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Contextualizing gender and transformational spaces in mountaineering adventure sports and leisure

Hall, Jenny ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5200-4308, Boocock, Emma and Avner, Zoe (2023) Contextualizing gender and transformational spaces in mountaineering adventure sports and leisure. In: Hall, Jenny ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5200-4308, Boocock, Emma and Avner, Zoe, (eds.) Gender Politics & Change in Mountaineering: Moving Mountains. 1 ed. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-11

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This book is the first edited collection to offer an intersectional account of gender in mountaineering adventure sports and leisure. It provides original theoretical, methodological, and empirical insights into mountain spaces as sites of socio-cultural production and transformation. The popular perception of sporting adventure is saturated with notions of European exploration and colonisation that have been prolifically relayed and romanticised through adventure stories. Adventure is part of who we are and has its origins in exploration, science, and war (Kirk, 2021). Simply put, adventure is different from everyday life and entails a sensory knowledge formed of risk, exclusivity, and elitism (Cater, 2013). Yet, as Cater (2013, p. 9) notes “adventure has an underlying masculinist imperative that is culturally constructed” and thus gendered. Moreover, adventure as an object of knowledge is materialised within adventurous masculinised bodies as semiotic generative nodes that symbolise, and are sedimented in adventure environments. As such, the familiar trope of mountaineering heroism is embodied in the suffering, bravery, strength, speed and risk-taking that are characteristic of this masculinist pursuit. Adventure sports and leisure are inescapably part of a hegemonic global society that works to justify the subordination of those outside dominant norms (Connell, 2005). Accordingly, we treat gender as a broad spectrum where identity is not tied to nature/culture, mind/body and male/female binaries, whilst recognising the importance of embodiment (Eger, Munar, & Hsu, 2021). Indeed, historically assigned gender identity continues to have significant consequences, in the worst case by essentialising bodies as having fixed traits (Eger et al., 2021). For example, bodies can be ‘inscribed’ with gendered meanings in relation to the masculine norm in an adventure that privileges heroic characteristics such as aggression, competition and unwillingness to admit weakness or dependency (after Connell, 2005).
Yet, the codification of mountaineering has changed little since the conjoining of Victorian notions of adventure, modernity and manliness evolved in the 1850s as a leisure and nation-building sport (Logan, 2006). This hypermasculine mountaineering legacy based on male institutions and styles of interaction (white middle-class males from the West) has silenced the achievements of those outside the dominant norm (Frohlick, 2006; Hall & Brown 2022; Ortner, 1999; Rak, 2021). Mountaineering is largely a monoculture that excludes those of ethnicity, dis/ability, gender, sexuality and age leading to significant underrepresentation (Frohlick, 1999/2000; Miller & Mair, 2019). Topographically and geographically, femininity is virtually absent in the classification of mountains as sporting adventure and leisure spaces and places. This is indicative of how far current governance structures must go to mainstream gender and address inequality. Women and those of difference are significantly underrepresented in general participation and leadership roles in mountaineering and face discrimination when they do (Allin & West, 2013; Avner et al., 2021; Hall, 2018; Hall & Brown, 2022; O’Brien & Allin, 2022). Such inequalities are compounded by a lack of role models, access to appropriate outdoor clothing, poor media representation and the challenges of securing leadership and governance roles and employment in the outdoor adventure industry (Frohlick, 2006; Gray & Mitten, 2018; Morton, 2018; Rak, 2021; Rickly, 2016; Sharp, 2001). Despite these challenges, those of difference are using mountaineering to resist, rather than submit to, these constraints by employing a broad range of strategies that enables their participation (Evans & Anderson, 2018). In doing so, they challenge traditionally gendered discourses in mountaineering and promote alternative mountaineering practices and ways of being in the mountains (Dilley & Scraton, 2010).

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-29945-2_1
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV0199.8-200.35 Mountaineering
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7590

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