Women Gone Wild: Social media and women's wilderness empowerment

Authors: Theodora G Weatherby*, SUNY-ESF, Elizabeth S Vidon, SUNY- ESF, Teresa Selfa, SUNY-ESF, Andrea M Feldpausch-Parker, SUNY-ESF, Christina M Limpert, SUNY-ESF
Topics: Environmental Perception, Social Geography, Gender
Keywords: women, wilderness, social media, empowerment, perception,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

American wilderness is unique, with no equivalent in wild spaces found abroad. Through history, it has been socially and culturally constructed, creating contemporary expectations of what “authentic wilderness” should look and feel like. Current trends maintain an authentic American wilderness as one ripe with risk, suitable for rugged masculinity to rise to the challenge and conquer such landscapes. Tourism has been accused of exploiting “authentic wilderness”, perpetuating the expectation of what it looks like and who is to be included in it. Via its social and cultural construction as well as the tourism industry, wilderness has come to be a socially exclusionary space; a predominantly masculine space where risk is often perceived as being much higher for women than for men. However, women today are actively challenging and changing wilderness’ identities and assumptions via their own participation with wilderness landscapes, with the discourses they engage with to share their wilderness experiences as women, and with their mechanisms of distribution. The use of Facebook, blogs, and Instagram, although different in their user experiences, provide a platform for empowerment and promote increased participation in activities, including those that involve risk-taking, which contribute to the deconstruction of conventional gender expectations in wilderness. This empowerment affects both the individual user and those who have not yet participated in wilderness recreation. Further, not only are these women shaping perceptions of today’s authentic American wilderness landscapes; women’s increasing engagement with socially recognized wilderness spaces changes the assumption that their place is outside of wilderness.

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