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].