I’m really disappointed in your op-ed on Adventure Instagram accounts (Update: hey yayyyy they took it down). I always roll my eyes at these “Instagram-is-not-real-life” stories that are tired and repetitive, but I’m especially upset this is coming from you, a platform that is dedicated to telling the story of female adventures that usually get drowned out by a male-dominated culture in adventure sports.
I could wax poetic about all of the reasons why you’re wrong, but here’s the reason it matters: the world assumes women don’t and can’t get adventure like the men can. As a woman, if you want to fight this perception for your own self-image, there are two ways to do this. Option A – you take on every challenge and train like an animal and seek out all the classes to develop rock solid skills, then you find other women to teach and mentor and inspire to do the same until that there are so many powerful, capable women that it changes people’s perspective. It takes commitment, investment, energy, and so much time. There’s the time to take classes and attend clinics and hone your skills, to practice, to trip plan, to pack, to (maybe) unpack and do laundry. There’s time to seek out other women who are interested in developing their skills, to plan lessons, to teach, to answer the emails and DMs about ski selection and explaining the differences about all those layers of Goretex and how to prep for a trip up to Camp Muir. Changing such an established perception takes a lot of heart.
All the biffles I met during PNWOW’s Ice Axe & Crampon Skill Sesh
Option B is an easy way out. You say yes to all the stereotypes about what most women care about and their capabilities in the backcountry, and then slide in a little “but I’m not like those girls.” It’s a tasteless message to come from any woman, but it’s an exceptionally poor one coming from a publication committed to championing women in the outdoors.
If we want the outdoor community to take women’s stories seriously, we need to get more women outside creating them. The more stories there are, the more likely we’ll find ones that stick with the broader community – first ascents, first descents, summit lists, inspirational-feel-good stories about weight loss and emotional weight loss that inspire other women to hit the trails. More women leads to a bigger female customer segment in the gear industry and the ROI for them to spend more time and money designing gear that works for us. It means more demands to the mainstream publications to feature and hire women. To deem certain experiences as legit and others as posers, it creates a judge-y atmosphere that deters people from joining in. Shrinking our slice of the pie will never buy us influence.
These stories are why Instagram is important. The platform skews female; these stories can reach and encourage more women to get involved. At least, that’s how the outdoor community got me. I loved the Mountain Girls-y accounts. Their gear looked like mine with Lulus and boot socks that seemed to do just fine getting them to some beautiful places. I sought out pretty trails and took a lot of yoga shots at the top.
From the #yogaeverydamn day period of my life
Over time, my skills and my tastes have changed. I’ve gotten more into mountaineering and the timeline is too quick and my hands get to cold to do more than take pictures on the fly. I’ve read the mountains-are-calling Muir quote so many times I kind of hate it. But I never would’ve gotten into outdoor activities if Instagram was just full of rad women jamming cams and ripping lines. I wasn’t there yet.
Both types of adventures have value.
And likewise, there is room for both of them on Instagram. Other than the server limits at Facebook, there’s no cap for how much female-centric content we can spray across the internet. You won’t max out on the number of accounts you can follow or the number of posts you can like. We don’t have to compete to determine which athletes are the most “legit” and deserve any time and attention. And in that same way, there’s plenty of room in the wilderness for all of us.
Rave shorts: putting the FUN in Functional