Gender and mountaineering tourism
DOI link for Gender and mountaineering tourism
Gender and mountaineering tourism book
Introduction We live in gendered societies within which our identities are culturally developed and are categorized as either feminine or masculine (Humberstone 2000; Swain 1995). While femininity is associated with ‘being emotional, passive, dependent, maternal, compassionate, and gentle’, masculinity reﬂects ‘strength, competitiveness, assertiveness, conﬁdence, and independence’ (Krane 2001: 117) and it embodies heterosexual characteristics (Messner 1992). The cultures within which we live value and reinforce masculinity, yet they devalue and undermine femininity (Wearing 1998). As gender is deeply ingrained within all aspects of society and it is central to explaining human behaviour (Humberstone 2000), it is inextricably linked to tourism development and tourism processes. It is argued, therefore, that ‘tourism processes are gendered in their construction, presentation and consumption’ (Rao 1995: 30). Gender shapes men and women’s involvement in tourism in different ways. Gender divisions are most apparent in tourism employment, as women occupy most low-skilled, lowpaid jobs, and in the commoditization of culture at tourist destinations, as women and men play different roles in selling their cultures (Kinniard and Hall 1994). As gender is a societal construct which pervades all types of tourism, it is worthwhile exploring the role that it plays in mountaineering tourism. There is a lack of research on this topic and the discussion within this chapter highlights a dearth of studies which speciﬁcally focus on gender and mountaineering tourism. Ordinarily, mountaineering has strong associations with manliness, and its masculinity is reﬂected in mountaineers’ personal narratives, media representations and people’s experiences of mountaineering. The commodiﬁcation of this adventure sport has resulted in the development of commercially organized, guided mountaineering holidays, fuelling the growth in demand for mountaineering tourism (Buckley 2010; Pomfret and Bramwell 2014). It has created more opportunities for more tourists to participate in a range of both soft and hard mountaineering activities while on holiday, meaning that ‘tourists with relatively limited mountaineering experience can now attempt to scale impressively high peaks by booking a packaged mountaineering holiday’ (Pomfret 2012: 145). For the purpose of this chapter, we have adopted a broad deﬁnition of mountaineering
which includes various ‘stand-alone’ activities – such as rock climbing, ice climbing, scrambling and hill walking – and holidays which combine various activities – such as guided, skills-based mountaineering courses and high-altitude mountaineering expeditions. Despite limited data on gender participation rates in mountaineering tourism and recreational mountaineering it is evident that men participate more than women. For instance, the UK mountaineering tour operator, Jagged Globe, reports that female demand for their skills-based courses in 2013 was only 23 per cent, for guided expeditions it was 27 per cent and for trekking trips it was 37 per cent (Jagged Globe 2014). In recreational mountaineering, men generate most of the demand, yet the most dramatic increase in participation currently is amongst women. Testament to this is that female membership of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC 2010, 2014) is on an upward trajectory – 16 per cent in 2002, 25 per cent in 2006 and almost 27 per cent in 2014. Women’s participation in rock climbing has increased considerably, although accurate ﬁgures on the gender split are difﬁcult to obtain. Additionally, the performance gap in climbing between genders is narrowing (Vodden-McKay and Schell 2010) with women increasingly performing as well as, or better than, men. Mountaineering participation rates amongst women also are rising in other countries. For instance, there has been a growth in demand by Japanese women partaking in pilgrimage mountaineering in Japan (Nakata and Momsen 2010). Nevertheless, this trend is not reﬂected in high-altitude mountaineering, in which women are markedly under-represented although, since the 1980s, there has been an increase in all-female teams summiting high mountain peaks (VoddenMcKay and Schell 2010). It is worth noting that these changing trends in mountaineering participation also are reﬂected in the demand for adventure tourism generally, although there is a more equal gender split (57 per cent male and 43 per cent female) in the latter (Adventure Travel Trade Association 2013). Furthermore, there are no major differences between hard and soft adventure participation for men and women, although soft adventure remains slightly more appealing to women. In parallel with this, the supply of women-only adventure holidays such as mountain biking, snowboarding and skiing trips is growing (Mintel 2011), although perplexingly this growth is less apparent in mountaineering and climbing holiday provision. Despite a substantial body of work on mountaineers (Buckley 2011), prior research has tended to neglect the role of gender, focusing instead on recreational mountaineers (see Delle Fave et al. 2003; Ewert et al. 2013; Lester 2004; Loewenstein 1999). Little is known about mountaineer tourists, with the exception of a small number of studies (Carr 1997, 2001; Pomfret 2006, 2011; Pomfret and Bramwell 2014). Hence, men and women’s participation in mountaineering tourism merits fuller research attention so as to develop an appreciation of the role that gender plays. Despite the lack of research on gender and mountaineer tourists, we can gain some insights from studies on recreational mountaineers. Mountaineering tourism
and recreational mountaineering are inextricably linked as they share the same facilities and resources (Carr 2001), and they evoke similar psychological reactions from participants during mountaineering involvement (Pomfret 2006). Few studies on recreational mountaineers have examined the role of gender, and these tend to focus on masculinity. For instance, this is a prominent theme in studies on high-altitude mountaineers while ‘feminist studies of women climbers and women-centred expeditions are still rare’ (Rak 2007: 115) and a complete history of women climbers is lacking (Mazel 1994). Similarly, as mountaineering tourism is a palpable type of adventure tourism (Swarbrooke et al. 2003), we can advance our understanding of gender’s role in mountaineering tourism through considering other types of adventure tourism. Problematically, however, this also is an under-researched topic as most studies focus on recreational adventurers (Buckley 2011). The lack of work which examines gender and mountaineering tourism reﬂects also the dearth of research on gender and tourism. Scholarly curiosity in gender and tourism gained prominence in the 1990s with the publication of several seminal texts (see Kinniard and Hall 1994; Sinclair 1997; Swain 1995) yet interest in this topic dwindled over time, although it recently has resurged (Pritchard et al. 2007). It is argued that mainstream tourism research mostly does not consider women’s experiences and women’s voices (Pritchard et al. 2007). This may, in part, be due to the prominent and traditional masculinization discourse typically associated with tourism, which provides an opportunity to escape from domestic environments and family commitments (Rojek and Urry 1997). This draws attention to the need for further investigations which explore the motives, behaviour and experiences of female tourists and how these differ from those of men (Harris and Wilson 2007; Timothy 2001). The chapter is structured to encourage readers to appreciate the key issues around gender and mountaineering tourism, to consider the limited research that exists and to present opportunities for further investigations on this topic. It explores two key themes which feature most prominently within previous research related to gender and mountaineering tourism. The ﬁrst theme examines representations of gender within mountaineering narratives and the media. This discussion introduces the notion of landscapes as socially constructed gendered spaces, and then it analyses masculine and feminine representations of these landscapes, both within mountaineering narratives and within different forms of media. The second theme appraises gendered experiences within mountaineering. It initially focuses on gendered motivations, then gendered expectations and identities within mountaineering, and ﬁnally gender and mountain guides. These two key themes are strongly linked by the long tradition of masculinity within mountaineering as the latter is represented and, consequently, perceived and experienced as an activity which epitomizes core hegemonic masculine features (Frohlick 2005; Ortner 1999). In the concluding section, suggestions for further research on the role that gender plays in mountaineering tourism are brieﬂy outlined.