I have a lot of problems finding things that fit me for my outdoor activities. I could list a lot of grievances: the fact that there are seven styles of alpine climbing pants in the men’s section of the Mountain Hardwear website and one in the women’s section; the fact that competition in zero-degree sleeping bags for women is nonexistent compared to mens’ sizes, with online forums sometimes suggesting you buy a -15* bag for men (which would be roughly equivalent) and “hope you’re tall”; the fact that I tried on several brands of pants at REI to find that literally no pair of hiking pants there is small enough for me (I’m small… but not really that small. In fashionable clothes I sometimes get up to a medium.) The plus-sized options seem even more restrictive, despite this blogger’s positive attitude about finding a few things. At the end of the day, many technical items I want don’t exist in my size (especially since men’s sizes are so hilariously large on me), if they do they may be worse, and if they are as good they are in fewer, uglier colors. And while the color is arguably the least important thing here, it’s also the most visible symptom of what seems to be a problem of women not having enough input in the process of designing their own outdoor gear. And it’s fun to make fun of the truly ugly colors that remind me every time I walk in the store that men are very extreme and visible and wear orange, and women are… really not expected to make a statement other than “I’m female under all of these layers.”
OPTION 1: Suburban Alpha-Mom Fuchsia
We heard pink was sexist, is this still pink?
OPTION 2: Don’t-Call-Me-Femme Cyan
Blue is a boy’s color, right? But actually wearing the same colors as men? That might be confusing.
OPTION 3: Half-Assed Lavender
You know, in case they don’t like pink.
This article does a really good job of explaining the attitudes that lead to these gear availability discrepancies. But honestly, I don’t really care as much about that stuff. Men on the trail can pass me by and ask the next man for directions. It’s only a little annoying to ignore people’s condescending running advice (or the infamous unwarranted I-want-in-your-pants beta at the climbing gym). Of course they’re wrong, and of course we should encourage more women to be mountaineers, but first there need to be options for sleeping bags that fit them. I want pants I won’t wear out all the time, and I want them to be as light as the men’s pants and have the same features. I just want outdoor companies to let me give them money for the things I want. And as the Elle article says, “I keep hearing that women don’t buy tech gear. But if they don’t make it, how do they know?” REI can have their #forceofnature campaign all they want, but the feel-good vibes aren’t getting me up the mountain. If you are going to use feminism as a marketing strategy, it would be awesome if you could make an effort to provide the practical support women need to get out there.
(I’d love to link to some action items here, but honestly I don’t know how to influence the products that are available to me when they don’t exist for me to “vote with my wallet.” The REI website tells some stories of some brands reaching out to women to improve existing women’s items which is definitely positive, but what about things that don’t exist? And why is the range of sizes seemingly so much more restrictive for women? I’m built very similarly to a lot of female hikers, so if pants don’t even fit me, who do they fit? I really don’t want to just sound uselessly angry on the internet, so if you have any ideas, please do share. I think soon I’ll post a blog post listing some good hard-to-find women’s items, breaking my personal rule about not writing about gear, so feel free to send any of that my way too.)