This week, I’ve been developing a new adventure series for television. While doing some research for the programme, I came across some really eye-opening attitudes about women and the adventure sphere.
There seemed to be a general feeling amongst the men I spoke to that the only women who tackle hardcore adventures are “big butch lesbian types”, and that women for the most part aren’t cut out for expeditions or challenges requiring supreme mental and physical strength. And, argued these same guys, men don’t want to watch TV programmes about butch lesbian women’s adventures – but if they were young, blonde and fit-looking….
As you might imagine, I found these comments very…provocative. After doing a straw-poll amongst some female colleagues (who retorted that men should try childbirth before consigning women to the adventure scrapheap!), I realised there’s still a widely-held belief that adventure is the domain of men – and therefore that adventure programmes on TV appeal largely to men, who want to watch other men having amazing adventures.
Sadly, I’ve noticed this perception stretches into the TV community – for example, Nat Geo Adventure (one of my favourite TV channels) http://natgeotv.com.au/tv/ regularly runs shows featuring male adventurers, but there are comparatively few documenting female stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching shows like Man vs Wild, Long Way Round, Danger Men, Graham’s World...but where are the women??
Why, in the 21st century – supposedly an era of gender equality – is there still this perception that any “serious” adventure is only worth talking about if men are at the helm? And why are men so disinterested in female adventures?
I’d genuinely love to know the answer, so please do post your comments below…
As Graham from Graham’s World (hi!), I’d like to say you are absolutely right: there just aren’t enough female backpack adventures on TV. I’ve met loads of kick-ass female adventurers on the road who would be awesome on the box. The concept that “women for the most part aren’t cut out for expeditions or challenges requiring supreme mental and physical strength” is just utter bollocks: Dame Ellen MacArthur, anyone?
But more than that: “supreme mental and physical strength”? Are they having a laugh?! The Long Way boys are accompanied by a couple of 4x4s packed with comfy cushions and caviar, and although I travel solo, I’m spekky, ginger and rarely sober… I’m definitely NOT the SAS-type!!
I for one wish you all the best at proving these idiots wrong…!
Thanks Graham, great to get your feedback – and to hear it from a guy, rather than a gal!
Still in the process of trying to get those kick-ass female adventurers on screen…I’ve met loads now and their stories and personalities are truly inspiring.
Watch this space…
PS: Good luck with your own epic travels – last I heard, you were heading towards Fiji??
There’s a whole world of female anthropologists who work in the remote Australian outback, drive thousands of kilometres off road to places that most people will never see on a map, let alone attempt to pronounce, which go unheralded every single day.
I’m one of these women. We routinely change tyres on 4WD vehicles that most urban men would balk at, navigate via topographical maps, GPS, drive in places where there are no tracks or roads, camp out for days, get lost, get ourselves out of bogs and sand traps, cook and care for the Aboriginal Elders with whom we work AND do the work we’re there to do.
We go quietly. Our adventures never make the big screen or the small screen. The work and adventures we have are simply not ‘sexy’ enough nor are they in ‘rah rah rah’ the Survivor-tradition.
Thanks so much for your feedback.
You make a really good point about “adventure” (in its broadest sense) being defined by male sensibilities and parameters. If it’s not SAS-style survival or there’s not some major testosterone-fuelling achievement involved, it isn’t deemed interesting enough – at least for television. Sad but true, it seems.
One female hero of mine is Tiffany “Tiff” Coates. You can read an interview I did with her:
anything but a butch lesbian. She’s small (her GS is too big for her, she needs to jump off to stop), beautiful and very smart.
there are only a few of us about unfortunately. but I would hope that with women like yourself, Tiffany, Lois and myself are able to convince the TV companies that a more balanced female-male adventure programe would be more popular than they imagine! Guys have often told me they think of me as a rider first and then a female second…and i do take that as a compliment! I dont think we will ever be ‘girly girls’ but of those Ive mentioned above…we are definitely no where near butch. mmm a prog with the 4 of us..now that would be fun!
Great to get your comments!
As a female motorcyclist, it does seem like it’s the guys that tend to get more mainstream media exposure. I found Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s “Long Way…” series very inspiring and have long wondered when we’ll see the female equivalent: something that has similarly broad appeal but is still a gritty adventure and a fabulous story that gets women in particular out there on their bikes.
Till then, let’s keep the side up and continue spreading the word, eh? Rubber side down… 🙂
I totally agree…although we are the “lesbian” type we are not Butch and have been trying to raise awareness that women of all shapes and sizes, backgrounds a like….can travel and explore anywhere guys can go. ADV touring is something more women need to get out and explore. We get tons of emails from both guys and gals asking for advise…the guys I am sure are shy about posting on our BLOG some of their questions because they might not adequate in the male world of ADV riders. They feel safe with emailing me.
In any case…as each and everyone of us get the word out..perhaps more and more women will buy these bikes and join the ADV club. So much riding to do so little time.
Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie!
I remember that 2010 Sahara Trek and I remember the guys to galls ratio being 1:2, so women are definitely up for some adventure, but I can’t think of one UK tv show that features a female ‘anchor’, not that I watch many regularly but I do catch one now and again. What’s more, the men do not fit into any particular ‘type’.
It’s a great idea, I’d have thought that watching a woman fronting an adventure show and sharing her knowledge and experience and showing the men how it’s done would hook women and men folk alike.
Everyone I trekked with, man or woman, was equal to the next, held the same determination, showed the same spirit, shared the same jokes, felt the same sense of achievement at the end and enjoyed the challenge all the way through.
But you know all that, you were there!
Keep plugging away, I’d say adventurers are more interested in the adventure than whether the adventurer presenting is male or female…
Great to get your feedback.
You’re absolutely right – the Sahara expedition was a great “leveller”, with women and men trekking alongside each other as absolute equals. That’s what I loved about it – well after the achy feet and three days at a time without a shower, of course!!
I hope you’re right that guys are more interested in the adventure itself than the gender of the participants. In developing new series for television, it’s certainly foremost in my mind, so watch this space…!
This is a beautiful post. Love to go more through your articles.
As a male traveller (currently on a RTW trip at this very moment holed up in a motel in San Antonio, Texas) I can honestly say that I have never thought that the only women who are capable of adventure travel are butch types. Take Austin Vince’s wife, Lois – she is a stunner and is ever as much adventurous as any of her male counterparts.
It is a sad truth though that many women do not take up adventure biking – it would be nice to meet up with some on the way round – a bit of female company (and I mean this in a 100% platonic way) would be very welcome.
I am firmly of the opinion that women are equally as able as men to take on the challenge.
Thanks for your feedback, some great comments.
Lois Pryce is a bit of a heroine of mine actually, and someone who definitely doesn’t fall into the “butch” camp! Would be great to see her and women like her on television more…
I think the “adventure community” are, like you, already very enlightened when it comes to seeing men and women as equals – it’s the broader viewing public that concerns me!
Let me know if you encounter any female bikers on your adventure – would be interested to hear what you make of them.
Maybe that’s why ‘Survivor’ is still going strong after countless seasons: it’s a nice change watching the women compete on equal footing with the men and being just as ruthless, competitive, and conniving!
I think you’re right. “Survivor” definitely levels the playing field – and it shows that women are easily as competitive as the guys, if not more so!