Could you do a quick test for me? Put ‘TV Adventurer’ into Google images, see how many pages you need to scroll through to find a female. That’s pretty shocking right? It’s not like female adventurers aren’t out there, I’ve seen the likes of Sarah Outen and Sophie Radcliffe give incredibly moving speeches about their achievements.
But how many of you can put faces to these names? Why don’t Ed Stafford, Bear Grylls, Levison Wood and Ben Fogle have female counterparts represented in the media?
For the last year, I’ve been running a campaign to promote ecoadventures as a way to conserve endangered species and I can certainly shed some light onto the sexism that still exists in this industry.
“But you don’t look like an adventurer" was the response I received from a potential sponsor when I explained my campaign. “I’ve had to fire women from expeditions before; they are too distracting”. These examples aren’t even nearly the worst of the remarks that I’ve been subjected to this past year.
I’ve been undertaking wildlife expeditions for work and pleasure over the last 10 years. I’ve been in seas so violent that I’ve vomited through my regulator in shark infested water, I’ve had leeches in places where the sun doesn’t shine, I’ve broken my leg, suffered severe dehydration, almost been arrested in Mexico and have had a gorilla urinate on my head.
However, until I show footage and images of these trips, I’ve still had a tough time earning the respect of being an ‘adventurer’.
Is the adventure space the one sector of the media where it still matters what sex you are? Women can absolutely survive and thrive in extreme environments – many of my female friends complete exceptional feats on a regular basis – but without a mainstream platform to communicate their achievements, how do we expect young women to be inspired to go outside their comfort zones and take on huge challenges?
I’ve never thought of myself as a woman who is an adventurer and, of all the challenges I saw ahead of me when promoting this campaign, being a woman wasn’t one of them. It’s an obstacle that’s surprised me on this journey, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my expeditions, never be knocked back by a problem. I’m trying to find an opportunity in this barrier. I’ll keep on campaigning to disprove that only men can be adventurers.