Women of the Wild: Women, Outdoor Sport, and Changing Gender Roles
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Today, a quick Internet search will reveal that shooting, hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, and camping are all recreational activities that fall into the category of “outdoorsman” sports. As the name “outdoorsman” suggests, people did and do associate these activities with masculinity. In such sports, men supposedly distance themselves from cities and homely comforts. Some activities demand extreme physical exertion as well as the exercise of violence and power. Despite such stereotypes, plenty of women today enjoy these pastimes. Women’s involvement in outdoorsman sports suggests a trend of women who defied gender norms and associations and whose participation over time made the idea of an “outdoorswoman” more commonplace. So when did women become involved in these recreational activities? Who were these trailblazers and how did they justify their participation in such masculine pastimes? As it turns out, women have long participated in these recreational activities. In some sports, such as mountain climbing, women were involved from the inception of the sport in the United States. As outdoorswomen, their actions challenged Victorian gender ideals which emphasized domesticity for women. The rise in popularity of women’s outdoor sports both reflected and helped to develop a new gender ideal, the New Woman.
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