His and Hers Gear: The Gendered Marketing of Outdoors Goods

I’ve been working on a long-form piece about the outdoors industry and its relationship with marketing and business, and came across a few interesting articles that sparked another concern. Is the marketing of outdoors goods, separated for males and females, i.e, a pink backpack versus a navy one, continuing to foster the mental gender gap in outdoors recreation?

 

Sexism in Media

When I previously cited an article by Gina Begin on The Outdoors Women’s Alliance, it was apparent that female climbers feel the pangs of only the “sexiest” back muscles of women grace the covers of magazines. And they’re not even doing very hard routes most of the time, which is frustrating too. Outdoors climbing magazine aren’t the only place where this happens. The New York Post just published an article about how pissed off all the professional women in the LPGA were about some tan leggy woman in tight white who’s marrying a male golfer being on the cover of Golf Digest. Ready for a bigger shock? There has never been a professional female golfer on the cover. Never.(http://nypost.com/2014/04/04/paulina-gretzkys-sexy-golf-digest-shoot-angers-lpga-pros/).

Don’t even get me started on the choice to use the word “Ladies” in the Professional Golf Association title rather than Women’s. I don’t know, women just has a more respectful tone to it for me. But I digress.

Clearly, media really likes sexy women- and that’s probably not going to change too soon without much more of a revolution; especially considering the major switch from print to online. Print magazines probably have to pull out the big guns (ahem, bosoms) to sell copies.

Sexism on the Shelves

But this issue of separate arenas for male and female athletes, for male and female outdoors enthusiasts, comes down to the very products and their qualities. I’m not griping necessarily about the different facets that cater to the different male and female forms, obviously- men aren’t going to buy sports bras but we ladies sure as hell need them. But I do not need a pink backpack to climb a mountain, and no it does not have to have flowers on it.

Here’s a snippet from Adrienne Wadewitz and Peter James who wrote about this subject for Pacific Standard:

“One of the reasons for that is because these activities are advertised to women as an escape from their stressful lives, not as a sport meant to challenge their physical ability. Outdoors equipment marketed toward women, then, consistently focuses on comfort and style, in contrast to men’s marketing. Moreover, much of the gear that is produced for women assumes less of a desire to do activities that are as physically demanding as men—the gear is often less hardy and more decorative. The assumptions behind these marketing strategies reinforce stereotypical ideas of gender: that women are physically weak, that women are fascinated by fashion, that there is one specific female body type, and that women are ‘soft.'”http://www.psmag.com/environment/women-relax-men-mountaineer-backpacks-reveal-gendered-marketing-outdoor-sports-70861/)

Take this advertisement by Nike:

Courtesy of Nike, Women’s Marathon.

Though this advertisement could be a kind of “race yourself”, “be fierce” ad, it doesn’t really go that way for me. What I’m reminded of is a woman checking herself out in a passing window to see how she looks, and the tagline doesn’t help to take this impression away for me: “There’s nothing you can’t see yourself doing.” That’s inspirational and all well and good, but it shouldn’t necessarily be about the image of what it is you’re doing…it should be actually doing it. I’d be more impressed with a woman staring straight ahead, determined to finish the race. I used to run races and always smile to the camera, hoping for a good picture, but I’ve stopped doing that because I feel like it’s disingenuous and I’d rather get a picture of what I really look like running–intensity and all.

 

Me in my recent Charlottesville Half Marathon with a rather “real” face on.

But what Pacific Standard also points out is that these products, marketed for women, sometimes either are of worse quality (because women aren’t assumed to need something as durable as men), or the gender gap is entirely ridiculous and unnecessary sounding. Like why do you need a men’s or a woman’s sleeping pad?? Just sell by height! That’s how people purchase them anyway.

A Hard Look:

If you go to The North Face homepage right now, you’ll be greeted first by a bunch of muscular men representing their new “Mountain Fitness” regimen, click the Women’s tab, find the new fleeces for Spring, and see one measly jacket out of five that doesn’t have pink or purple in the thumbnail. And the one that’s not pink has a pink option, of course.

If you click on the Women’s Pitaya Swirl Jacket, the description reads ” Merging the comfort of a fleece with the wind resistance of a nylon ripstop exterior, this light jacket prepares you for blustery spring days or cool alpine summer nights.” To me, that sounds a lot more like a woman kicking back in a lawn chair and gazing at the moon rather than doing some serious hiking.

Conversely, the Men’s Kilowatt 1/4 Zip is described as “Execute workouts that are hard on your body and tough on your gear with reliable coverage of this ultra-durable quarter-zip pullover.” I don’t see anything about cool and blustery there, and “ultra-durable” definitely doesn’t come up in the women’s coat description.

This kind of thing is happening everywhere; The Pacific Standard article cites a Mountain Hardware example.

The counterexample I see, that treats women like the fierce athletes they are, might be Baltimore’s own Under Armour. One of the items in Under Armour’s women’s camo line: “Women’s EVO HeatGear Camo Tank” which is described as ” a lightweight base layer than not only keeps you cool, it keeps you hidden until you’re ready to strike.” Sure, Under Armour has some pink options, but this kind of thing is more in the right direction.

Advertisement courtesy of Under Armour

Why Every Young Person Should Run a Half Marathon

Tomorrow, I’m running my fourth half-marathon in Charlottesville, Virginia. While that sounds kind of insane to the average person, the truth is–running these kinds of races is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in college. And you read that right; it’s something you do for yourself

On the verge of my race tomorrow, it’s making me think about why running these races is so amazing and challenging. And why every young person can and should run one. Each of these examples is definitely something that has happened to me, in some context–the ridiculous, the embarrassing, and the awesome alike.

On the one side, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles of:

1.pain

2.struggle

3.trouble breathing aka sucking wind

4.having to go o the bathroom at least once and being pissed you didn’t before the race


5.joint abuse

6. brutal hills

7.fatigue

8.being left alone with your own torturous thoughts telling you that you can’t finish

9. CHAFING (awful.)

10. being passed by people left and right and thinking you’re slow as hell

11. dropping your entire water cup on your shirt instead of in your mouth

12. doing this with gatorade and being sticky for the rest of the race

13. being able to see the finish line and having to run a 2 mile loop back (curse you, Nike Women’s Half in DC)

14. having that old ankle injury or IT band trouble start to twinge around mile 9 and hoping you won’t have to walk

15. having to tie your shoes

16. not having enough energy to wipe the sweat off your face

17. having marathoners pass you even though they’re running twice the distance

18. missing your family or friends who are trying to cheer for you and not getting that extra boost

19. wondering if you look like a kangaroo on heroine in photographs

20. realizing your socks are not fitting right and that a blister is gradually forming getting worse with every step

21. just hauling yourself a long ass distance.

However, running a half-marathon is also 13.1 miles of:

1.time for yourself

2. meeting really cool strangers

3. realizing the true value of water and food at fuel stations

4. being thankful for amazing volunteers

5. being thankful for incredible fans and their inspirational signs

6. the guy that pulls his car out to the side of the road at 7:30am to play music for you as you pass.

7. finding your stride


8. thinking about life

9. feeling the strength of your legs

10. marveling at the power of the human body

11. seeing a stranger with a prosthetic leg and an 80 or so year old man pass you

12. realizing that you have a great thing going in this life, and if you don’t, that maybe you should do something about it

13. inspiration

14.sight-seeing

15. sweaty palms

16.  banana craving and then eating that banana as soon as you finish

17. strangers thinking you’re their hero

18. passing that girl who dusted you at the starting line with a mile to go

19. crossing the half-way mark

20. seeing the 13 mile sign and kicking in your last bit of adrenaline for a sprinting finish

21. getting a shiny medal and nice t-shirt and loads of free food and maybe even a free beer if you’re extra lucky

22. having the excuse of having just ran a race when you look pathetic on the stairs for the rest of the weekend

23. the glorious pain of ice baths

24. planning for your next race

25. becoming addicted to racing.

There’s obviously a lot more that fits into either column, because a race is really personal. Maybe you won’t look like a kangaroo on heroine; you might look like a koala on crack. Or maybe you’re extremely photogenic during races and everyone else hates you.

But the first thing to realize is that it’s definitely do-able. If you enjoy running at all and you could finish about 6 miles today, you could get to half-marathon shape in no time. Hell, I barely trained for this race anyway.

Need advice on half marathons or want to make a comment? Shoot me an e-mail or comment here. I’m no pro, though! (:

 

Best,

Jenna

Pure Glamour: My First Red Carpet Experience and How Not to Interview

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before the event!

This Monday, I got to go to my very first red carpet premiere event and interview actual celebrities and watch them drink champagne and giggle with each other and be generally fabulous. Obviously, it was awesome.

I don’t often write a story exclusively on the part of my life where I enjoy being pretty and professional, because I feel like people give me weird looks sometimes when I do. And because I feel like it sounds more feminine and empowering to always talk about my adventures in mud and grime and sweat. But in all honesty, that other half of me is going strong, and this Monday was the perfect opportunity for me to get my glam side on.

When my editor at D.C. Magazine asked me if I wanted to go to a red carpet premiere, I looked at the email and literally said out-loud “is that even a question?” No matter, that it was a Monday and I don’t actually live in D.C. and had to be up at 8am the next day to go to work. Pshaw. It’s the red carpet. And I’d never been before.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got the news was do some internet stalking, because isn’t that what everyone ever does? Before a first date, your potential mate has probably googled you, your brother, and each of your ex-girlfriends. Twice. But I digress.

I googled “Turn”, a new show premiering April 6th on AMC, and saw that it starred Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot, Nymphomania, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Hong Kong, and other cool titles as well as Heather Lind of Boardwalk Empire, Kevin McNally who’s in all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and several other fabulous names. The show would be based on a book, which already made me give it some respect: Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. Even better. Spies, espionage, NSA scandal-sneaky business and national secrets are hot right now.

the cast being goofy with each other!

the cast being goofy with each other!

And this show is about the O.G. American spy ring, who literally stole British secrets right from their Red Coats during the Revolutionary War. A story that no one has told before, about the Culper Ring- the spies that obviously succeeded because they were hidden from public knowledge for so long. You know about Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale because they failed. But, as Alexander Rose told us at a panel after the premiere, that does NOT make you a successful spy.

This show was sounding pretty awesome, and when I started seeing ads all over the metro and online, I knew I was in for an exciting event.

Monday, I hopped on the Marc Train for that delightful hour-ish long ride stuffed in with other commuters en route to the National Archives where the event would be hosted. Upon arrival, I spotted a red carpet outside and knew I was in the right place.
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Skip past the whole me-awkwardly-waiting-because-I-am-always-always-always-early bit, and I’m standing on the red carpet, my foot marking my spot that read “DC Magazine”. Big leagues.

I promptly became BFFs with the reporter alongside me and pulled out my iPhone, hoping that its devil spawn battery would not forsake me now. And then they just started walking out. Before I could even really get too nervous, Heather Lind was there posing on the carpet in her gorgeous ensemble, Kevin McNally following close behind.

Lind was the first to speak to us, and we did kind of  a group reporter session, which felt more like a fun chat. If you get the chance to do this, (lol me giving advice), make sure that you get your questions in and don’t let that one annoying guy ask question after question leaving you stand there, awkwardly smiling and nodding and wanting to kick him backwards in the shin. Pipe up and be heard; though it’s not always that easy. Lind gave us some great material about her character, Anna Strong, who she described as a kind of “early feminist” and a “no nonsense” kind of woman.

After we spoke with Lind, we heard from Kevin McNally, who told us a bit about his favorite spots in DC including Capital Grille, Seth Numrich about being one of the few Americans on the cast, Samuel Roukin who described his experience playing the villain Captain Simcoe as “delicious” and Jamie Bell who joked around with us about the cold weather filming in Richmond, Virginia and his amazing experience playing a real man, Abraham Woodhull, who made a difference in the Revolutionary War.
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And then we got to see the pilot, which was fantastic…no spoilers here! You’ll have to tune in April 6th to find out.

 

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Jenna

Being an Urban Outdoorsy Woman: Where is the nearest nature?

An important question for women hoping to be professional as well as outdoorsy is: where can I find my nearest dose of nature? Sometimes, with skyscrapers, city blocks, and sequestered trees, there isn’t always a really easy answer. 

Luckily, most cities have a few main staples like parks, trails, and urban oases that give city-goers a little dose of nature when they can’t go outside the city and find the nearest State Park, hiking trail, or river. Luckily, I’ve visited a few cities, and have lived in Baltimore for the past four years. I’ve found Baltimore’s hidden green more than once, and even covered it in this City Paper College Guide Article titled “Get Outside”: (click either image below to read more.)

 ImageThe article includes a variety of options, especially for Baltimore college students, to get outside, be fit, and join athletic teams. 

 

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City Paper article artwork by Ana Benaroya

In terms of going outside in Baltimore and getting the best dose of nature, I always seek out the little things, like my apartment: The Carolina. It’s right across the street from the Johns Hopkins lacrosse stadium. It’s the only one I’ve seen around my campus that has an actual lawn out front.

Here are a few of my absolute favorite options in Baltimore:

1. The Gilman Trail:

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courtesy of Map My Run user who describes the trail as “Narnia”

This trail is a hidden alcove just beyond Hopkins House apartments; take a right then watch the left side of the street for the beginnings of forested area; run across a small wooden bridge and you’ll be on the trail. Students of the nearby Gilman school run cross country on these paths, and it’s great for a four mile loop. Just watch out for mud if it’s been rainy lately.

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2. Druid Hill Reservoir

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The Druid Hill Reservoir in Druid Park features scenic views, a running/bike/walking loop, gymnasium equipment, a local pool and more. It’s beautiful in any season.

Druid Hill is another one of my favorite places to run or bike, but it would be nice to just sit on a bench in the springtime and read here. It’s beautiful, and you’ll always see a lot of people out enjoying it even if the weather’s only hinting at warmth.

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3. Patterson Park

Patterson Park and the neighboring Baltimore Zoo are both green spots in an urban expanse, urban oases, if you will. The beautiful pagoda within the park and areas for open air concerts are great for a taste of fresh green. That is, if spring will finally happen.

 

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courtesy of baltimoreaerials.com

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courtesy of the Friends of Patterson Park

These are just a few of my top picks, but fill a few crucial categories of green areas that manage to fit into urban environments:

1. Trails

2. Bodies of Water

3. Parks

Though Baltimore is relatively small, we have some real beauty if you’re willing to look for it. Check out that City Paper article for more of my suggestions.

 

Women, The Largest Growing Segment of Outdoors Adventurers, Are Here to Stay

How many women do you know that would probably imagine Meredith from The Parent Trap with a big ‘ol lizard on her head if asked about what camping is like? Though this perspective is funny and refreshing, and not all ladies need to like to get muddy, some of us do.

Parent Trap

Their face might look something like this gem I found on Flickr. Courtesy of brianteutsch.


Though it may have been quite a few women in the past, women are moving past this stereotype, just as Lindsay Lohan ahem…moved past her adorable 11 year old twin characters. Women are moving into outdoors recreation more than ever before. Even women that may have previously chosen indoor activities may be giving outdoor activities a try.

According to John Hayes of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “the fastest growing segment of outdoors users…is comprised of women.

Woman hiking in snow storm

Creative Commons image courtesy of Kees Smans


Though Hayes’ articles cites mostly from the sports of angler fishing, hunting and shooting–it is clear that these previously stereotyped “male” activities are becoming more and more attractive to women. Though the percentage change in participation  of women in outdoor activities may not be more than a couple additional percentages, these numbers are significant when polled from across the country.

The Outdoor Participation Report of 2013 groups information about outdoors activities and participants by varying categories, including age and gender. The Report hopes to find out who’s going outside, what it is they’re doing, whether it be hunting, walking, or kayaking, and whether or not they’re likely to continue going outside.

Since 2006, females aged 18-24 participating in outdoor recreation has increased from 51% to 56%. It has been rising ever since 2009, when the number was pulled out of a low depth of 48% up to 53% in a single year. According to another report provided by Southwick Associates, a rise of almost a whole percentage of women involved in angling and hunting.

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Creative Commons image courtesy of Renee V.

So excited to read an advance...

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild! Creative commons image courtesy of Tammy Strobel.

Not only have lady huntresses and fly fishers joined the ranks of the outdoors world. The idea of women taking on the wilderness has started to populate the mainstream media, thanks especially to books like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Oprah Book club selection recounts the biographical tale of a 22 year old woman named Cheryl and her quest to hike a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail–the less tamed West Coast cousin of us East Coaster’s more familiar AT (Appalachian Trail).

Though Strayed’s (a name she chose while on the trail) journey could have gone terribly, horribly wrong–it ended up being an inspirational tale of recovery, personal development, resourcefulness, hardheadedness, and the kindness of strangers. On the thousands of miles she walked alone with a too-heavy pack, little food, almost no money, and a determination to just reach the next leg of the journey–I definitely fell in love with her spirit.

Woman pausing to look at landscape

Creative Commons image courtesy of Jared Wong.

Even as an outdoors instructor and a Wilderness First Responder who knows just how terrifying it would be to lose an entire boot, be without a trustworthy water source, or not have the proper equipment–I can’t deny the charm of Strayed’s tale. Though I’d advise readers to prepare a little bit more if they wanted to repeat the venture.

The Outdoor Women’s Alliance, a blog for women who are active outdoor athletes to share their thoughts and experiences, offers up a lot of commentary on the gender issue in outdoors recreation. Its mission is “promoting women in outdoor adventure”, and many organizations like this exist across the country such as Adventures for Women, Awesome Adventurous  Women,  Untamed Adventures, and more.

These groups or blogs encourage women to get outside, and to celebrate each other. However, women as adventurers in the media may still have a different role than what may be ideal.

A post by Gina Bégin  on The Outdoors Women’s Alliance discusses the prevalence of female climbers in a sport that seems to be dominated by men, interviewing some of her acquaintances on the topic. She discovers that women are more often than not portrayed on magazine covers for sports like climbing, though they do not dominate the category. Shop owners and people in charge claim this is for aesthetic reasons, and feature women climbing less challenging routes to look good and sell copies. Bégin wields the weapon of women’s self created media, like the above mentioned websites as well as Strayed’s book, to fight against this traditional objectification of women in mainstream media. Women want to be in the outdoors, climbing and shooting and fishing and biking and more. But they don’t want to do it to sell magazines.

crazy roof sequence on tonsai playboy, 5.12a

Creative Commons image courtesy of Maria Ly.


This article, called The Problem with Female Athletes, gets to an angle that I subconsciously must have been thinking when I started this blog: that women adventurers seem like a more endangered species and that we need a place to talk about who we really are. Bégin writes “To climb, to train, to write and make adventure content is just as important for those women out there doing it as it is for men. No more, and no less. It’s time to help women in this pursuit with fair and balanced media that inspires women toward athletic, not aesthetic, goals.”

She’s right. Women are beginning to populate outdoors adventure and recreation…but we need to continue to talk about who we are and why we’re there–to have fun, develop ourselves, whatever it might be.

P.S.- Even if you’re not an outdoors adventurer, I have nothing but respect for you!

Why Water Bottles Are My Favorite Accessory

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Reusable water-bottles, especially Nalgene 2 liter bottles, are easily one of my favorite and most important things that I carry around almost every day. There are a few reasons that I love them so much, and a few reasons I have so many:

1. They’re environmentally responsible.

Last semester, I was a campus representative for bobble water bottles whose main goal is to reduce plastic waste, pollution, and abuse by way of disposable plastic water bottles. Because buying and drinking and throwing away plastic water bottles is absolutely terrible for the environment, and that idea is starting to catch on in the mainstream.

Heck, San Francisco is making moves towards banning the sale of plastic water bottles entirely. If an entire city supports that notion, it must be a major issue. Even if someone claims that bottled water is easier to buy and drink, tastes better, or is healthier–these reasons don’t hold much weight, especially since there’s no scientific proof bottled water is any better for you than tap water. Baltimore tap water is clean and safe, and even if you don’t trust it, options like bobble or Brita include home filters for tap water that are easy and convenient and last for about 300 uses before you have to start thinking about replacing it.

Need some facts to back it up? (from Banthebottle.net)

1. One plastic water bottle can take up to 100 years to decompose.

2. The production of one plastic water bottle releases toxins and uses more water to manufacture than it holds.

3.  Plastic water bottles have polyethylene terephthalate, or PET which is a dangerous chemical for human use.

4. Bottled water can cost up to 500 times the cost of tap water.

In contrast, reusable bottles are BPA free, reduce your carbon footprint, and get rid of a lot of these nasty issues.

2. They’re stylish and cool and you can put stickers on them.

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Check out my selection of water bottles above- I have a crazy amount of water bottles in every imaginable shape, size, color, and design. Most of them are covered in stickers, one has a fruit infuser inside that I got from running the Preakness 5k, and one is shaped like a little monster. I can put them in my backpack, cover them in stickers from my travels, and express my individuality through them. People are always complimenting me on my cool water bottles.

3. They’re practical.

my boat!

Water bottles are super easy to carry around, and you can attach a carabiner to them to clip it to basically anywhere you want. I put it in my backpack, clip it to the outside, stick it in a pocket, and I’m on my way. That way, I’m not always looking for a place to buy or sip some water, and I can always have as much as I want. They’re great for athletes especially, because it would be ridiculous to buy a new water bottle for every single practice. We’d go broke.

4. Drinking more water is always good for you. We NEED water.

my whole collection

my whole collection

According to CNN, drinking more water is one of the easiest ways to start losing weight.

According to this piece in Arab News, we are born with about 75% water and our growth and development can bring that percentage down to 45%.We need to drink more water to make up for these losses. It’s important for heart and kidney health, can help get rid of sicknesses and headaches, it helps maintain a balance of body fluids, makes your skin, hair and nails look good, energizes muscle, and more.

Support Me on BuzzFeed!

Hey everyone (:

Everyone knows an adventurous lady needs to kick back and watch some TV sometimes…and then write about it on BuzzFeed. Please check out this post I wrote and click here: The Top 10 TV Characters that Peaked in High School

A meme I designed for Gilmore Girls character Francie- one of the stars of my article.

A meme I designed for Gilmore Girls character Francie- one of the stars of my article.

and get me some cat power or whatever.

Stay tuned for this week’s post about my favorite outdoorsy accessory: my Nalgenes and my sticker collection! (It’s vast.)