She Summits Opens Dialogue about Femininity in the Outdoors

 

She Summits just hosted yet another event, but this time it was online—bringing together eight short films about femininity in the outdoors. Words: Linnaea Kershaw.

From practicing cultural traditions in Haida Gwaii, Canada to deep dives in Jeju, Korea, She Summits continues to celebrate the greatness of the female spirit.

 

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In a lead-up to the festival, we asked a group of She Summits supporters to answer the following question:

“Society has created a vision of what “femininity” should look like? What does femininity mean to you and how do you feel you’re changing that vision through being who you are and leading as you do?”

Read on to explore.

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Amanda Kao. Photo: Courtesy She Summits

Amanda Kao

Founder of the Bad Academy and the Bad Climbers Club, Amanda has struggled with femininity her entire life, “The terms ‘girly’ and ‘tomboy’ always felt restricting to me—I never felt either/or. It wasn’t until my thirties and the start of my business that I realized that femininity was not only a good thing (as I always feel masculinity was more highly regarded in society), but a powerful thing. It’s creative, expressive, and ever-changing.”

 

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Amanda Kao. Photo: Courtesy She Summits

 

By creating the Bad Academy, she found herself challenging the idea of femininity by offering workshops that questioned why society didn’t naturally teach women how to do things that are generally deemed masculine, like fixing cars or sharpening knives. “Why don’t we allow women to get their hands dirty while still maintaining their femininity? Why don’t lipstick and skateboards go together? Femininity is all about perspective and individuality, and less about gender and social status. It represents the most intimate and personal part of a person whether they’re a self-identifying man, woman, or non-binary person. It’s unique, free, and beautiful.”

Bryanna Bradley

Bryanna, a professionally trained photojournalist and surfer, believes that femininity means embracing her softer traits that make her feel powerful and nourish the instinct to connect and approach situations with compassion.

 

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Bryanna Bradley. Photo: Jay Crew

 

“When I embrace my femininity, I feel strong and confident and my creativity flows. As I navigate my career in a male-based industry, I am aware of the moments I feel I need to present myself as more masculine to be taken seriously. I was trained to believe that my femininity was a burden and weakness when it came to being tough, but I have grown to know it is my power quality.”

 

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Bryanna Bradley. Photo: Ryan Struck

 

“I depend on my femininity to guide my photography process, as I am confident that when I lean into my feminine powers it creates imagery that is unique from the male photographers I shoot with. It allows me to approach situations differently and for that, I will always be grateful.”

 

“I was trained to believe that my femininity was a burden and weakness when it came to being tough…”

 

John Sweeney

As a queer surfer from Vancouver Island, John reflects on hiding his femininity from a young age because to him, “it seems like our society only values femininity when it’s contained or controlled. It’s viewed as weak, non-dominant, and non-equal to masculinity. This narrative has been used to oppress for too long.”

 

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John Sweeney, Tofino. Photo: Bryanna Bradley

 

Recently, he’s allowed himself to explore the balance of the two and tries to challenge the voice that tells him that masculinity would keep him safe and get him further in life, even though he admits that it sometimes does.

“Surfing can be a pretty intimidating sport, especially when there’s not much representation beyond what caters to masculinity. I’m guilty of using my masculine privilege to take up space and fake confidence in the water, as it’s apparent that’s what’s valued in surf culture.”

 

“Surfing can be a pretty intimidating sport, especially when there’s not much representation beyond what caters to masculinity.

 

After hearing too often about people quitting the sport because they don’t feel safe or welcome around other surfers and knowing that there’s work that needs to be done to create a more accessible and less toxic environment, John says he’d rather be a part of surfing communities that educate, uplift, and inspire other surfers to create safer, more fun, and more inclusive experiences in the water.

“Femininity is beautiful, powerful, and deserves to take up space in this big old world of ours, in and out of the ocean. We need to keep encouraging and creating feminine representation that expands beyond the boundaries of gender, race, and sexual orientation.”

 

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Judy Kasiama. Photo: Pavel Boiko

Judy Kasiama

Judy Kasiama, outdoor enthusiast and founder of Colour the Trails—a group advocating for more, and safer, access to the outdoors for POC—believes that femininity is having the choice in terms of how she represents herself. “My advocacy work is focused on giving experiences to people who’ve been left out of the conversation and to show them that adventure is for them too. My femininity and how I express it is not relevant to nature. I am just a being. I find [being in nature] very liberating. I’m not thinking about my womanness, I’m just present in the moment and the spectacular views.”

That being said, Judy also wants to acknowledge that her femininity gives her the intuition to be aware and present, “Femininity oftentimes is seen as a weakness, when in reality it holds great power and trust in recognizing danger, unsafe conditions. Following those intuitions to have fun but also be safe because I’m not fighting against an ego, but trust in my instinct and making rational decisions.”

 

Tara Llanes by Elladee Brown
Tara Llanes. Photo: Elladee Brown

Tara Llanes

Tara Llanes doesn’t find that the traditional idea of femininity totally resonates with her because she doesn’t see herself as either feminine or masculine. “Personally, I see myself as almost a unisex sort of person and don’t think that femininity should always be seen as dresses, pink, purple, and flowers.”

Sarah Fenton Tippie

For Sarah Fenton Tippie, femininity is mental, physical, and powerful. “I’ve learned over time to toughen up without losing sight of being kind.” By not letting others take away from her “now,” but knowing the need to find her voice when necessary, she’s learned to relish idle time and learning time in order to pursue her passions with intent.

 

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Sarah Fenton Tippie. Photo: Courtesy She Summits

 

“Teaching my two young daughters that they themselves can do the work to facilitate where they want to take their lives every day is important to me as well as lifting other women up in whatever their passions and pursuits or purposes.”

Elladee Brown

Even though she may not feel that she’s changing the definition of femininity, Elladee Brown thinks people should focus on what’s real and genuine about people instead of the social construct of what is expected of women and men. “I feel that expressing empathy, kindness, bravery or courage are best categorized as human traits rather than feminine or masculine. This gives both genders more flexibility rather than being boxed into rigid social categories defined as man or woman. One of my favourite sayings of late is ‘You do you, I’ll do me.’”

 

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Elladee in Peru. Photo: Courtesy She Summits

 

These powerful statements offer a great start for conversations about the complex idea of what femininity means for different people. You can check out more stories about the inspiring female spirit at www.shesummits.org

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