So, outdoor recreation is a ‘White Privilege’ now? What’s next, breathing?
In a truly bizarre article in Everyday Feminism, Emily Zak claims that Outdoor Recreation isn’t available to everyone. She goes so far as to say that enjoying the outdoors can be elitist, ableist, racist, misogynist, fatphobic, and a ‘white privilege’.
(Let’s hope she warmed up before making those stretches…)
Let’s dig into this pile of crap. (Lord, help us!):
Unlike going to the movies, eating at a restaurant, or other “luxuries,” spending time in nature seems free. But not everyone has equal access.
As with travel, marginalized groups face a lot of barriers to outdoor recreation. This leaves the different types of outdoor fun to privileged folks…
…Like a lot of white people, I learned to ignore the whiteness of myself and other outdoor enthusiasts around me. I didn’t hear backpackers saying overtly racist things or see jerks physically blocking people of color from the trails, so I paid the homogeneity no mind.
It’s easy to overlook inequality when it’s systemic. It’s even easier when we benefit.
Ambreen Tariq runs Brown People Camping, an Instagram account that promotes diversity in public lands. She says she can feel like an outsider hiking and camping as a Muslim woman of color and immigrant…
…We need to acknowledge outdoor recreation’s lack of diversity and inclusion…
…We forget that society’s hierarchies of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, body size, and economic class don’t magically disappear in the forest.
This is going to be painful, isn’t it?
Zak lays out her reasons in point form:
1. You need Equipment.
And that’s apparently ‘elitist’.
Here are her reasons:
Our society treats nature as something we can enjoy independent of capitalism…
…We’ve created a culture of elitism around the outdoors, led by wealthy gear heads.
The Minnesota Land Trust’s Hansi Johnson, who’s white, recalls how he used to see people wearing jeans and flannel cross-country skiing growing up – a rare sight today.
Even if folks push past mainstream narratives and seek more affordable gear, cost is still a factor for low-income people…
…Those who make outdoor activities cheap often have a support system behind them…
…This system reveals deeply entrenched classism. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away…
2. Outdoor Gear doesn’t fit everyone.
This is ‘fatphobic’ according to Zak.
Fitness culture overall reeks of fat-shaming, for one, which is reflected in workout clothing offerings…
…For those who’d prefer cycling: Only last year did anyone think to build a bike for someone who’s heavier than 300 pounds.
Are you serious?
Heavier than 300 pounds?
Stop here and imagine what that would look like for a second.
She also says that we need to ‘hold companies accountable’ for their ‘limited views on body size’.
You mean like historically standard body sizes?
Or do we need to make spandex that would fit Shamu?
3. Access to Natural Spaces is ‘Tangled in Historic Privilege and Oppression’
Here we go…
In principle, public lands belong to all of us. In reality, select people get to enjoy it…
…On Tavis Smiley, a PBS show hosted by Tavis Smiley, Finney reminds us that people of color do have a connection to natural spaces, but some of that land was stolen from them:
” …whether it’s the 400,000 acres of land that were originally given to freed enslaved Africans and then taken away, whether it’s all the native people that had to be removed from land in order for the Homestead Act to make sense, and then give it to European immigrants so that they could have their own plot of land.”…
…Many national parks and public lands were built on colonized lands. Even US National Parks reflect colonialism, where white leaders ignored Indigenous people in the area to establish.
Our society leverages natural spaces as a tool for capitalism and colonialism, while at the same time touted them as apolitical, free, and pure.
4. You need to know that Outdoor Recreation is an option
This is the old canard that you need to see people that look like you doing whatever it is.
So, to get more black people camping, let’s say, you have to have black people camping. Because the world is viewed in a filter of race to these people. It’s so ridiculous!
Media paint a homogenous picture of who enjoys the outdoors, as well. They’re typically white, male, cisgender, slender, able-bodied, and assumed straight. Lore about Daniel Boone and mountain men perpetuate this image.
As Tariq notes to Outside, “It’s hard to see yourself in the outdoor community if you don’t physically see others like you, and you definitely aren’t seeing it in advertising.”..
…For example, society doesn’t socialize women and femmes to be physically strong like it does with men. This reflects toxic binary expectations we have about gender that need to be changed.
5. The Day-to-Day Culture Around Outdoor Recreation Is Exclusive
Here comes the ‘white privilege’… and everything else she left out.
Even when folks manage to go out and climb rocks, kayak a river, or bike down a mountain, people are still subject to unfair stereotyping and microaggressions…
…On top of racism, rape culture persists.
Many outdoor jobs, like wildland firefighting and logging, remain hyper-masculine and painfully heteronormative…
…For those of us who manage to get outside, we need to go beyond calling ourselves lucky. We need to understand ourselves as privileged.
Nature doesn’t have to be a rich, white playground.
However, structures humans put in place – capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, and ableism – allow some people to access the outdoors and force others home.
Wouldn’t it be sad to live in that angry, angry little mind?
No wonder they’re constantly protesting.
The whole damn world is against them.
Even the freaking outdoors.
Remember this the next time you take a walk in the woods, or visit a state park:
Feminists like Emily Zak believe that you’re exerting your ‘white privilege’ to do so.