We live and breathe the outdoors. We’re gear heads. We started the Early Majority because there are few brands that have approached this field from a woman’s point of view. Women have always been an afterthought when it comes to building products intended for the outdoors. By starting a brand in this space, we are facing down a half century of an exhausting “man vs. nature” mythos. Hey, pretty much everything has some shitty patriarchal baggage — at least it’s not 5,000 years of baggage, right?
But the recent wave of outdoor culture, generally referred to as “gorpcore,” is different, right? Or is it?
Consider the image from this Wall Street Journal article on the Gorpcore phenomenon. A dude is shown in full adventure gear, seemingly ready to ford a river, while mom sits on the couch reading the newspaper. Both are ignoring their kid. After reading the article, you might think they’re lightly mocking this guy for his unnecessarily technical gear, but the illustration still positions outdoorsiness as solely masculine. The misogyny is subtle, rendered at a time when women have five fewer hours of leisure per week than men. We’re left to question our long-standing willingness to accept that men’s adventures in both business and life are generally bankrolled by the unpaid labor of women. (A potentially promising development is that a Kenyan court recently recognized housewives as full-time employees and as such are entitled to claim their share of family property.)
We should be inured to this by now, many of us having worked at Patagonia and spent so much time at outdoor industry trade shows. The many miles of rugged dudes lined up in their booths at ISPO (the Internationale Fachmesse für Sportartikel und Sportmode) is silly. There are too many brands that still don’t have a single woman ambassador. Sadly, this might be less egregious than the “not bad for a girl” sponsorships we see elsewhere. For every Lynn Hill there are a dozen less accomplished and less skilled athletes that have been elevated in the pantheon of outdoor culture.
But it feels like a new wave of outdoor culture is dawning. We are obligated to make sure we don’t let unconscious bias take us down the same path. It’s exciting to see the amazing product coming from emerging brands like KKCo and tuning in to new gearhead outlets like Blackbird Spyplane, Unowned Spaces, Hikingpatrol. We follow the hell out of this stuff. We are psyched. Still, we’re getting that creepy feeling again... Where are all the women? Have we just gone from burly, raffish men, to stylish, witty men? It’s an incremental improvement, but not quite what we were hoping for in 2021. We feel like it’s time to pump the brakes on gorpcore culture and take a minute to broaden our perspective and ensure we’re creating something that’s as inclusive as it is exciting.
It’s early days for this next wave of outdoor culture. There’s still time. Stop. Take a breath. Look around. Do something to make this generation more equitable than the last.
Women: We see you. We see you in the likes and the follows and the comments. We see you getting occasionally and obliquely acknowledged. We see you in the background of that photo. Let’s not do this again. If you are on some gorp shit or finding your own way in the wilderness, don’t get pushed into the periphery of this next wave of outdoor mythology. Take up your space. Find your allies. Claim your routes.
We’re crowdsourcing a list of women who are leaning out in a male-dominated scene, inspiring ourselves and others to do the same. Nominate yourself or other women to follow in the outdoor space! Let's help each other find the women defining the future of outdoor gear!