For our fifth and final installment of Body Image Week, we welcome Ambassador Laura as she discusses the importance of diversity in the outdoor community.

I’ve always had a hard time relating to the female athletes who grace the covers of outdoor magazines or endorse the latest gear. I find them to be inspirational, but I don’t see myself in images of the six-pack abs or the picture-perfect hair (that miraculously endures, even after summitting a mountain). And apparently, I’m not alone. A study conducted by REI found that 63 percent of women couldn’t identify an outdoor female role model. This isn’t only because women are largely underrepresented within the outdoor industry as a whole, but also because the women who are represented tend to fit a rather specific ideal.

Outdoor media in general still heavily focuses on women who are uber fit super athletes and/or conform to North American beauty standards – ie: young, thin, white, pretty. This is slowly changing, but it’s apparent that the average outdoor woman could benefit from seeing more images that they can relate to.

This is where online outdoor women’s groups, like Hike Like A Woman, play an important role. Women’s groups have the opportunity to diversify the image of the outdoor woman through what they feature on their websites and social media channels.

Representing women of all sizes, shapes, skin colors, fitness levels, abilities, and ages means that more women have images they can relate to. It makes the outdoor world more inclusive and accessible for those who have largely been overlooked.

If you take a look at some of the content here at Hike Like A Woman, you will see that it comes from a wide variety of outdoor women. Some are full-time, hardcore adventurers. Some are weekend warriors. Some hit the occasional urban trail; while others thru-hike hundreds of miles in the backcountry. Some are mothers or grandmothers. Some have been life-long outdoorswomen and others are completely new to this world. We all look, think, and act in our own unique ways and yet share a passion for the outdoors.

This diversity is a large part of what drew me to HLAW. I appreciated how being an “outdoor woman” was no longer some distant and largely unattainable goal, but was accessible to everyone – the only requirement being that you enjoy being outside. I no longer define my outdoor experiences by how my body looks while I’m doing them. Now, I define them by how they make me feel – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’m proud to be part of a community that, in its own way, is helping to change the way we think of outdoor women for the better.

2 comments on “Body Image and Outdoor Media: Working Toward Change

  1. Thank you so much for this series. As a 56 year old woman who used to be an athlete, one of the first women to go to sea in the Navy and an ex bodybuilder, I find it incredibly difficult to find hiking pants that fit a 5’4″ 170lb woman who is athletic yet middle aged and normal. The pants are sized as if women don’t have hips. Eddie Bauer I no longer shop there. REI don’t even go in the store, I run 4 miles, I work out two times a week with a trainer lifting – but I eat what I want so I’m not a size 2. I hike Angels Landing 4 times, Glacier national park, in June I’ll be in Colorado to hike with my daughter. I’m over it.

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