Yesterday I read an article by Sabina, of GirlvsGlobe.com titled: Why I’m Not A Solo Female Traveller.
In the article, Sabina shares her frustrations surrounding the often heard statement that she is “So brave for a girl!“. She argues that the female qualifier in travel, and the gender rhetoric that underlies the articles of self-proclaimed ‘solo female travellers’ is:
a) a suggestion that female and male travellers are inherently different and,
I read through the article over and again.
Sabina’s blog and also her career is one that has not only inspired me over the years, but I’d be willing to put money on the fact that she has inspired countless women to follow their travel or blogging dreams. Whether solo or not. Her articles often inspire discussion around a topic and force readers to look closer at issues that are close to her own heart.
But this article is one that I felt was a little misled. The concept, that we shouldn’t have to use a female qualifier when writing about our travel experience, is one that I admire. However, it’s not one that I agree with for the following reasons…
The Gender Issue Already Exists, Whether We Want It To Or Not
Sabina begins the article by summarising her frustration with the fact that female travellers are seen as a “different breed of traveller altogether” than male travellers. She then follows this by arguing that we need to stop focusing on the female experience as something separate from the human experience as a whole:
“You know what’s even better than being a successful female CEO or an accomplished female cardiovascular surgeon? Being recognised as somebody who is good at their job, without making it a gender issue.”
In response to a comment left on her Facebook Page she, continues to hold this belief that by talking about solo female travel, and not travel in general, we are creating a gender issue.
“There are lots of people doing it nowadays, both men and women. The credit of course goes to the trailblazers who made it possible… but I kind of think we can shift away from the gendered rhetoric.“
The main reason I disagree with these points is because calling someone a successful female CEO is not making their job a gender issue. Their situation is already a gender issue that must be addressed. Of the 100 people named as CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, only seven are women. And when it comes to female surgeons, only 19% of surgeons in the US are female.
I believe that women should continue to highlight this existing gender issue as long as others continue to believe in sexist stereotypes rather than equality. By ‘others’, I’m referring to the quotes you’ll see throughout this article from people in power.
So, I’m sorry Sabina, but as long as there are those that believe that women are not equal to men, I will continue to make an issue about it.
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It’s Not About Being A Solo Female Traveller. It’s About Being Female.
Later in the article, Sabina highlights an issue with solo female travel blogging that in many ways I agree continues to cast the stereotype that women are less capable than men. That issue is the publication of articles such as “top destinations for solo female travellers.”
Her argument is that all destinations are accessible, no matter whether you are female or male. However, in her conclusion she implies that the intentions of bloggers to encourage more women to travel solo through such articles carries negative implications.
“Your vagina doesn’t magically render you unable to travel wherever you damn well please. So the next time you refer to yourself as a solo female traveller, please just think about what the term really means and what implications it carries.”
There isn’t much clarity as to what these negative implications are, but to assert that blogging about solo female travel does a disservice to the global woman’s fight for equality isn’t quite right. The fact is, as a female traveller you are more aware of situations when you travel solo.
So the issue isn’t about being a solo female traveller. It’s about being a female traveller in general. Of course, every woman should travel as they wish, whether that’s solo or not. This is something I also tried to highlight in a recent post I wrote on why hostels should not be a place where rape is a joke.
But to further equality between men and women, we must talk about and highlight what it means to travel as a female.
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So the next time someone tells you you’re doing great for a girl, ask them why. And when they finally, and probably awkwardly, reply by highlighting that what you are doing seems normal for a man but out of the ordinary for a women, again ask them why. And then, when they try and mumble something about the stereotypes of women, how we are deemed less business-minded, brave or strong, ask them if they believe that this is the stereotype or the truth. No matter their answer, you will have taken their idea that you are doing ‘great for a girl’ and turned into a trigger to talk about the real problem.
And that problem is that whether it comes to travel, business, health, politics, religion or lifestyle – there is still a gender gap that we should not shift away from until men and women are equal.
Before publishing this, I reached out to Sabina with a draft and we dug into the situation a bit further. I think in the end we agreed to disagree about the concept of her original article, but she did further clarify a few of the topics I hit on in this response:
“You’re right – to assert that blogging about solo female travel does a disservice to the global women’s fight for equality would not be quite right. 100% with you there.
But that’s not what I’m saying. Blogging about solo female travel is wonderful and should be encouraged. I read many of those blogs myself and deeply respect their creators. Again, it’s the *wording* I have issue with – never the actual content. If somebody was to write a post about “top x destinations where you’re least likely to be sexually harassed” that would be a different matter than a “top x destinations for solo female travellers”, in my eyes anyway.
I do *know* there’s a gender issue at play here. Of course I do. I just feel like putting too much emphasis on female employees being female actually draws the focus *away* from the work they’re doing and toward their gender. Which is not the point. I think we need to get women into fields where they’re underrepresented and then just show them rocking at their jobs. Otherwise we risk arguments of preferential treatment which I’ve often heard from men, along the lines of “she was only hired because they needed a woman”. Let’s show the world we’re not there to fill a quota, we’re there because we’re qualified and awesome.”
Personally, I understand the frustration felt that as women we are praised for undertaking certain roles precisely because the perception is that we are undertaking roles that are perceived as normal for men but out of the ordinary, or ‘brave’ for women.
But I approve of drawing the focus towards gender because then those women pave a path for the girls to come later.
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Let me know what your thoughts are on this, either in the comments below or in the comments section of Sabina’s original article.