Women in the Wild

REI just announced a focus on women in the outdoors in 2017 called "Force of Nature." It's an attempt to counter the long-standing complaint about the outdoors industry: for too long the outdoors has been dominated by men. Men are on the covers of outdoorsy magazines, men are depicted in active ad campaigns, men get the best gear, men get featured on social media, men men men men.

It's something I've at times been in denial about - not the lack of representation of women (and minority groups!) in outdoors settings (that's obvious), but the actual lack of these groups in the outdoors. I just assumed women weren't being represented but that we were still out there, and so when I didn't have athletic friends I ran alone. When I didn't have hiking or backpacking partners, I ventured into the wild alone. When I didn't have a swimming partner, I dove into the ocean alone. Inevitably I found others like me, but in much smaller numbers than I expected.

It's something that needs to be addressed. Just last week someone said, "Oh, I could never hike that [mountain]." Earlier this year a neighbor found out I run half marathons and said, "Oh, I wish I could run that far, but I could never be a runner." I meet new people and they say, "Oh, I could never climb," or "Oh, I quit playing sports in middle school and I could never play again," or any number of things. Every time it's a woman who says this, never men. And honestly, whenever a woman says, "I could never..." it hurts me. It hurts me to my core! Because most of the times it's not true, and if I had internalized these things then I too would not be out there chasing dreams on dirt trails on fleeting weekends.

Did I simply not ever internalize these artificial limits? Did I not accept the invisible boundary that keeps women indoors? Or did I somehow see something that made me realize those limits were a lie? I can't even remember now; I just know that I wouldn't be the person I am today if I didn't go into the wild. 

But once you see someone out there you can start to see, "Hey! I could do this too!" So I want to show that. I want to normalize strong, competent, self-reliant women. I want my peers to say, “You know...maybe I could run a half marathon,” or “You know...maybe I could go hiking,” or “You know...maybe I could climb that!” because it’s really really really amazing when you stop telling yourself “I can’t” or “I could never” or “I’m not..” and start saying, “Well maybe…”

I'm happiest when I'm outside.

I'm happiest when I'm outside.

No really! Nothing makes me happier than being outside.

No really! Nothing makes me happier than being outside.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog, it’s the idea that, “Yes, I can do that.” Shout it from the mountaintops and be bold in your empowerment, or just let it be that quiet voice in the back of your mind that nudges you along, always there and always encouraging. You can do this. We can do it. We can do it together. This isn’t a trope. This isn’t an empty, worn-out gesture that’s been dragged through the mud until we no longer see and believe it. We can! It’s real. Believe in it! Believe in it so hard and believe in yourself so hard that nothing can pry your belief from you. If there’s one thing I believe in it’s you. And yes you can do it.

Say yes to this adventure. And I'll see you out there.

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