A #MeToo Guide for Outdoorsy Dudes
Author Note 1/27: As this has circulated, there has been concern about the title. Why #MeToo for a article about gender equality in the outdoors? The critics are right - the #MeToo movement is about empathy for sexual harassment and assault survivors. The intent was not to minimize that experience. The goal of this article was to outline a next step for people in the outdoor industry who were already embracing the basics of #MeToo (believing survivors, putting burden on the perpetrators, speaking out against harassment and assault when it's happening, etc).
To address why #MeToo exists in such magnitude, we have to address the systemic systems and habits that put certain people in power over others. That's where this guide begins.
It probably started with a #MeToo in your social media feed. Chances are it was posted by your favorite female climbing partner, ski buddy, or guiding coworker. Maybe you noticed that even the females in your life who don’t regularly share articles about feminism and lady power tagged their profiles and shared a story.
Sexual harassment and violence is a regular part of most women’s lives. Including women who guide, recreate, work and play in the outdoors. With you. Yeah, even her.
A friend who is a longtime USFS firefighter reflected that her work within the Forest Service was when she had experienced the least sexual harassment. As a whitewater guide, my experience has been the same. And listen, we get it. You are progressive men raised by badass mothers. You have female outdoors partners that you respect. You don’t catcall women and you aren’t rapist d-bags. You genuinely care about making the outdoor space accessible to everyone. You want to know what you can do to support the ladies you love and respect. Here’s a place to start*
*The below assumes you know the basics. The basics are: You don't assault or harass women. You don't believe, "Women are just better at domestic work." You know what harassment is. You know the infinitely largest majority of women would never lie about assault or harassment for attention, but instead speak up in hopes of protecting the next generation of women after her. Etc.
Elevate women’s voices. If you’re scouting a big alpine line with a group and your female partner thinks you should drop it and has good reasons but no one seems to hear her input? All it takes is a, “Hey - Julia has a good point” to bring her idea front and center. When a woman calls out a group for ignoring her voice, she is often seen as aggressive or obnoxious. When you elevate a woman’s voice, you’re seen as a team player concerned with all the opinions involved. Point being - you have everything to gain and she often has a lot to lose. Speak up.
Talk about your paycheck. Ugh, talking about money, awkward right? But as we all know, the chairlift or an after-work paddle is when we work through some of our most awkward life moments with the people we trust. Women, even in the outdoor industry, earn less than their male counterparts. This can be for a lot of different reasons, including that women are less assertive about raises and negotiating their starting wage. Sharing the numbers helps your female coworker ensure her wage matches her experience level. EVEN MORE IMPORTANT: If you are a boss, make sure your female and male employees of similar experience are making the same amount. Period. It's the right thing to do and will save you an awkward call-out later.
Find a female outdoor role model. These days there are badass women in every outdoor sport and more than ever, their stories are being told. Find a woman who’s story you are inspired by (but watch out for the next one!) and learn as much as you can about her training regimen, goals, and expeditions.
Highlight women’s strength and intelligence, not their beauty. If a woman is putting herself out there as an outdoor athlete, you are allowed to judge her on her outdoor skills, not her looks. Don’t expect women to be cute or pretty, particularly in the outdoors where looking cute and pretty is a shit-pile of work. If a woman, however, enjoys looking cute and pretty in the outdoors, let her be that. The point is, a woman’s outward appearance should have nothing to do with what you are doing out in the mountains or on the river. Practice with me:
“Woah, she is so strong.”
“She shredded that line.”
“She’s got to be one of the top ten skiers of 2017.”
“I appreciate watching how she approaches a climb. It’s different than how I would project but super effective.”
“Do you think she’ll help me with my roll?”
Let women have lady days. Most female outdoor athletes spend a lot of time with men. Even if I had a lady outdoors date once a week for the rest of my life I likely wouldn’t balance out 50/50. We’re not having outdoor lady dates because we don’t like hanging out with you. We have these days because not being the minority is a special, freeing thing. Honestly, I’m not sure how to explain lady days. Just trust me - it’s not about not liking you. You’re great. If you’re feeling FOMO because lady days look like a ton of fun ask yourself, “What do women bring to the table that my dude friends don’t?” …and then think about how you can bring that energy to your own groups.
Include women in your creative projects and let them have equal say. Always, but especially if your creative project is telling the story of another woman. Also - don’t expect one woman’s story to be all women’s story any more than you would expect Alex Honnold to represent all male climbers.
Notice gender roles... and then ignore them. This whole feminism thing isn’t just about supporting women. It’s also about letting men be who they are outside the typical masculine expectations. So if a female trip leader delegates you loading the truck when you’d really prefer to pack the food coolers? Speak up and let her know you’re more of a chef guy. The point is to let everyone be who exactly who they are, regardless of if it’s a “girl job” or a “boy job”.
Know that it’s still not fair. Was a woman that’s not as strong of a skier as you chosen to take part in a film? Please don’t bitch about it. What feels to you like WOMEN TAKING OVER OUTDOOR MEDIA is actually a slow crawl toward equal representation. Imagine what it feels like to grow up a little girl watching Warren Miller-esque films and never seeing yourself in any of the clips. Ever. And then understand why it means so much to get female pros in front of the lens.
Understand that women don’t always feel safe in the places you feel safe, and it has everything to do with other people and nothing to do with grizzly bears.
Let women be wrong. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a woman in the outdoors is the pressure to be perfect. You know as well as I do that no one when they start out with a skill, is going to be flawless. And as a woman, especially as a token woman, I often feel pressure to represent ALL WOMEN IN WHITEWATER BOATING FOREVER rather than just my own skill set. When women mess up, cut them the same amount of slack you would a male.
Let women be experts. Ask yourself, “Am I actually the expert in this situation?” If you’re the expert, great. If a woman is an expert, don’t get all weird about letting her be in charge. My favorite ways that this is addressed is when I’m leading a whitewater rafting trip. Inevitably, guests will ask the biggest, bearded dude all their questions, even if that biggest, bearded dude is a trainee. Inevitably, the bearded dude in question will say, “That’s a great trip leader question, talk to Emerald.” We know that YOU see our skills but especially in guiding or professional situations, often our guests or clients do not. Backing up our skills is a huge help.
Don’t assume a ski date is a date. For female athletes at the top of their game it can be hard to find outdoor partners that keep up. If a woman asks you to go paddling… she’s just asking you to go paddling. Not to say as single, consenting adults that those feelings won't eventually grow between you, but if they do, ask her on a real date and make sure she knows it’s one.
Pack tampons in your medical kit… and don’t expect praise for it. Bleeding out your crotch in the middle of the wilderness is a medical situation, not some gross female thing. Be prepared, ESPECIALLY if you are a guide.
Google intersectionality. Recognize that, in the outdoor industry, the above list applies even more so to people of color, non-binary gender identify, non-heterosexual sexual orientation, etc.
Chances are, the ladies in your life probably have something to add to this list. Maybe they disagree with this list altogether. The important thing is to listen. Say, “What’s it like to be a woman in the outdoors right now?” and then grab a big bite of bagel and just. listen. On the flip side of that? It shouldn’t be women’s job to teach you why feminism, #metoo or equal representation matters. If you work with, recreate with, build families with women - this is your work too. If a woman doesn’t want to talk about it, do your own research.
Thanks for having our backs, outdoorsy dudes. We know you’re the best of the best.
Inspired by this list: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/16/a-simple-list-of-things-men-can-do-to-change-our-work-and-life-culture?CMP=fb_gu
as well as Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett