One-size-fits-all: recognizing gender in organised outdoor recreation

Mandi Baker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Sitting in the taxi to a summit on women in outdoor leadership, I listened to my colleague explain how he felt like a misfit. Actually, he felt illegitimate and under scrutiny. Not only was he a white, middle-aged, heterosexual man but, in his words, “I don’t know what the problem is.” Having worked in the field, I am familiar with this feeling. I too hadn’t seen ‘the problem.’ It was only later, while doing post-structural research into summer camps, that I began to recognise how the expectations of organised outdoor recreation are largely based on masculine ideals of physicality and mastery (Gray & Mitten, 2018; Humberstone & Stan, 2012). Like many of my interview participants (n=38), I assumed that men and women could and should display interactions with nature in much the same ways. While this appeared to be a powerful boost to the perception of women’s abilities in outdoor contexts, it suggested that a certain unisex or one-size-fits-all construction of gender was taken up by participants. Discourses that equate genderlessness with the performance of masculinity by both sexes (e.g., valuing women’s contribution on a male-only scale of worth) can limit the expression of and possibility for diverse gender experiences within camps. For example, practices of noticing, engaging with and narrating nature in terms of awe, beauty, and embodiment (Fullagar & Hailstone, 1996) can be ignored, down-played and/or silenced. The outdoors offers opportunities for respite, enjoyment and identity creation. If diverse discourses and practices of outdoor experiences are not celebrated then populations who do not identify with dominant masculine discourses can neither gain nor will desire access to outdoor experiences. Individuals, communities, business and nature itself loose from this exclusion (e.g., conservation, community development, and wellbeing). Consequently, leaders in the sector must ask how they can make the outdoors accessible to diverse populations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Diversity of Leisure
Subtitle of host publicationrsity of Leisure: Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies (ANZALS) 14th Biennial Conference
Place of PublicationQueenstown, New Zealand
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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