by: Mary Ellen Avery

The gendering of outdoor recreation: Women’s experiences on their path to leadership by Mary Ellen Avery is a thesis submitted to the Graduate Council of Texas State University in May of 2015. This document contains graduate research on how women experience and the benefits and challenges of outdoor recreation. Avery conducted a literature review on the history and benefits of outdoor recreation. She also examed current gender discrepancy, gendered socialization, leisure socialization, and current constraints for women in outdoor recreation. In addition to this, she also conducted several interviews with four women leaders in the outdoor industry over 30 days for each individual.

One of the essential notes from Avery’s literature review is the benefits of outdoor recreation. According to Cordell, outdoor recreation enriches American culture, creates jobs, and promotes environmental conservation. It also has many health benefits for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well as decreased levels of depression and stress. Avery cites a study by Whittington that proposes, outdoor recreation is even more important to females as it “challenging traditional notions of femininity, promoting positive gender identity development, and helping girls resist social stereotypes.” While female outdoor recreation is vital and beneficial to women, Avery reveals that there is still a discrepancy between men and women participating in outdoor recreation. Men do an average of 2.6hrs of a week of outdoor recreation to women’s 1.4hrs. Avery points out that this is in part due to gender socialization. In many cases, the portrayal of recreation is a masculine activity, and because of this hegemonic masculine stance, many women are discouraged from participating.

The main body of primary research Avery conducted consists of observations and interviews of four women who are leaders in outdoor recreation. She asked them to not only reflect on their current experiences but also how their adolescent experiences shaped their understanding of gender and the expectations of them. Eight meta themes emerged, three of motivation: mentorship, personal growth, and development of idealism, three of constraints: role expectation, nature of the industry, and media, and two that are a combination of motivation and constraint: Family support and self-perception.

In the end, Avery concluded that there should be a continued study on how gender socialization is impacting women’s ability to enjoy and participate in outdoor recreation.

I decided to include this article as it is essential to understand the social reasons women are reluctant to participate in outdoor activities. It was also beneficial as it provides concrete positive reasons for women to get involved, highlighting the importance of the problem.

Originally Published by : Texas State University