2017: Towards equal tourism participation and inclusive working environments: access, security and wellbeing  >  Making tourism accessible to all


Investigating self-protection strategies western women adopt in locations they feel fear or insecurity, and how these constrain travel behaviour.

Written by: Read, Ellie

University: Lincoln


The fear’s women face when travelling to new or unfamiliar places sees the creation of strategies to negotiate gendered spaces and boundaries. The paper is underpinned by Valentines (1989) concept of the “geography of women’s fear” to provide a basis to explore self-protection strategies further. The paper therefore examines the type of self-protection strategies western women adopt to limit fear and insecurity when travelling (with an interplay of age). In addition to how these strategies impact travel behaviour to extend the knowledge of travel constraints.

Key Words: Gendered Spaces, Self-protection Strategies, Fear, Travel Constraints, Mobility, Accessibility

Fear and gendered division has been argued at the centre of women traveller perception and behaviour, debated to control the freedom and movement of women in public places and tourist destinations. Although gendered spaces has been discussed within academia, it remains theoretically fragile especially regarding the constraints women face within these spaces. The paper therefore seeks to address the constraints caused from fear, by extending the concept of Valentines (1989) theory to examine strategies and travel constraints in more depth and if age has an impact.

Initially theories of constraints on travel behaviour were examined, it was clear from Crawford and Godbey’s (1987) theory and Wilson and Little’s (2008) findings that an individual’s perception of fear and the opinion of others are key influences on travel constraints and the type of strategies implemented. The paper later draws upon Valentines (1989) concept of the “geography of women’s fear” as the foundation for understanding the self-protection strategies adopted. A number of strategies could be identified from this concept, with the development of mental maps at the centre.

It must be noted that strategies have been suggested largely dependent on factors such as age because shades of fear change over time influenced by experience, and spatial, social and temporal situation. It is argued that older women are the most fearful in unfamiliar settings because they gain more experience and secondary information over time in comparison to younger women. Valentine argues a contradictory view which suggests there is not a comprehensive theory to the impact of age. Two interviews were therefore conducted with a young and mature women to provide an empirical approach to the paper. This involved the discussion of fear, strategies and constraints. Similar findings were established to Valentines (1989) with four key strategies: Planning and Precautions, Dressing Differently, Heightened Awareness and Seeking Male Protection.

Firstly both women identified the process of undertaking preparation and precautions. This involved planning and considering routes and destinations before travelling in addition to keeping someone informed of their location to limit their feeling of fear and to safe guard them. Secondly women saw themselves adapting the way they dressed and behaved to limit the male gaze within these settings. This was a technique used to deflect attention away from them by modifying how they dress to fit into the local norms. Thirdly women became highly aware of dangers they may face, therefore ensured they stayed alert and mindful throughout their trip to gauge the tourist landscape. Lastly women seeked protection from a male figure often a boyfriend or companion. This was considered to reduce women’s fear and insecurity by making them feel safer particularly in male dominated locations.

Both women identified similar self-protection strategies but presented different levels of implementation. The younger participant presented a more open approach to self-protection than the mature participant. For example it was outlined being with a male companion was a preference for the younger participant while the more mature participant showed an amplified sense of fear in comparison, suggesting it was because of her age that male protection was important for her mobility in travelling.

Although the strategies assisted the women in overcoming fear they limited women’s mobility and access by constraining their travel behaviour. For example planning saw women feel like they were missing out on things bound to pre-planned activities and too afraid to be spontaneous in case they found themselves in strange places. Maintaining a heightened awareness also reduced women’s enjoyment because they felt in male dominated spaces they limited their interaction to avoid bringing attention to themselves. While being with a man reduced this feeling it restricted travel to certain areas and limited women’s independence when travelling.


From the research undertaken age can be seen to have a varying impact on constraints but within the scope of the paper it was not possible to form an inclusive conclusion. It can however be concluded that self-protection strategies work to reduce fear and insecurity by allowing women to negotiate gendered spaces and boundaries. It is clear that western women’s mobility and freedom is governed by their own strategies of protection. Although this reduces fear and insecurity making women more inclined to travel, these strategies add to the limitation of mobility by reinforcing women to travel to certain places at certain times. Therefore reinforcing “gendered places” by adding to the continuous underrepresentation of women and furthering their sense of fear and insecurity.


Crawford, D. W., & Godbey, G. (1987) Reconceptualising barriers to family leisure. Leisure Sciences, 9, 119–127.

Valentine, G. (1989) The geography of women’s fear. Area 21, 385–390.

Wilson, E. and Little, D.E. (2008) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the ‘Geography of Women's Fear’. Current Issues in Tourism, 11 (2) 167-186. Available from http://dx.doi.org/10.2167/cit342.0 [Accessed 29 April 2017].

Commentary and Recommendations

Written by: Ashcroft, Lucy

University: Lincoln


I decided to write a commentary on this discussion paper because it was similar to the ideas which were discussed in my paper, therefore basic understanding and knowledge can be applied and developed further for this discussion paper, about access to tourism in relation to gender. This paper discusses the self-protection strategies that western women use in locations they feel fear in when travelling, and how they constrain the behaviour of women.

A key issue that was explored in this discussion paper, was that the strategies discussed, were largely dependent on the age of the female. It was noted that the depth of someone’s fear can change over time because of the influences from experience and spatial, social and temporal situations, over their lifetime. However, it was discovered that the literature had contrasting opinions on whether older women in fact were more fearful in unfamiliar locations, meaning the results to be inconclusive. This discussion on age and gender is good, because it combines two constraints and factors of the accessibility in the tourism industry, making the discussion more in depth.

Another key issue it discusses is the coping strategies in which females use to reduce their fear and insecurity while experiencing unfamiliar situations. This has been developed through the academia to discover the techniques that are being applied. In order to have a better understanding of these coping strategies, primary research could be implemented to develop the discussion further. From interviewing people that have experienced this fear and lead them to use self-protection strategies, identification of which strategies are used the most and the effectiveness of controlling and reducing the fear can be made clearer.

The discussion paper looks briefly into where the fear is coming from, however this could be developed further. Jordan and Gibson (2005) conduct a study by interviewing females about the fear and insecurities that they are faced with, and how this leads into a constraint. The study looks into how the fear is created and fed to females, making them believe that their gender makes them have a restricted access to tourism. This understanding of where the initial fear is coming from, leads to a consideration of why women feel the need to use strategies in the first place.

To conclude, this discussion paper is interesting and creates stimulating thoughts about how females are using self-protection strategies to help with insecurities, fear and unfamiliar locations.


Atchison, C., MacLeod, N.E. and Shaw, S.J. (2014) Leisure and Tourism Landscapes: Social and Cultural Geographies. London: Routledge.

Jordan, F. and Gibson, H. (2005) ‘We’re not stupid...but we’ll not stay home either’: Experiences of solo women travellers. Tourism Review International 9(2) 195–212.

Fear of the male gendered space

Written by: Lister, April-Rose

University: Lincoln

The paper discusses the geography of fear felt by female travelers when exploring known and unknown locations. This fear limits their desires to travel and encourages them to develop coping methods which include, pre-preparing trips, adapting clothing and heightened awareness of surroundings. These strategies re-enforce the gap between male and female travel experiences.

Similar studies show that women portray their sexuality through their clothing (Jacob, 2010). Therefore it becomes an issue with respecting more conservative cultures, by adapting styles of dress to suit. Of all the methods this seems the most logical as the desire to "blend in" resembles basic survival instincts. Women are denied a basic authentic travel experience because of their lack of freedom. Although they have the right to travel anywhere in the world, it seems western women still feel constricted by fear.

The focus is through two interviews presumably with western women participants, varying in age. The results are not conclusive however do show a relationship between age an increased fear. Additionally research in the form of questionnaires could be applied to different age brackets to more accurately obtain the correlation of fear against age. I would like to have read more about what kinds of incidence cause this fear or whether it is naturally inbuilt.

The tourism industry across the world can be seen segregating men and women. This physical division is apparent in rows in aircrafts in India, Buses in China and Women only Taxis in Dubai (John, 2015). Instead of combating the detachment the industry is accommodating it. Providing a firm basis for the elevation of fear in the acknowledgement of female vulnerabilities.

Jacobs, J. (2010) Sex, tourism and the postcolonial encounter landscapes of longing in Egypt. Surrey: Ashgate. Available from
https://www-dawsonera-com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/abstract/9780754689041 [Accessed 2nd May 2017]

John, T (2017) Female-Only Transport. Time 189 (3) 10-11 Available from
http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?EbscoContent=dGJyMNLr40SeprA4y9f3OLCmr0%2Bep7FSrq24TLGWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGqtlGzrbFMuePfgeyx43zx1%2B6B&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=a9h&K=121011783 [Accessed 2nd May 2017]

A multidimensional investigation on gender roles and fear

Written by: Yeung, Kai

University: Lincoln

This paper has caught my attention as the author attempted to examine how 'age' influence the effect on fear and constraints to female travelers. How fear hinders women in traveling and limits their accessibility has been a popular topic of discussion in academia. Yet, the link between age and fear from female travelers is a new area to explore, thus suggesting the value and interest of this research.

The author has pointed out that fear and gendered division creates impact on the perception and travel behaviour and controls the mobility of women travelers. This theory is supported by Pritchard and Morgan's (2000) point of view on how gender roles, particularly patriarchal system, affect the empowerment between male and female travelers. As fear and gendered perception lie in the psychology domain, Boley et al. (2016) has also explained that the psychological dimension of gender role empowerment is the main focus on how tourism development reflects the identity and value of the host community and its culture. This shows that in addition to the individual tourist's perception of fear as stated in the paper, it would be useful to investigate the gender empowerment and disparity in society to support the evaluation on coping strategies. As suggested by Boley et al. (2016), to identify these disparities, a multidimensional examination should be conducted in political, psychological, social, economic and environmental empowerment.

The gendering of tourism space is mentioned in the paper as it was suggested that women travelers limit their interaction in male dominated space to avoid attention. On this topic, Pritchard and Morgan (2000) has also described that not only tourism space but most public area is masculinised and heterosexually dominated. The marketing representations such as language and image in tourism are also dominated by a white, heterosexual male gaze (ibid.). The power relationship between male and female tourists is investigated as Sun and Luo (2015) conducted a tourism research in nightlife and casino setting. It is found that men are glorified as the heroic figures in tourism representations and women are objectified and faded out in the background. These ideas suggested that the source of fear by female travelers could be from the social construct reflected by tourism representations. By further investigating on the source of fear, it would be valuable to help find out what coping strategies would be effective to lower the fear and insecurity of female travelers. Eventually, this can also identify the empowerment disparity between male and female travelers and their accessibility to tourism.


Boley, B., Ayscue, E., Maruyama, N. and Woosnam, K. (2016) Gender and empowerment: assessing discrepancies using the resident empowerment through tourism scale. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25(1), pp.113-129.

Pritchard, A. and Morgan, N. (2000) Privileging the male gaze. Gendered tourism landscapes. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(4), pp.884-905.

Sun, Z. and Luo, W. (2015) Gendered construction of Macau casino: a social semiotic analysis of tourism brochures. Leisure Studies, 35(5), pp.509-533.