Supporting Outdoor Industry Women Can Be A Drag

I am a disappointingly unattractive drag queen, but I don’t feel so bad about it when I am surrounded by 40 other equally homely drag queens. Each year at the Snowsports Industry Association SnowShow, there is a fundraiser called “Ramp It Up,” and during this fundraiser, 40 to 50 “industry veterans,” all men, dress up in women’s activewear and walk the runway at the Colorado Convention Center to raise money for the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition. Looking around the room at everyone’s nametags, you see Icebreaker, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Outdoor Research. On paper, it sounds interesting. In person, it is ridiculous, bizarre — the humor of every joke is amplified when the person telling the joke is a dude wearing clown-mouth lipstick and a blonde wig.


 (photo courtesy Christina Kiffney Photography)

A friend who was a makeup artist told me once that ugly men make the most attractive female impersonators, which I suppose makes me feel a little better about how I looked. But damn, girl. As we got “ready” for our show in room 505, real models were strutting down the runway in the ballroom, in a legit snowsports fashion show. As I washed my hands in the men’s restroom before the show, another Ramp It Up participant walked in, looked at his outfit and makeup in the mirror, and said, “I look like a dead hooker.”

I looked at my pigtails, and blush, eye shadow and mascara that looked like a 6-year-old girl applied them.

Me too, dude. Me too.

Some of us participate in Ramp It Up because we enjoy the ridiculousness of it, or because there’s free booze beforehand, or because it raises money for a good cause. Maybe it’s a combination of all three of those things. The first year I participated, I thought it would be fun, something to cross off my bucket list. It was. This year, when I was asked to participate, it was more a matter of doing the right thing. I mean, if you’ve dressed up in women’s clothing and walked down a runway in front of a couple hundred people once, you’ve experienced it. So I could see maybe not squeezing into a skirt — sorry, skort — that was not designed for a man, and not making an ass out of myself in front of a bunch of people.

But, I became a paying member of OIWC in late 2011. I would have joined an organization that empowers men in the outdoor industry, but there isn’t one. Because men have historically run the outdoor industry. Which results in signs like the one at right being created and displayed at the SIA SnowShow. If you don’t take it so seriously, it’s just a sign that uses some suggestive imagery to get traffic to a sock company’s booth at the trade show. But, if you’re a (straight) guy, you know there’s a small, foolishly hopeful part of your brain that looks at that sign and sees a large-breasted woman and the words “HAPPY ENDING,” and then robotically walks over to booth 1813.

And that’s OK, because sex sells, right? But. Sex only sells because men are dumb enough to believe that a woman with huge boobs will notice them if they buy whatever product that huge-boobed woman is marketing, be it a lap dance, Bud Light, Axe body spray, or a car. I mean, I don’t know, a sock company that uses breasts to sell socks — think that’s a company where a woman can ask to be paid the same (or more) than a man who has the same job as she does? Just asking. Am I taking that sign too seriously? I don’t know, is it just a foot massage? Would you be proud if your wife was the woman on that sign, or your sister?

I have reported to a woman in almost every job I’ve ever had since I was 16, and all the jobs I’ve had in the outdoor industry. I have seen friends of mine bring nursing pumps to the crag and then crush, and carry 40-pound packs for 10 miles a day while six months pregnant. I was raised by women who don’t take shit. These are not the women working the sock booth at SIA. OIWC has 1,500 members, and only 75 of those are men, and I’m one of them because I think men have to be part of the solution.

I remember in 2003, someone asked Chuck D of Public Enemy if he thought America should ever have a female president, and he said something to the effect of Hell yes, you ever seen a group of women get together and decide to start a war? I thought that was a good point.

I’m not trying to write a political blog, or stand up on a soapbox and preach at anyone about where you should donate your hard-earned money. I’m just trying to be the change a little bit. And if being that change involves wearing makeup and women’s clothing and walking down a runway once a year, I’m good with that.

For more information on OIWC, click here.


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  • Brendan,

    Great post and a HUGE thank you.

    “I think men have to be part of the solution” is dead on. It’s not an ‘us vs them’ debate. It’s a ‘how can we elicit the change we want to see in the world’ discussion. We need more posts like this (and people like you) to open these conversations and keep people talking and understanding how signs like this and bikinis on a trade show floor perpetuate the divide.

    • Agreed, Amy. That frustrated me to no end. And the funny thing was (which pleased me!) I only noticed a small segment of guys even looking at those bikini-clad girls. Or at least, the rest weren’t obvious about it. But as long as certain members of the industry keep perpetuating the idea that women- even outdoor women for crying out loud- have to be models, that stigma will persist. Can’t we just be women? This is reaching into our haven as outdoor enthusiasts… making some women feel that they still have to get “done up” to go enjoy their hard charging sports. I’m sorry, but there is nothing attractive about mascara streaming down a sweaty face after a hard climb. That’s reality.

  • fuckin’ great post, Brendan. it’s important to point-out these things, make people think, because, really, there is no excuse for such antiquated behaviors. so, thanks for the post.

  • Brendan!

    I LOVE THIS POST!!! Thank you for point out both the inappropriateness of the “happy ending” boobs and the stupidity of guys that fall for them. Following it up with “what if that was your sister/wife/mom?” drives home the fact that a lot of these promotions and marketing schemes are done without respect. Hopefully one day we will be evolved enough as a society to choose respect over overt sexuality.


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