Women and the Wild: Gender Socialization in Wilderness Recreation Advertising

Abstract

Women are underrepresented in wilderness recreation despite the numerous benefits such activities provide to mental, physical, and emotional health. Several theories have been proposed linking women’s beliefs about their competence in outdoor spaces, fears of victimization, and concerns over retaining femininity to their lack of participation. We explore media representations of wilderness recreation as a possible agent in the gender socialization process that dissuades women from participation. Through analyzing advertisements from the 42 issues of Backpacker and Outside magazines published in 2008 and 2009 we find that, when women are shown, they are portrayed as having limited and passive roles in wilderness recreation. These advertisements also use the setting to reinforce traditional gender arrangements and paint women as consumers rather than conquerors of the wild. When women are shown as active participants in wilderness recreation, their physical accomplishments are often either downplayed or depicted as the endeavors of “unique” women who require feminization.

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Correspondence to Deborah A. Harris.

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McNiel, J.N., Harris, D.A. & Fondren, K.M. Women and the Wild: Gender Socialization in Wilderness Recreation Advertising. Gend. Issues 29, 39–55 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-012-9111-1

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Keywords

  • Wilderness recreation
  • Leisure
  • Gender
  • Advertisements