‘Women in the Outdoors Month’ Seeks to Empower

Strawberries, music, climbing, and general fun pervaded an all-women climbing night at the Alfond Athletic Center on Wednesday, hosted by the Colby Mountaineering Club. This night was one of many all-women events planned throughout October that were designated by the Feminist Alliance and the COC as “Women in the Outdoors Month.”

Feminist Club president Maggie Burgos 17 spoke about the difficulty of getting women involved in outdoor recreational activities, saying “American outdoor recreation and sportsmanship has historically been an incredibly gendered field; only in recent decades has this domain become available to women.  Even as this field opens up to women, there are still restrictions based on class and access to outdoorsy culture.”

Historically, women have been discouraged from doing  outdoor recreation. For several centuries, the women’s sphere existed primarily within the household, while  men traditionally moved freely between the outdoors,  home life, and work. As time has passed, women have advocated and pushed to enjoy their own athleticism to the same extent as men. With the passage of Title XI in 1972, women’s participation in athletics greatly increased, and the law was a large step in normalizing female outdoor presence. Burgos further explained this idea, saying “we break down the barriers for women’s participation in athletics, we also slowly chip away at the ideas that women aren’t tough enough to ‘rough it’ like the guys do. However, there is still work to be done. “Often when young boys go into American scout programs, it is prioritized that they are taught outdoor living and survival skills. From my own experience, when young girls enter the American scout programs, it is assumed that they will want to learn about cooking and fashion more than how to tie a bowline knot and identifying edible plants,” said Burgos.

The Colby Outing Club and Feminist Alliance have partnered up to plan events that counter this culture. Sara Lotemplio 16, Co-President of the Outing Club, explains their approach to solving the problem, saying “We are trying to get as many people, male, female or other, outdoors! This year we’ve also been working on programming to get people talking about these issues, AND actually getting outside. For instance, one of our trip leaders, Emma Wood 16, is  working with Hardy Girls to create some events getting some local girls involved in outdoor activities later in November.”

The month kicked off with a screening of Pretty Faces, a film celebrating daring women skiiers. The COC also planned a fly-fishing tutorial at Johnson pond, where Colby students were taught the basics of fly-fishing by Trout Unlimited, America’s leading salmon and trout conservation organization. On Wednesday, October 21, the whittling club, which typically meets on Wednesdays, hosted a “Women’s Whittling Wednesday” to encourage woman to learn to carve and use a knife, two other skills that are typically not taught to women. 

On Sunday, October 25, the Outing Club hosted a hike at the Camden Hills, planned by Lex Jackson 16 in coordination with SheJumps, a national organization that strives to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. Over 30 Colby women attended. Abby Mulligan 19 attended the hike, and really enjoyed the experience, saying “I love to be outside, and it was really great to spend time with a group of women who love to be outside just as much as I do!” The hike was a 5.6 mile round trip, and the group bonded through playing classic trail games and chatting.

Colby’s Women in the Outdoors month culminated on Monday, October 25, with a discussion in the Mary Low Coffee House on the challenges and barriers to women participating in recreational outdoor activities. Overall, the month has been a success.

Burgos elaborates on this, saying, “these events have been very well attended, which is encouraging for our community and the COC’s mission of making the outdoors accessible to all Colby students.”

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