Nature doesn’t have to be a rich, white playground. However, structures humans put in place – capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, and ableism – allow some people to access the outdoors and force others home.
Everyday Feminism’s Emily Zak wants us to know that the allure of fresh air and countryside is in fact, like everything else, terribly oppressive:
Those of us who manage to get outside, we need to go beyond calling ourselves lucky. We need to understand ourselves as privileged.
Well, I suppose we all knew that was the predestined conclusion, the only permissible one, and that fretting about it theatrically is something we need to do. And naturally, Ms Zak has an extensive, at times bewildering list of excuses for why any outdoors recreation should be tinged with guilt and wretchedness. From the claim that, “our society leverages natural spaces as a tool for capitalism and colonialism,” to the “toxic binary expectations we have about gender.” You see,
Society actively discourages millions from playing outside, possibly stopping budding conservation activists.
And then the inevitable list-cum-incantation:
Media paint a homogenous picture of who enjoys the outdoors, as well. They’re typically white, male, cisgender, slender, able-bodied, and assumed straight.
To spare you the tedium, I’ll paraphrase: If you can’t borrow a tent or don’t have a pair of suitable shoes, and if you don’t see enough adverts featuring gay people kayaking, and kayaking in a discernibly gay-affirming manner, it turns out you’re being oppressed by society.
Of course there’s also the issue of girth:
Only last year did anyone think to build a bike for someone who’s heavier than 300 pounds.
The inhumanity of niche markets. And if the limited availability of reinforced bicycles weren’t quite enough of a stretch:
Many outdoor jobs, like wildland firefighting and logging, remain hyper-masculine and painfully heteronormative.
You heard the lady. The logging industry is painfully heteronormative. And so – er, obviously - “marginalised people” can’t enjoy the great outdoors. “The barriers to outdoor recreation are very real,” says she.