Abstract: While women have been interested to participate in hiking activity in the past years, women still face issues with old gender roles. These gender roles cause issues such as fear of an insult and discrimination of men in wilderness. However, hiking has a positive effect on women and can help to break these gender norms through empowerment of hiking.
Keywords: Gender norms, women solo hiking, fear, empowerment, wellbeing
Hiking is a popular activity in wellness tourism context, amongst 47 million population in USA. Hiking is taking place in wilderness which offers different variety of long and short paths and trails in natural parks or public spaces (Sima, 2018). Hiking in wilderness is a way of escaping the social responsibilities and allow one to create themselves again. Wilderness attracts population to participate to activities as it allows one to connect the mind with the natural world and escape pollution, human and spoiled nature (Sima, 2018).
Of women, 46% hiked in USA in 2016, whereas 54% men hiked in the same year. The gap between women and female hikers is due to gender norms that still today, can affect the women not participating to hiking (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000). Hiking has been seen as men's activity and wilderness a place for men to experience their masculinity. It has been argued that the recreation and outdoor spaces are especially designated for the purpose of men (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000).
National Parks and public wilderness places are women who have been participating to hiking, have often got an image of being keen to show their feminism or to be homosexual. This is because of an old social role of women taught to be feminine and to in a way, fear men, which has been started and still continued by both men and women (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). This cultural perception and fear is keeping some women under the control, so that women always tell where they are going, plan their activities and remain close by (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000).
In past years, women have been increasingly interested of hiking, although participation features issues and fears. When compared to men, of men 351 solo hiked while only 122 women solo hiked. This can be due to issues of hiking which include fear of assault by men, injury, isolation and loss of femininity (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). The fears of assault can retain women from hiking, especially solo hiking. Personal safety and capability to survive in the wilderness are one of the great concerns of women. Furthermore, women tend to retain from hiking especially if they have a family (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000). Therefore, as hiking is very time - consuming activity, some women can only participate to hiking activities in a certain point of their life. For instance when the whole family hikes together (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000).
As women in general experience social inequalities which may lead to social, political, economic, sexual and religious discrimination of women's life, benefits of hiking to women are vital part of the changing view of the old gender roles (Bittman and Wajcman, 2000). Post hiking experience, some women are found to depend on themselves more, making them more independent (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). This is important aspect of equal gender roles. It has been found that participation to wilderness recreation can play a part in interpret the gender roles and develop the overall status of women in society (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). Women are argued to be less aware of their usual social role in after they return from their hike than before they experienced hiking.
Hiking can provide a sense of accomplishment when situations have been survived, but if the situation is exceeding the skills of a women, can lessen the hiking experience and cause anxiety and stress (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). It has been suggested that women's main reason to solo hike is the desire for independent travel and to be able to challenge themselves, gain self-determination, encounter new people and put themselves out of their comfort zone (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012). The accomplishments of women are often down looked and not appreciated, whereas men receive greater credits of their achievements. To attract more women to participate to hiking, it is encouraged to advertise without stereotypes and to have women in the lead when making wilderness movies or advertisements instead of male leads (Fondre and Mcnial, 2012).
Bittman, M. and Wajcman, J. (2000) the rush hour: the character of leisure time and gender equity, Social forces, 79(1), 165-189.
Sima, C. (2018) Hiking memoirs, wilderness therapy and female empowerment: Cutting edge, Tourism Review, Exp. 73:3.
Fondren, K., Harris, D. and Mcniel, J. (2012) women and the wild: gender socialisation in wilderness recreation advertising. Gender issue, 29(1-4), 39-55.