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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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!

10 Simple Things Adventurous Women Love

Because deep down, we’re really easily entertained. 

1. Taking Your Shoes Off:

There’s nothing more satisfying than slipping off a pair of shoes after a long day, whether you’ve been dancing in heels all night or running a race. The feeling of peeling off the soles, unbuckling buckles, untying laces, and walking around barefoot is absolutely beautiful and definitely an underrated pleasure.

Shoes Off

Shoes Off: CC Image courtesy of tiffany terry and 1975 Cyclopedia of Photography

 

2. Being on a Team:

I’m always thankful for the different teams I’m a part of—whether it’s a sports team, my sorority, my classmates, my family, my country, or even just a group of commuters on the same bus. People going through the same experience or going for the same cause, winning a game or making it to work, will stick together and support each other. It’s pretty cool to be able to shout someone’s name and just have them know what you’re talking about…at least that’s how it goes in soccer games—two words, and everyone’s on the same page.

seniors in pi beta phi! one of my teams (:

seniors in pi beta phi! one of my teams (: courtesy of Sarah Holloway

3. A Hot Shower:

Turning on the water and waiting for it to get steamy while double stocking the bathroom with body wash and whatever other fruity scents you like, rubbing off grass stains, sweat, mud, or excessive amounts of make-up. Maybe even a bath if you’re feeling really fancy—though you’ll get a bit pruney that way.

Shower | No. 2

CC Image courtesy of PhotoAtelier Flickr

4. Going Somewhere New:

Uglyworld #2169 - New Years Day Traditioner - (Project On The Go - Image 1-365)

CC Image courtesy of Barry O’Neil (www.bazpics.com)

Going somewhere new, a foreign country or a different coffee shop, makes life more exciting. I crave variety in my days all the time, and even walking a different route to class can help. New routes and pathways can create new neurological pathways too, keeping away things like Alzheimer’s later in life. I’m no neuroscientist, but new things are always good for stimulating thought.

5. Reading:

book reading machine

CC Image courtesy of grey herbert Flickr

For those times when you aren’t out there adventuring, words do a great job of getting you there all by themselves.

6. Photographs:

Though there’s something to be said for just plain enjoying the moment and not being distracted by the lens of a camera, the adventurer likes to have some kind of a record to remind her of the moment. My brain certainly can’t hold perfect images of the Florida coastline, but my camera can—and those pictures hanging on my wall sure help. And Instagram is always a fun time—you know you do it.

Taking a Picture of Taking a Picture of the Alps

CC Image courtesy of _flowtation Flickr

7. New Gear:

New stuff, diamonds or otherwise, really is a girl’s best friend. I love the feeling of getting something new for myself—new pairs of goalie gloves fresh out of the package, a brand new dress for a date party, a pair of new boots—of the heeled or hiking variety (;.

Camera and Hiking Gear

CC Image courtesy of Charlie 2.0 Flicker

8. Changing up Your Look:

Face Transformation

CC Image courtesy of Adriana Henriquez Flickr

My sense of variety extends to my appearance a lot of the time, and I like to switch up the things I wear or how I look—sometimes people don’t even recognize me. It’s a great feeling to straighten your hair if it’s always curly, and feel like a brand new person.

9. Mastering a New Skill:

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle

CC Image courtesy of Schwartz Wade Books Flickr

That moment a new skill clicks, like figuring out how to roller skate or how to walk in heels, is oh so satisfying. The process of learning, however, can be a bit messier—falls might be involved. All part of the process.

10. Not Being Stereotyped:

Woman Series - Double Exposure

CC Image courtesy of maggga Flickr

The whole reason I made this blog is to enforce the idea that adventurous women, all women really, don’t need to be lumped into a specific category. We can behave how we like and when we like and we’re damn good at it.

For Some Background on My Adventures, Check This Out!

I’ve written about a lot of my outdoors expeditions prior to now, and a good place to start to check them out would be this Her Campus page (http://www.hercampus.com/school/jhu/why-not-washing-your-hair-two-weeks-can-be-great). This post is all about my expedition to the Florida Everglades with a great gang of people, and how I did not wash my hair with anything besides natural water for almost two whole weeks. Thanks to the JHU Her Campus blog for sharing my experiences! Give Her Campus some love (www.hercampus.com).