How to be an Ally to a Person of Size in the Outdoors
By Jennifer Davis-Flynn
Next time you’re hiking the trails, mountain biking, paddling, skiing…take a look around. Who do you see? Does everyone look the same?
Outdoor brand catalogs and enthusiast magazines show us countless images of young, white, skinny yoga chicks, ripped female climbers, and a whole lotta dudes. And, not surprisingly, reality often follows suit.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As a short, size-14-woman who has worked in both the outdoor and natural foods industries, I never see myself represented…even though I look like 67% of women currently in the U.S. I feel like an outlier on the mountain bike trail, on the slopes, at the biggest industry trade show. It’s crazy. Because I’m the rule, not the exception.
Luckily, I grew up brave and adventurous (thanks in no small part to amazing parents) and continue to have many supporters who love to play outside with me. But, I’m lonely out here. I desperately want to see many more women like me on the trail.
So, what can we all do to change the ratio?
Simple. We can invite people in our lives and community to participate with us, no matter their size.
Extend an Invitation
Are you going on hike, an afternoon canoe trip, a bike ride, a yoga class? Extend an invitation to a larger friend, colleague, or neighbor. Assure her that you’re not doing anything extreme, but you’d love to introduce her to a beautiful area or a fun new activity. If it’s a group outing, mention that all levels are welcome and then support your friend by staying by her side and participating at her pace. That might mean going slower than usual or taking more breaks, but do so happily, chatting and keeping it fun.
Most people of size are very self-conscious about holding people back. But, going at a slower pace might be a wonderful exercise for you as well. You’ll get a chance to take in the beautiful scenery, observe wildlife, and, perhaps, notice things about a favorite trail that you’ve never seen before. It’s a win-win.
Afterwards, take your friend out for coffee or a beer to celebrate, and make plans to do it again. Including everyone in your favorite activities is a beautiful gift to give to the world. It’s a small step that can tremendous impact on someone’s life and the outdoor industry as a whole.
Nature is for everyone, regardless of size. Spread the love.