Boys’ Clubs and Beta Sprayers: Masculinized wilderness and gendered disparities in wilderness experiences

Authors: Benjamin Carpenter*, SUNY ESF, Elizabeth Vidon, SUNY ESF
Topics: Environmental Perception, Recreational and Sport Geography
Keywords: Gender, Wilderness, Social Nature, Environmental Subjecthood
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Engaging the academic debate around the social construction of the “Received Wilderness Idea”, the author hopes to examine the masculine framing of contemporary wilderness advocacy and recreation settings, and ways in which such framing creates rhetorical blind spots for the wilderness movement that result in friction in the individual lived experiences of wilderness professionals, recreationists and volunteer advocates. Using interview data and discourse analysis the author asks: what ways do masculinity and hypermasculinity occur in wilderness discourse so that definitions of wilderness and wilderness subjects emerge which may deter or discourage participation? How do these discourses act in conjunction with other social narratives to reflect a narrow set of experiences and values in wilderness settings? With a focus on gender this paper looks at how perceived wilderness experiences differ between individuals and how those experiences compare to constructions of wilderness in online media produced by wilderness advocacy and recreational organizations. Sites of resonance and dissonance between these reflect social norms and expectations within wilderness advocacy and recreation dictating who is welcome in those settings “as is”, who is held to different standards.

Themes observed to this effect include the hierarchization of landscapes and land uses constituting boundary work around wilderness subject formation; the overrepresentation of hetero masculinity in online media as well as the historical framing of wilderness. Finally how is a masculine frame entrenched in wilderness advocacy and recreation by a preoccupation with the state as the primary authenticator, administrator and provider of wilderness experiences?

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