Outdoors life & feminism: Communication
Featuring Wilda Nilsson and Alma Bågefalk. Outdoors life is amazing in many aspects, a moment to step outside of traditional stereotypes and a safe place to be one self. But it can also slip into the opposite. Patriarchy slips in, from mansplaining, to who does the cooking/fetches firewood, who dares to sleep alone outdoors, who sits where in the canoe, 3 minute potty-breaks and who's expected to take initiative.
We like to connect outdoors life with male coded traits. To be autonomous, strong, inventive, driven and to stand through challenges. And yes, these traits are great, but it's not everything. The art of communicating ones needs and feelings, to cooperate, lift one another, create safe spaces outdoors and humbleness before the forces of nature, are just as important. It's just not quiet as visible in social media.
Speaking in general. While female coded kids are raised to conform and not to make a mess of things, male coded kids are raised to be active and conquer the world. But also - they're taught not to show weakness.
Even though everyone's responsible to air their needs, these structures must be kept in mind, in order to create an outdoors life more equal. Example: Don't blame the teenage girl for using make up, blame the structure behind her need for it and talk things through.
So how do we do this?
Well. How well do you communicate in your group? Many gender gaps can be sealed by conversation and trying to walk in your friends boots (mentally, not literally). It's also individual how much attention or regard that is appreciated. Some are sick of the question "ain't that to heavy for you?" while another really would like a hand. Another common phenomenon is mansplaining, it means that a cis-man explains something to a woman who already have expertise in the area. To actively pep each other, take a step back and let someone else put forward their inner queen, can make wonders to group dynamics. Please, ask yourselves, how do you handle the situations described below? Is it obvious to you? Or do you simply take for granted that everyone is comfortable with the social structures as they are?
What do you study/ do for work?
I study to become an officer and works in the Swedish armed forces.
In your work, do you find that there are different expectations based on gender, wether people have experience, manage routines and skils?No. When it comes to conscripts there are no expectations on any prior knowledge, we teach them everything they need to know in order to work as soldiers. Of course, having some outdoors life experience might make things easier, but it's not required. As an instructor I work actively with gender equality issues and focus on creating an environment where all individuals can grow.
When it comes to my involvement in the outdoors, I try to bring the same mindset into it. I want everyone to feel welcome and that it's okey being a newbie. I try to keep my teachings simple and express myself in a way that inspires and invites people.
Have you any hands on advice, what one can do to make outdoors life more equal?
Then it's frustrating that the stereotype image of women pops up on social media. I mean brushed, handsome women with makeup is starting to become the norm in outdoors business as well. As an example, wearing water based make up in freezing temperatures increase the risk for frostbites. It's sad that looks should matter that much ...
Do you want to read and see more of what Wilda does? Check out her Instagram and blog!
What do you do for work?
I'm an outdoors pedagogue and pathfinder in traditional outdoors life. I currently work at a nature school, where I meet other pedagogues and children of all ages. We look for bugs, go on adventure in fairy tale land, make fire with flint and steel and a lot of other fun stuff. I also arrange courses for pedagogues trying to inspire them putting more of their teaching outdoors.
Prior to this, I educated wilderness guides at upper secondary school and worked as an outdoor pedagogue at a school. I also host guided tours in nature and educate canoe leaders for Friluftsfrämjandet (Swedish Outdoor Association).
What are your thoughts on outdoors life and gender equality?
Outdoors life is marked by a macho-culture, where it's very important to perform. As a female and quiet young outdoor leader I've many times felt questioned, reduced and mansplained. I often feel that I have to assert myself, my experiences and skills, in a way that my male colleagues doesn't have to in order to gain trust and respect.
Have you any hands on advice, what one can do to make outdoors life more equal?
If you're going out in the wild as a group I think it's important to have structures and share the work, both before and during the trip. It's also very important to communicate needs and wishes on a regular basis. If you just go with it, the risk is imminent that you'll get trapped in boring or even toxic stereotypes, even if you don't want or choose to. How we're raised matters more than we like to think. Gender equality is something we need to actively work on to achieve.
The same thing goes for a group of children outdoors. But nature has great potential to be a more gender equal environment. There are no gender coded playgrounds or toys, like indoors. Only you imagination sets the limit. Due to my experience kids play more mixed games outdoors, not only gender but age as well.
Do you want to read and see more of what Alma does? Check out her instagram!
How Traceless work on gender equality issues:
Long lunch breaks, and choosing the right campsite.
Anyone having their period or if they wish to go away to pee, they should be able to do so, without the group jumping of impatients to get on. If you're out as a group, ask how long break people need, don't assume that 3 minutes is enough.
Whom I turn to while instructing.
When we bring out a hetero couple, I turn consciously by 90% towards the female coded while talking about steering the canoe, making fire with ferro rod etc. It's a matter of balance of course, but by being conscious about how I instruct people, I can also make it more including. I don't exclude the male coded, but magically when the women gets this tiny bit of social support, they become more active during the tour. With my gaze, I say, you're welcome to do this too.
How I portray guests and friends in the outdoors
I try to capture everyone, no matter gender identity, in action. There's a norm in outdoor photography, where female coded persons admires epic views, pet their dog, cook (without eating anything) or hang out with kids. While the male coded persons are seen biking, fishing, climbing, steering the canoe etc.
It's not always easy to break this pattern. For example I noticed that in 9 out of 10 photos, that I've taken during the last season, the cis-women (consciously or not) lifts their paddle out of the water as soon as they notice I'm taking photos. No matter where in the canoe they sit, or if there's two cis-women in the canoe. I can only guess, but I think the structure behind this phenomenon, might be that women are blamed when they do stuff, unless they do it perfect. But it could also be as simple as they trying to give me more time to take the picture and not make it blurry. Anyway, the solution? Ask any guest to keep the paddle in the water while I'm taking photos. Why is this even important, you may ask? Well. Through the images that we post online, we invite people to become active and we teach one another how to do things.
Anyone who have read this blog for a while, might have noticed wordings like "people born with uterus", female/male coded, cis-persons etc. It's a conscious choice, it's an invitation to those who don't identify by the two gender stereotypes. This far, no one has complained about these wordings making the posts difficult to read. And even if a hundred people would complain, I wouldn't change it. There's still too much work to do in this area, and we cis-people should not conform at the expense of trans community.
Was this post helpful? Please, share with friends and family. Do you have any hacks on how to make outdoorslife more gender equal? Please share int he comments or Stories and tag @tracelessintiveden, so that we may help out spread the word!
Consider and make change, in peace!