The “F” word: Feminism in outdoor education

Abstract

Women have embarked on outdoor careers believing the profession to be a level playing field and one that offers occupational alternatives to traditional sporting activities and educational opportunities. This paper seeks to provide a critical analysis of the pockets of bias associated with the status of women in outdoor education (OE), particularly in Australia. In spite of being an integral part of the OE profession for many decades, women remain dramatically underrepresented in terms of career prestige, academic footprint, leadership roles, and appreciation of their distinctive contributions to the discipline. Because of barriers to achievement, many talented women prematurely exit the field or wind up in positions for which they are overqualified or lack influence proportional to their capacity. Although many practitioners suffer from feminist fatigue -3 the reluctance to, yet again, bring up entrenched problems -3 there is a need for a position statement about how women are being erased, perhaps unintentionally, by gender laundering associated with cultural and social inequalities in OE. These obstacles include structural problems and blind spots that prevent women from being noticed, acknowledged, and celebrated. The paper concludes by showcasing nine key reasons for gender asymmetries and suggests ways that women, men, and the profession as a collective, can become more open, democratiC., and equitable -3 so that we can all enjoy the same opportunities and recognition.

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Correspondence to Tonia Gray.

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Associate Professor Tonia Gray is Senior Researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University. With over 30 years in outdoor and experiential education, she received an Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT) for Excellence in Teaching in 2014. Tonia’s ongoing research projects explore human-nature relationships and their impact on well-being and human development. As an avid equestrian, she lives on a 25-acre farm in Berry with her husband where they embrace self-sufficient sustainability practices in their farming and energy consumption.

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Gray, T. The “F” word: Feminism in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education 19, 25–41 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03400992

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Keywords

  • outdoor education
  • outdoor leadership
  • women
  • careers
  • gender asymmetry
  • inequity
  • feminism