Girly Girls And Manly Men

In a conversation a few weeks ago, a climber friend of mine described herself as “not super-girly.” Her expanded definition of that was:

I like cute clothes as much as the next girl, but I’d rather spend my money on new rock shoes, or spend my time hiking somewhere rad to go climbing … so sometimes the cute clothes and hair suffer. But the fun factor is pretty high! Is it bad that one time a dead bee fell out of my hair after being out in the Creek for five days?

My first thought was, That sounds like a lot of the women I know, who climb, trail run, mountain bike, backpack, and ski, and usually their favorite $150 shoes are downturned and have sticky rubber, or clip into bike pedals. I wouldn’t even try to act like I can understand the pressure to maintain a balance between being pretty and pretty rad, or how rare it is to be like my friend Susan, whose husband Mick describes her as “a chick who could pick up a chainsaw during the day and put on a dress at night.”

I was thinking being a guy in the outdoors is a lot more straightforward. You wear pants and a t-shirt to go climbing, and if you’re going out on a date later, you shower and put on pants and a t-shirt, or possibly a shirt with buttons and a collar on it, depending on the restaurant. Dudes are dudes, right? And then I caught myself playing First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou” while driving around in my van. More than once. Like 100 times in the span of four or five days.

Then I remembered a conversation last fall with a friend, in which she said I fell on the feminine side of the masculine-feminine spectrum (making me, I suppose, not super-manly). I believe this comes from having long hair, a scarcity of chest hair, constantly wearing open-toed footwear, and being somewhat in touch with my emotions. But then she said in Portland, I was quote, a real man, unquote. So I don’t know what to think of myself or the men of Portland.

I think there are other dude-bros who will unashamedly blubber at the sight of a puppy, right? And who will listen to bands whose lead singer is a woman, and are not afraid to gush about sunsets, but can build a fire or a bombproof rappel anchor in the dark, or change a car tire or shorten a bike chain.

But try selling outdoor gear to a man. Easy, right? No company feels like they have to do anything special to men’s gear, or “masculinize” it. Yoga is arguably maybe the most feminine (or just female-dominated) of any active pursuit, but you don’t see any companies making yoga mats with patterns on them that look like cascades of hammers or football helmets or beer mugs, to encourage men by saying, “It’s OK, dude. You can own one of these and still love Home Depot.”

But friends of mine, who wear dresses but also drive trucks, build fires, and know their way around hardware stores are part of the target market for women’s gear. And women’s gear is great when you consider it didn’t even exist not so long ago, and women just used ill-fitting men’s gear. But does women’s gear need to be made in “girly” colors, and have flower patterns on it? Maybe for some, maybe not for others. As an outside observer, I would guess that the market for sweatpants with the word “Princess” emblazoned on the ass and the market for women’s Gore-Tex climbing pants don’t share a lot of Venn diagram space.

My friend Amy, who works for a gear company, told me, “None of the women I know in the outdoors are girly-girls. That flower shit is for people who want to look like they’re into the outdoors.” Or my friend Tracy, who sarcastically said, “I love pastel colored stuff. Because it never shows dirt, right?” And Jill: “I just got a backpack with a flower attached to it. You know, so everyone knows it’s for girls. I bitched about that flower thing the last few times I’ve gotten backpacks from them, but they’re not taking the hint at all. Maybe they should start sending out dude product with a pair of truck balls dangling from the straps.”

Perhaps it’s just evidence of the old adage that women are complicated, and men, well, we are kind of simple, as far as our motivations are concerned.* Or, maybe it’s best put how my friend Teresa says it: “Girly, outdoorsy, what does it all mean anyway? Like many of my friends, chick or dude, I am part mountain, part ocean, part desert and granite, a bit of pink, a hint of city verve and touch of lavender and peony. And 7/8 sunshine. And all of that just wont fit in a box labeled Girly. Or Outdoorsy. Or City.”

(photo by Forest Woodward)


*I made that up yesterday

54 replies on “Girly Girls And Manly Men

  • Elle

    Ok, I definitely fall more on the “girly” end of the spectrum (and have definitely never used a chainsaw), but I still think that as far as outdoor gear goes, it is not designed well for women!! I mean if you look at Patagonia (or any outdoor retail really), the guy’s stuff is super hot, and the girls stuff looks like the guys stuff, but with flowers. Lame.

    Over the years all my outdoor gear has turned into Lululemon. At least they know that women want to look good while they are being semi-rad. 🙂 Thanks for another good post!

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      I actually was thinking of Patagonia when I wrote my reply below. I have tons of their stuff and it’s all great and none of it has flowers or that crap on it. Maybe the stores where you live are just carrying only the flowery stuff?

  • Beth

    We were laughing about the “halo” effect I get after an afternoon of jeeping, hiking, and exploring when all the little hairs come out of my ponytail and just stick out everywhere. “What are you going to do about it?” my fiance asked me. “Umm…cut all my hair off after the wedding?” was my answer. Because frankly, I’m not sure WHAT to do about fixing it. Nor do I particularly care about fixing it. Nor would that fix probably work very well after rousing myself from my spot in our two man tent with the two of us and the dog…

    I like wearing the pretty dresses but I really pretty much fail at it. Much more comfortable with the chainsaw!

  • Nathan

    Awesome, love that stereotypes aren’t holding people down and everyone is pushing each other into new adventures. I love that my wife would way rather go backpacking than go clothes shopping, but looks good doing both.

  • shen

    I am a lot of both- girly and outdoorsy and I like outdoor gear that fits well and I don’t give a rats ass what color it is if it works. If the manufacturer wants to attach a flower to it so I know its for me (women’s fit) I take into account that the idea came from a man, probably a European man, and it was meant with good intentions. I will pull on my Arborwear or Mountain Kahkis or whatevs when its time for some dirty work. I will put on high-performance gear when its time to get semi-rad, and I will rock a dress and shoes that have nothing to do with the outdoors when I am not in the outdoors. I think the “lifestyle” clothing produced by outdoor brands is not that cool at all- I feel that wearing it shows the world that I only identify myself with the Outdoor Industry and while the Outdoors have been my home base for my whole aware life, my insides are like Theresa’s- mostly sunshine- lots of mountain and river and beach and also city verve. Truth is, I like patio dining with excellent conversation as much as I like a good bivy with a star filled sky. I want to live life that has it all… girly or not.
    And I love men who can blubber at the site of a puppy and talk about how they feel as long as they still wanna get up high and breath some thin air and paddle new rivers and surf in remote places and build cool shit.

  • Abi

    I don’t even mind the pretty colors so much, but it really chaps my ass when they add $$$ to the price tag for it. Or that they market it as women’s and charge more b/c the product is really the same as the men’s version but shorter/narrower/more purpler. When I was snowboard shopping, I was about to be sucked into the women’s marketing vortex and buy a board that was adorable but way too narrow for me (as were all of the women’s boards) when a friend said to me, “well…do you want to look pretty out there? Or do you want to shred??” Needless to say I now own the ugliest, man’s snowboard known to mankind. But the neon orange and black design never impaired my performance 🙂

  • Kim Kircher

    At least the latest women-specific gear doesn’t mean I have to choose between a smaller version of my male counterpart’s clothing/backpack/skis and some flower-powered weak ass option. My husband was the one that commented on the strange graphics on my Rossi S7s. The “women’s” version (which is a slightly lighter construction) is covered in a curvy, sexy graphic woman that isn’t skiing or doing anything other than looking like a character out of a Tim Burton film. I think she’s pretty cool. But my husband wondered why she didn’t grace the men’s version of the ski. Why would a woman want to look at a partially naked woman on her skis? He noticed how other men commented on my graphics. Perhaps that’s the point. I thought maybe we women would want to identify with the portrait. For me, not so much. I’d rather just have gender neutral graphics that didn’t have an agenda.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      I agree that most new gear for women is pretty good. But the ski graphics, yeah…some of that is pretty awful.

      I like the samurai girl on one of my pairs of skis, but all my other skis have pretty neutral graphics.

      • Becca C.

        Kim, I totally agree! I got the women’s S7s this year and was really hoping to find an old used pair because I found the graphics so strange…gothic girl with pointy boobs? What can you do? Sometimes I have to force myself to buy the right piece of gear and pretend it isn’t unattractive. Every once in a while I succumb and pay more or go through more trouble to get the more attractive option. We all have our weaknesses I guess.

  • Abbie Durkee

    Wow Ladies, you are singing to the choir here! I am designer fighting tooth and nail to release a collection of women’s clothing that not only fits, flatters, and is feminine but is functional, practical and versatile in style and color. That said, I struggle to prove to investors that this is a viable market, as I believe, not enough women voice their opinions to the buyers but rather either buy the flower stuff or not and that is what the industry trend statistics say what women want. Just my two cents. I am trying but a lack of capital has left me with just one product on the market for 5 years. Action: Tell your outdoor store buyers (check out My Alibi Clothing 😉

    • Amy

      So true! I develop women’s clothing for a snowmobiling/moto sports label, and it is a FIGHT to make it fit. I’m actually very fortunate to have an all women team for the women’s line, but I just over heard the FOUNDER of the company tell the moto team to cut the function before the feminine. I guess he’s learning….
      The other huge problem I see is that it actually DOES cost more to develop women’s gear! Girls have curves, so you have to make a pattern to fit a curve, so you lose “real estate” in your marker- have wasted fabric -and end up using more fabric on a woman’s piece.
      I just want to echo what Abbie said: Any company can make the most kick-ass gear for women, but if the dealers won’t carry it, you can’t have it. Tell the managers at your favorite stores. Tell the companies. Be detailed, but don’t be angry. Then, learn how to sew, make patterns, and design, and come help us out!

  • Tina

    Just reposted this… I definitely try to straddle “wearing pretty dresses” with being covered in dust and grime after a couple days in a tent. I think another interesting take on this is the interview with Emily Batty (Canadian MTB Team member) where she mentioned that she is sometimes given a bit of flack for wearing makeup and pearls during her races. So it’s kind of a bit of double standard… and I kind of wish that there was a neutral middle ground.

    • Miles

      I worked wilderness trails for 4 years and I had one female trail crew leader who was an animal on the trail. She’d chop through a 12″ log like it was already paper. Then when we got back to the spike camp she’d chuck on a dress and put her hair up. It was an interesting/attractive combo to see her go from work pants with blasted knees to a nice dress. Can totally be done.

  • Rick O

    Are they actually going to make mens backpacks with truck balls hanging off the straps!? The more gear dangling from the outside of my pack, the better.

  • Kristy Rhodes

    I really don’t care if it’s girly or not. I get to be girly enough as a violinist. For me, as long as I have quality gear that allows me the freedom to enjoy the outdoors when I’m not stuffed in a concert hall or rehearsal room, I don’t care what’s on it or what people think. My whole life seems to defy stereotypes and flower power on my gear is not going to change that or who I am. I know who I am and it’s not my prblem if others don’t get to know me because of something that might be on my gear. I’m all girl and all adventure and the two mix well in my opinion.

  • Melinda Buttles

    Amen my friend. I have been frustrated for years with the “shrink and pink” phenomenon–when a company takes a product and simply makes it smaller and pink,.. and TaDaa! It’s for women now! I am a 5’10’ fit, but full sized, athletic female; so obviously I get especially frustrated with the “shrink” part.

    I DO believe that there are some pieces of gear where a design that takes the female shape into account can truly make a difference (backpacking pack hip belts for example), but much of the time I find it to be crap.

    Like the time I tried on a women’s harness thinking perhaps the fit would be padded differently. Nope, I simply couldn’t fit the women’s version.

    But for me, the worst offender was an ad I saw for a Sea Kayak made for women. I’m an avid paddler. I’m sure it’s a fine boat, and I even have friends who own them. My beef was with their ad campaign, which made it seem that the only things that made this boat ‘for women’ were that it was lighter (because clearly we’re not strong enough to carry our own boats), and smaller (because we’re all tiny), but–the worst part– “still fast enough to keep up with the boys”…(F*** you boat marketers).

    Thanks for acknowledging this issue from the male perspective.

  • Rebecca

    Hmm…. I agree mostly with all you ladies (above) but struggle with it too. I just got a pedicure b/c in my opinion, the sexy red toenails complement my dusty shins and scraped elbows after 30+ miles on the mountain bike. And is there any harm in wearing sexy clothes while being totally studly? No I don’t wear make-up but I do sometimes wonder if keeping up with the guys (on skis or bikes) makes them think of me as less attractive as the girls on Pearl St. with their dresses and lipstick and high heels. Hard to say.

    Another perspective entirely, I work for a company that makes backpacks (and tents, bags, etc). There IS pressure from major retailers to distinguish between the men’s and women’s gear–that’s where the flower graphics and girly colors come in. Yes, there is a real difference when it comes to packs (hip belt, shoulder straps, etc) but that only applies to the majority–there are plenty of Amazons out there that won’t comfortably fit into a smaller pack (or sleeping bag).

    And then when it comes to apparel–how about making clothes that actually accommodate real biceps or thighs and an “I-earned-this-ass” (and I like it like that)???

    Someone up there in the comment chain mentioned the wanna-be outdoorsy look–until more girls (women) actually go outside, there won’t be a big enough market for those of us kick-ass chicks who can wield a chainsaw, break trail, ride as far (or farther), throw-down a delicious camp-cooked meal–and want to look good, feel comfortable and not have to wear flowers all the time! So get your sisters out there.

    Brendan, my friend, thanks again for the good read and “conversation.” See you in SLC!

  • Rachel

    I appreciate that a lot of gear is now being made to actually fit women (though apparently there’s no such thing as an athletic woman with boobs?), rather than just being small, but it’s awful when I do find something that fits great and I have to decide whether or not it fits well enough to be worth going outside with purple flowers on me…

    On the other hand, I run into a concerning number of women who tell me they do love a bright girly-coloured backpack or sleeping pad, and apparently the stuff sells, so I can’t really blame the companies for effective marketing.

  • Jeremy

    Oh man! For a long time now I’ve been meaning to pick up a pair of truck nuts for my touring bike. I hadn’t thought of dangling them from my backpack too. Brilliant!

  • Amy

    BL, can you please make me a semi-rad patch to cover up that flowered shit on my gear? Must meet Rebecca! I earned my ass too (rad)…not to mention ‘The Quad’ as I refer to it when my sternum strap doesn’t go high enough and cuts the boobage into four boob islands. Thanks BL! You are rad! … On my way to find truck balls for this weekends packing trip. Sweet!

    • Teresa "7/8 sunshine, pink toes and 4-day climbing wknd dirty"

      Ha! “The quad”. That is awesome. Glad I’m not the only one. This is such a fun string of comments – women, men, whichever, we have such a great community.

  • Lee

    Nice write-up. As a female whitewater kayaker, there are even fewer options for gender specific gear, and it’s always light blue or pink and called “Vixen” or “Diva.” I’d buy a boat with beer mug stencils over flowers any day.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      I once was sent a “guide” PFD for testing. I called the company to explain they needed to send a women’s model. They replied it was a women’s model, so I just looked at the completely flat front piece and thought “…..”

      It wasn’t worth trying to explain to them how a woman’s shape differs from a man’s, if they don’t know already.

      • Lisa

        This reminds me of shopping for a technical alpine pack and my only option from the company I really like was to order a “women’s specific hipbelt” at an extra cost. Want to know what was woman-specific about it? Nothing. There really are a few anatomical differences between us… Eventually I ended up with a pack that I really like (from a different company), except it has shiny dragonflies under the lid.

  • Jill, Head Geargal

    I love that Lee (above) pointed out that abomination of a name for gear: “Diva”.

    At this point in my gear testing career I have a lot of great gear and not a single one of my go-tos for serious endeavors has a flower, pretty pattern, or “girly” dimension to it.

    This leads me to theorize that brands that use such marketing tactics aren’t making serious gear; just gear that appeals to the masses, which I can understand because they’re trying to make money. But there is no way I’d head out the door for a search-and-rescue mission dressed in stupid shit with flowers or dragonflies or butterflies or fake East Indian designs on it.

    Rest assured, there is great women’s gear out there without ridiculous “girly” details.

  • Teresa

    Seems there is a lot of anti pink/flowers out there…. Is there some reason I cant like pink AND crush it? Yellows, greens, blues – I like them too. But to me pinks are particularly fun, happy colors. Don’t know why, maybe because some of my favorite moments are after long hikes into the backcountry when sunset turns the mountains around me gorgeous shades of color that fall in the pink spectrum. Or maybe it’s from subliminal messaging from having watched Saved By The Bell in my adolescence. Whatever- i dont really care because it makes me happy. Does it matter if my ultralight, waterproof breathable alpine rock shell is a color called Lily and when I put it on, does that suddenly mean I can’t climb my best or push my limits? Should I be taken less seriously? I am an athlete and a woman and I’m going to dress in whatever colors, shapes and designs I want. If you have a problem with my gear looking “girly”, or take me less seriously because I have breasts and am not covering them in a shapeless, black potato sack, well, then you’re not invited to climb/ski/bike/hike with me. I don’t think it’s about color or style – it’s an attitude perpetuated by both men and women that women can’t participate in outdoor sports with as much skill, strength, mental fortitude and gusto as men. We can. And we can wear pink with flowers if we want to.

    • Rachel

      There’s nothing wrong with pink flowery gear. The concerns is with girls who fit women’s-wear better but have no option aside from pink and flowers. I have no problem with it being offered, but I do have a problem when I can’t find anything else.

    • Amy

      I find women who tell me to take the pink off. I find women (hard core dirt bikers with muddy faces, and a “halo”) who tell me to put the pink back on. Women tell me “what the hell” when we put a subdued flower on the zipper puller, and I have women (hard core sledders who own dealerships, and lead back-country tours) who tell me that there needs to be more girl-esque trims (zipper pullers, seam tape, grosgrain hang loops, etc.) I have complaints that this jacket is too curvy and form-fitting; I have complaints that the same jacket is too flat and boxy.
      Then there are men wearing the women’s jacket because we took all the pink off…
      The truth is we are ALL different. Inside and out. There is a reason that the apparel industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you like pink and flowers, wear pink and flowers. If you hate the pink and flowers, don’t wear them. This is huge: Wear what makes you feel YOU. And allow others the same.
      But if you REALLY, REALLY want something that fits you, learn the trade. start sewing stuff together, take a class, whatever. The women’s clothing industry is getting bigger and we NEED you.
      Get on the web and find fitting forums, write to your favorite companies, and ask to test their gear: be heard.
      Nothing will change until we make the male-dominated industries and social-fashion dominated industries change.

  • Paul

    What about the market for guys who really want to kick-ass in pink flowers? If we are going to blur lines, let’s blur ALL of them. Truck nuts for girls, Divas for boys. PROBLEMS SOLVED.

  • Laurel Fan

    Call me a feminist (go ahead, it’s not an insult), but this is one of the things that is sexism, plain and simple. Look up “gender roles”, etc. When women want to do “masculine” things this is assumed to put our “femininity” in question. Teresa, nobody’s saying you’re not allowed to like pink. We’re saying the patriarchy sucks for putting “pink” and “climbing” in separate and opposite categories, and that the outdoor industry sucks when they cleave to these categories.

    (gender roles cut both ways, but this is an outdoor blog, and almost all outdoor things are “masculine”. the pressure for men to assure society about their “masculinity” when doing “feminine” things like cooking, childcare, caring about their appearance, etc. is exactly the same thing, really)

  • Kally

    Yea, as a female snowboard instructor I shred a men’s board b/c the women’s board options don’t perform. Rather depressing. Couldn’t care less about making sure it has flowers and looks cute. It needs to perform as well as the men’s options all do!

  • BrianL

    The “flower backpack” company actually makes some nicely formed womens’ straps and belts don’t you think? The flower comes off in seconds. I’d rather focus on the construction of the pack than the flower. Maybe that’s what makes me a guy. Maybe you’ve given them some techincal feed back as well, I don’t know. But since you’ve worn several packs you should try to help them better their product. Like somebody else said it was probably just a tiding of good will anyway.

  • BrianL

    And whether it have flower patterns or not, all bc gear really should be bright to assist in mountain rescue.

  • Leah

    I don’t care what it looks like, what bothers me is how much more it costs. The “women’s version” is always more expensive than the men’s. Especially with things that don’t always seem to require a “women’s” version. Like sleeping bags. I’m sure that there is some advantage to having a bag shaped like me, but I always buy men’s bags because they’re cheaper and work just fine. Same with things like gloves and goggles – they aren’t really any different, the women’s version is just smaller and more expensive. Seems like if you make it purple and slap a flower on it you can get a 20% markup.

  • Jen

    As someone who is tall and narrow, I’ve had to endure multiple Women’s cut items to find something that comfortably fits on my frame. Prime example is one of my last packs came in, pale blue, pale pink, pale purple and chartreuse (which with gray was pretty ugly). Guess who now totes a sexy chartreuse ‘ugly-pack’ and owns a ton of other chartreuse gear… this gal. I’m plenty girly outside of the great outdoors excursions, but you’ll never catch me wearing pink…

    ….also, my waterski is purple with what I thought were tribal marks, took me like 3 years to realise they were freakin’ dolphins… I don’t mind the girls that want to rock out and be pretty, but there are a huge contingent of us who love wearing non-pastel colours, the same as I have guy friends who love their Nantucket Red’s when going out…. you don’t see many gear options in their colour preference either 😉

    Love the commenter earlier who said truck-nuts for the ladies and diva’s for the dudes. Perfect.

    • Amy

      I love your comment.
      Here’s what I’ve found: you can do a red, blue, and black (primary colors) color way for men, and they are shit-grinning that they have OPTIONS!!!
      You make the same option for women, and there are women saying “THIS ISN’T FEMININE!!” and guys saying “THIS STUFF IS TOO F-ING SMALL!”
      So you make the womens gear in pink, light blue and mint, and there are women saying, “WHATS WITH ALL THE F-ING PINK AND MINT!!” So you make SIX colorways for ALL the women, but now you’ve either spent $20/yard for the fabrics, or you’ve bought 15 years worth of fabric (which will be ‘out’ next year) and you have mark up the retail price so that your company will at least break even.
      And then everyone complains about price.
      And length.
      Which costs money.
      Its a vicious cycle.

  • Kerry SK

    Great insight, Brendan and thanks, Laurel Fan, for your comment, I think you say it best. Great comments by all. I appreciate women-designed packs, bikes and apparel (being a short petite woman) with or without flowers, but can do without the label of “diva” or “vixen”. At the same time, I can appreciate/participate in outdoor activities without the need to prove myself bad-ass or to compete with men, just need to be outdoors! Always happily semi-rad. Oh, and Brendan, it’s the capri pants 🙂

  • Michelle

    My daughters who are 10 and 12 have the same complaints. They wear boys outdoor gear because they hate the colors and styling of girl gear. I am not sure who decided girls don’t wear primary colors.

  • Skia

    Interesting topic.My six year old girl loves to wear girly outfits and I support her.Were all different and we have different choices of what we want to wear.

  • Jen

    Sometimes the “women’s” part helps. like when i can get a sleeping bag where i don’t have to tie the end off of anymore to stay warm. or carry an extra foot of sleeping bag i don’t need. but when i’m searching for climbing shoes and in every review it says “perfect, but why do they have to be covered in a flower pattern?”… Come on now outdoor companies. We ladies like our shoes to fit (thank you for that narrower heel cup), but don’t need pastel colors to crush.

  • Pingback: We Must Go Beyond
  • Ally

    Honestly, there are women that enjoy genuinely extreme sports yet like to shop. Dare I say they like colors or prints with a glam or girly look. I wouldn’t mind having the option of girly gear/apparel. Perhaps there would be more, if not a variety of female paddlers if there was an adequate selection of gear designed for women that acknowledges biological differences in stature and even creative taste. An actual selection of feminine colors, patterns wouldn’t hurt anyone.

    It’s not a top priority, safety and quality are, but I’m proud to be a female paddler. I would never sacrifice quality of gear to have a certain color,but a selection would be awesome. Men have such a glowing aesthetically creative selection of apparel /gear to choose from…Yes, it’s a male dominated sport. But it’s not as if they don’t try to market creative, aesthetically, and unique, masculine appealing apparel. Its not all just plain and ugly.
    It is blatant, gear and apparel designed for whitewater kayaking is limited for females in the extreme.

    I’ve mentioned this to many male paddler who love it when they see a “hot girl” kayaker. However, they also complain that majority of whitewater female paddlers are unattractive. Typically described as tall, more masculine and not the least girly. (Nothing wrong about this) Maybe, there are less girls in this sport because it’s so hard to even find gear accommodating a variety of female stature, I don’t see this problem in other extreme sports, nor gear selection….

    To each his own. Not all girls who enjoy extreme sports and the outdoors would prefer to settle for a product designed for a smaller man, usually in black, gray or something totally non-feminine. Surf gear for women and almost all other sports (extreme or not) seem to not have such a missing niche as that of a female paddler. Women’s bodies are different then men. Their arm length, hip to waist ratio, height… men aren’t biologically designed to have children and their center of gravity is different.

    Emily Jackson is one of the premiere if not best female whitewater kayakers in the world, and she’s:
    ) very attractive,
    2) appears to be quite feminine. She often paddles pink/colorful kayaks in hues or detailed with “feminine look,” and her apparel more often then not has a girly touch.
    3) She is petite, 5’3, 110-120 lbs. SShe doesn’t have the manly build or height- she’s a total badass and is super skilled. There is nothing wimpy about her athletic abilities. I’m 5’4 and 105-110 very close to the same size.

    So the world champ is petite/short, feminine, likes “girly” designs and kayaks for genuine reasons. Since 2008, she’s all but stolen the show, in nearly every world and national competition she enters. She holds the majority of freestyle 1st place championships. This tells me that body type (petite) doesn’t render a girl incapable of being a great kayaker… The average kayaker is definitely male, taller totally different,, the male body is different. Women are biologically designed to well-often be dynamically different in stature- and that requires accommodation.Yeah, I’d say a lot more women would be involved in whitewater kayaking, or try it out if there was actually a selection to accommodate feminine builds.

    There are plenty of women with a less masculine build/dare I say petite, and maybe even girly involved in other extreme sports donning pink, pastels, purple and preppy looking attire… I just want to see more girls embrace the sport and see the rewards and enjoyment. If only they had more of an opportunity…

  • Kim h

    You would be manly in Portland . That is hilarious. Was just discussing with a gay male friend, also from the eAst coast, how there is definitely a missing male-ness factor in our adopted NW town. Oh, and I <3 my purple sparkly climbing shoes, they smear like champs! Women's harnesses are pointless in their "specific" features and don't hold enough gear.

  • Aili

    I was just at the Bozeman Ice Fest, and spent an evening perusing the new gear available from several different companies while socializing with the reps. Each company’s line of women’s jackets seemed to be available in some shade of pink or purple, some shade of baby blue, and/or some shade of minty green – and also black. When I asked the male reps why they didn’t offer some bright colors not taken from the color palate of the dresses in the movie Frozen they didn’t quite know how to reply. The female reps vehemently agreed with me and wished their companies would offer women’s gear in, say, a red, or yellow, or perhaps neon green – you know, a bright color for safety and visibility that didn’t scream pretty pretty princess.

    I am quite grateful that the outdoor industry has acknowledged women do the kind of high-end climbing and skiing that demands tough, functional gear. I am grateful to have pants and jackets that fit me in the hips (broad shoulders are another matter with women’s gear) after years of wearing the appropriate gear that only comes in mens’ sizes (this is still true of gear designed for high-altitude and very cold environments). But given the choice between presenting myself to the professional and recreational outdoor community with a big colorful jacket proclaiming ‘Betty!’ as I skin up the track or climb up the slope and the desire for the increased safety of visibility I have chosen to embrace my inner high-school poet and dress, you guessed it, all in black.

Comments are closed.