that as a girl and not being labeled “tomboy” or “boyish girl”. If we make these things as cultural acceptable for girls as for boys, I believe we will see more badass female rolemodels and leaders. And again, these are not things you have to be perfect at. It’s okay to try and fail, and do it in your own way.

Out with competition and in with the community

It’s not about competing with men. And it’s not about competing with each other. It’s about creating space within the culture for more feminine values. I bet I’m not the only woman, who feels uncomfortable when outdoor activities turn into a serious competition or showing off.

However, inclusiveness and a true notion of the community are what really motivate me to try new things. After many years, I’ve realized that when it comes to adventure, sport, and outdoor activities my biggest motivation is simply to do fun stuff together with others, who share the excitement. It’s about having fun rather than being good at it.

And I think this notion of community is actually what works for a lot of women. At the moment we see more and more female communities popping up. Whether it’s surfing, skating, or fishing, we see communities growing, where all women at all levels are welcome. Creating an environment where it’s ok to come as you are and have fun is what really gets more women out.

Once we feel safe and accepted, outdoor and adventure activities become more enjoyable. For me, it’s purely about fun and life quality. It’s good for my physical and mental health. It’s about being in nature, play around, making new relations, and push my limits. And when I experience that, it’s a success for me.

Be proud of being a beginner

Even though “it’s about having fun” sounds like a no-brainer, it has taken me a long time to actually realize it. When I started snowboarding, I often found it embarrassing to be a beginner. When people asked me “are you are a skier or a snowboarder?”, my answer was something like “well, I snowboard, but I’m a beginner and not very fast.”

I felt like I didn’t deserve the title “snowboarder” just because I hadn’t done it for very long. Now I’m far from a beginner, but I still don’t like black bumpy slopes or big kicks. And as much as I admire the people who do, I know It’s not for me and never will be. BUT I absolutely love and enjoy snowboarding. And that makes me a snowboarder, as much now as when I started out. 

If anything, I now see that being a beginner is where you sometimes have to overcome most fear. And I’m cheering at anyone, who takes those first steps to try something new, that can give them joy for the rest of their lives. 

Everyone deserves to explore, push boundaries, feel the adrenalin and have fun. And it’s completely individual how this is experienced. So don’t let it get to your head that:

  • you’re not a surfer if you find it hard to stand up
  • you’re not a park skier if you don’t like the black kicks
  • you’re not an outdoor person if you prefer not to take a dump in the forest
  • you’re not a proper scuba diver if you prefer not to dive with bull sharks, and so on…

 

Again, enjoying nature and outdoor culture is NOT a competition, it’s about you having great experiences. It’s not about being the most extreme, gnarly, or hardcore. If you take part in and enjoy outdoor and adventure culture, you are a part of it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

We need to show each other, that it’s ok to take an adventure in small portions, that suit you. It doesn’t have to be big or difficult, as long as you come out and meet, and maybe push, your boundaries.

For some, it can just be to wash a plate without access to hot running water and detergent. It’s about daring to try something new and explore what’s outside your comfort zone. If we dare to step out in the world, more will follow. You can be a role model even by taking the smallest steps.

Happy International Women’s Day. 
– Maja-Cæcilie Friis Glavind (aka MC)

 

BIG shoutout to all the boss female communities out there. You are all doing a different in this world. Keep fighting! 

Do you want to join us on some of our adventures or maybe meet some other jenter who can take you along next time they go on adventure? Follow us on Instagram or join our public Facebook group.

You can also read our blog  “Can we empower women and nature at the same time?”

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