27 October 2016
An Open Letter to Outside Magazine
Dear Outside Magazine,
As an Outside subscriber for the last 8 years, I'm a fan of your work. I look forward to receiving my newest magazine in the mail, and I read most of them cover to cover. I've even given a subscription to a friend as a gift. But your latest Buyer's Guide gives me pause, and I think you can do better.
In your Editor's Letter, titled "Let Her Rip", you call out the outdoor industry for not doing better by female adventurers. "...so many gear companies seem to have missed the memo. Our female ski testers unanimously complained about women-specific models that had been lightened and softened to the point of riding like overcooked noodles."
As a female who works in, and is an active participant in, the outdoor industry, I'm familiar with the industry's proclivity to pink it and shrink it. I rode men's skis for the better part of three decades, until a few companies started designing gear that could keep up. I've stood in my fair share of gear shops where employees ignored me and spoke only to my male companion, or worse started mansplaining to me. Your message is spot on.
You go on to call yourselves out for your own past grievances. "Outside, of course, is guilty of marginalizing the stuff, too. This is our first Buyer's Guide that hasn't cordoned off the women's gear in the back, for instance." I applaud this move, and thank you for ending the column with, "please, gear manufacturers: design equipment that can keep up." If anyone can make an impact on an industry that's been slow to respond, it's a national publication with 2.4 million subscribers (and Outdoor Research too, you guys rock!).
Then I turn the page. Full of excitement and glee, I see the list of your six test contributors. All of them are men.
The next five content pages are skis for men, then a page of boots (presented as gender neutral, although a cursory search shows they're men's boots), then a page of women's skis. One page. With three skis. The five pages for men feature ten skis.
Backcountry skis are presented the same way, with four pages showcasing eight skis for men, and one page jammed with eight backcountry products for women.
I think you see where I'm going with this.
Turning page after page, my excitement about your challenge issued in the Editor's Letter faded, and my disappointment in yet another empty promise grew. In reality, this Gear Guide IS different than your previous Guides. It's worse. Last year you had 12 pages of content for women. This year you have six. Your Guide is 120+ pages. Even if 40 of those pages are ads, and another 40 feature unisex gear (which I'd argue, as your photos clearly show men's products), that leaves 34 pages devoted to men. A male to female ratio of nearly 6:1.
Even your "Meet Your Maker" features - stories of influential employees at DPS, Arc'teryx, GoPro, and Hoka One One - are sexist. Is there a reason Stephan, Greg, and Chris are all photographed proudly interacting with their product, while Lindsay's photo is a closeup "beauty shot" of her face?
I know hundreds of women and girls who are getting after it: they climb and ski and paddle and hike in skirts and live in vans and pee outside and aren't afraid to get dirty. They're all hungry for stories reflecting the nuance of gender and race and sexual orientation. Look to organizations like SheJumps and the Outdoor Women's Alliance who are engaging these women. These same women who are not reading Outside magazine.
They would, but they can see right through your empty promises. You point your finger at "the industry" while publishing stories like "Train Like a Girl" and shuffling the pages of your Gear Guide and calling it progress. You jam nine female products onto a single page and reserve two page spreads for one piece of male gear. You say we will see more women's pages in the months ahead - why not now? Why not this issue?
I'm disappointed. I let myself believe you were different. You even gave it a good college try. Maybe you will change, but I won't be reading to find out.
Me, and all the other women who won't be pandered to