A little while ago, we started to notice a sharp increase in our readers’ interest in women in adventure. Knowing that the Australian music industry was about two years ahead of us on the issue, we thought we’d chat to some Australian musicians to gain insight into our own industry. Festival Of The Sun in Port Macquarie managed to program 54% of their lineup with women, a mostly unheard of ratio in Aussie festival lineups, so we headed along with a case of beer, a tent, and a camera. Explorers, we’ve got a lot of work to do…
I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to tell you that the public discourse surrounding gender equality and sexual harassment in the workplace has massively exploded in the past year or so.
Women are feeling empowered and are beginning to find voices they didn’t know they had; men are feeling fearful, confused, defensive and disenfranchised.
Due to our ‘niche’ status in society, the Australian adventure industry has largely avoided scrutiny; but we reckon it’s time to shake things up a bit. The time for change is well and truly upon us.
We recently surveyed our readers and although we’re still collating the responses, we learnt that although we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to gender equality in our industry, there are some things we could improve.
And so… we’re jumping on the gender train and joining the conversation.
The Australian Music Industry
One industry that has really copped a pounding for both their unequal representation of women and widespread sexism, is the Australian music industry.
In the space of a few years, industry discourse has completely flipped on its head, pioneered by Triple’s ‘By the numbers’ and Girls To The Front initiatives, the ‘Skipping a beat’ report by the University of Sydney, and documentary Her Sound, Her Story showcasing female musical experiences in Australia.
High profile artists like Isabella Manfredi and Camp Cope have stood up in protest, and the Australian Music Industry as a whole aired their #meNOmore Open Letter with hundreds of signatures in support of change.
It has been a sweaty few years for the white, male execs sitting in the boardroom wondering when the angry mob are going to break down their marble doors with flaming pitchforks (probably not the most effective battering ram but ladies, we’ll workshop that idea later).
We wondered if the Australian adventure industry could learn a thing or two from the Australian music industry, so we decided to head along to a cheeky little ‘boutique’ camping festival we’d heard about, Festival Of The Sun (FOTSUN), just north of Sydney in Port Macquarie. While we were there we had a chat to some of the musicians about their experience of gender in the industry.
Last year, FOTSUN programmed a lineup where 54% of the acts included at least one female. After the flack that large festivals like Falls and Splendour have been getting over the past few years for their unequal representation of female acts, FOTSUN’s lineup is a big deal.
FOTSUN is pretty small as festivals go, selling out year-on-year at around 3,000 attendees. With the option to BYO alcohol and camp on site, as well as impressive lineups year on year, this rowdy-as-guts festival delivers some seriously good vibes.
I chatted to the Festival Director, and the guy in charge of programming, Simon Luke. Because of their boutique status, he reckons FOTSUN’s programming is much easier than the bigger festivals. He said that the programming of so many female acts last festival was completely “organic”.
“Female artists have always just resonated with me in a profound way,” he said.
He also reckons there is a veritable surge of female talent “bubbling out of both regional and city areas” and that it’s something we can no longer ignore, even if we wanted to. (Um, which we don’t).
So what did we learn? Here are 6 things the adventure industry could start focusing on to improve women’s experiences…
# 1 Share and Celebrate Wins
Women are killing it in outdoor adventure. There are women all over Australasia DOIN’ DOPE SHIT! More than half our Featured Explorers have been women, we’ve interviewed badass female athletes like Lucy Bartholomew and around 40% of our contributors are women going on epic adventures (both little and big).
But we’re the first to admit that we could be doing more.
Did you know that all our content is contributed by members of our community? If you know a badass adventure woman, ask if you can interview her and make a submission to the Explorer Project!
We want to celebrate women in adventure and share every triumph. The more visibility there is of positive female role models in the Australian adventure industry, the more acceptable (and the less scary!) it will be for other women to get out there and #slaylikebeyoncé.
# 2 More WOMEN please!
Greater representation in non-traditional female roles increases the visibility of women, thus increasing the number of role models available for the girls and women of the future; “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.
Men in both the music and adventure industries are open and clear that they would like to be working with more women, and that they enjoy, respect and look up to the women that they already work with.
It’s also important to keep in mind that people aren’t binary; we don’t all fit into boxes. And the queer and non-binary kids of Australia need more role models… in all spaces.
Creating richer, more inclusive experiences in this way will give more women and genderqueer people the courage they need to stand up and be a part of a community where they are the minority.
# 3 Raise Adventurous Girls
Sewing the seeds of greatness is most effective during childhood; if we want adventurous, assertive and passionate women in our industry, we need to start raising them.
Little girls are only little once, so it’s important we remind ourselves how formative those years really are.
By providing our girls with safe spaces, we’re helping them find their voice, their peaceful place. At a very young age, the adults in my life would take my brother, sister and I adventuring all the time! We’d go bushwalking, camping, bike riding, ocean swimming…
And you know where my safe space is now? Around a campfire, or floating out in the ocean, face up out past the break. My grown ups helped me find my happy place in adventure and now I’m an adventurous woman. Simple.
# 4 Provide More Mentorships & Allocate More Funding
Although some might argue that they’re not extensive enough, the Australian music industry is awash with well-established female mentorship programs.
When it comes to the Australian adventure industry on the other hand… to say these programs are sparse would be an understatement.
There is a definite hole in the system when it comes to educating, inspiring and supporting girls, teenagers and young women in adventure.
Thankfully though, at the end of last year an exciting new initiative was formed, the Australian Women’s Adventure Alliance (AWAA), a group of rad female-based adventure groups banding together to support and learn from each other.
Based on similar previous models, we’re hoping that AWAA will become a hub of female confidence and leadership workshops, professional mentorship and internship programs for teenagers to young adult women.
Check ’em out and show some support!
# 5 I’ll Fill YOUR Quota!
In chatting with the female musicians at FOTSUN, one thing became very obvious; women are decidedly against the ‘quota’ approach. They’ve worked fucking hard and any suggestions that their success is due to box-ticking makes their blood almost audibly boil.
That’s not what we’re trying to do here.
We’re not saying: We Are Explorers needs to give a shit about women, so let’s make sure we publish X articles per week by women and make sure our Insta feed is X percent female. That’s not it.
The Australian adventure industry, particularly the media, just needs to start listening to the breadth and depth of talent that exists out there and start showing it to the world.
We need to realise that there is a thirst for content about women and created by women.
Big ticket productions don’t need to reserve a spot for a woman on the team because they think they should. They need to get their investigator on and find the female talent that exists out there!
And female adventurers and adventure content creators – MAKE SOME NOISE! Get yourself out there, contact pages like We Are Explorers and share your story. Get skilled up at writing and photography and start a blog. Or just bring a friend on your adventures who can string together a few words and is skilled behind a camera!
Remember, you’re doin’ dope shit by getting out there and flexing your adventure muscles and there are literally tens, no hundreds of thousands of people who would love to read about your adventures.
# 6 Bring Men To The Table
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room. Men.
I reckon while women are feeling heard, respected and empowered, heaps of men are probably shaking in their hiking boots at this stage, feeling frightened, condemned and jaded at the sharp direction-change in public discourse on the topic.
Some might argue with me (and have), but I reckon the single biggest change that is needed to improve gender equality not just in music and adventure, but throughout society, is how we involve men in the conversation.
Heaps of men are ready for this conversation but need safe and engaging spaces to air their concerns, process their confusions and develop their ideas. They need to know that the women (and feminist men) in their lives aren’t going to jump down their throats if they accidentally slip up.
If you’ve behaved a particular way your whole life, changing that behaviour won’t be instantaneous. So give it time.
And importantly, we can’t forget, that male voices are extremely powerful and we actually need them to make real change. Many men hold influential positions in their communities, positions that would enable them to create real change. Men need to learn how to speak respectfully about women, call out sexist behaviour and also self-sacrifice their privilege at times.
We’re lucky here at We Are Explorers, because gender is represented pretty evenly in our largest cohort of readers, people aged 25-34. We feel privileged to have the opportunity to reach a wide variety of individuals, including many men and we hope to be able to show you more and more epic and inspirational female content as we grow.
Here’s to the future of female domination! Woops did I say that out loud…?
All photography (unless otherwise stated) by Cary Leabeater Photography
You’ll be spewin’ if you miss FOTSUN this year, trust us. So make sure you save the date!