Let’s level the playing field
This post is sponsored by REI but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Sometimes it feels like I’m leading two lives. I have my life in the wild outdoors and my life in the office. If only my colleagues really knew what I got up to in the wild. How I don’t care for my appearance; carry only one change of clothes for a week; walk up hill slowly for days. They would totally freak out. And they do. So I don’t mention it. I fear outdoor Alexa won’t be respected for her alternative pursuits.
The point is, I REALLY wish it really didn’t matter. I wish as a woman, I was respected as much as my male counterparts for charging out there and getting after it. It’s in the outdoors that I feel alive and it really doesn’t matter what I possess between my legs. I have just as much right to be out there. I’m not special, weird, or different. I just go outside! It really isn’t a big deal.
When REI got in touch with me about their Force of Nature campaign, I was like “YES!” finally someone is talking about this. They are taking the fight for gender equality outside. They want to disrupt the status quo and make women their focus. Heck yeah! Let’s talk about this issue.
This is what a Force Of Nature looks like
It started when in January this year, REI commissioned a US national study of 2010 women across geography, race and education. They wanted to better understand women’s relationship to, and attitudes towards, the outdoors and the external pressures they face. The study revealed what I feel every day: that women experience a societal pressure to conform. A pressure that our male friends don’t have to deal with.
I am definitely one of the 85% of women who believe the outdoors positively effects my mental health, physical health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. Just a look at my Instagram account, I permanently grin ear-to-ear when I’m outside. Sadly, I am also one of the women that feels I am not taken as seriously as men in the outdoors. And I know I’m not alone.
So REI started Force Of Nature to show women that they have a place outside, in the wild. To inspire and enable more women to make the outdoors a part of their lives. Because 6 out of 10 women could not think of an outdoor female role model. Seriously. I’m so shocked at this! If it wasn’t for the role models I looked up to as a kid, I would not be here today (thank you Tara Dakides and Victoria Jealouse).
So from May 6th in the US, Force Of Nature brings over 1,000 outdoor classes for women to attend alongside other legends that want to get after it. From bike maintenance, to navigation and orienteering, to all types of rock climbing. There is even a 3-season wilderness survival class and International trips you can sign up for. What an amazing campaign!
Force of Nature claims the outdoors as a place to opt out of cultural pressures to conform—the “supposed-tos” and “shoulds” that underpin outdated stereotypes—especially for women. To create real change right now we are putting women—of all ages, races, sizes, gender expressions—front and center in all we do.
REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke
My absolute favourite thing they are doing is pushing outdoor gear brands to increase the focus on building world-class gear designed for women. Maybe there is a day, not-so-distant in our future that our gear will perform as well as the guys. They are also extending their sizing options and asking other brands to do the same. Oh, and let’s not forget the $1 million donation to community organisations supporting women in the outdoors… because they know they can’t do it alone.
They say ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and to a certain extent I think that is true. Or that it’s MUCH harder to imagine doing something, if you’ve never seen another woman try it. This campaign makes me want to shout louder. That it is OK to spend time outdoors, to challenge social, societal, media and pressures from our friends and family. I 100% agree that the outdoors is and should always be, the world’s largest and LEVEL playing field.
Thank you REI for inviting me to be partner on this campaign and to your commitment to making women a prime focus.