hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

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Chip Down
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hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by Chip Down » April 14th, 2018, 11:34 pm

A week or two ago, Willamette Week told us about a Chicago transplant who felt vaguely out of place in Portland's cycling community. Not wanting others to feel excluded, she now leads the Portland chapter of a cycling group for black women.

This week, it's our turn to feel chagrined. The Portland Mercury is prominently sharing the story of Jenny Bruso, who believes the local hiking community isn't adequately embracing the fat queer hikers, nor the trans or disabled or people of color. As evidence of this, we're told of the day a hung-over Jenny put on make up and sneakers and headed off on a six mile hike, only to find she wasn't prepared for the heat, because nobody had told her how. But, you know, if she had been skinny and heterosexual, somebody would have told her to wear light colors and start early and drink lots of water.

Okay, sarcasm aside (and really, can anybody resist?), what's your reaction to this? For me, hiking is a solitary activity. One of the reasons I go out there is to face some challenges on my own. But I know it's not the same for everybody; some people do enjoy the sense of community (which largely explains why some mediocre hikes are immensely crowded; they're popular because people hear they're popular, and folks want to go see and be seen).

I have no doubt that minorities who go hiking feel somewhat vaguely out of place. To what extent are the fit heterosexual caucasians among us responsible for changing that? When you're at the TH or on the trails, do you keep to yourself, or do you look for opportunities to be inclusive? Have you ever done something that you look back on and realize you were a bit elitist?

Today I offered a cheerful "good morning" to several folks, many of whom couldn't even be bothered to offer a grunt in reply. I'm relatively slim, and white, so I have that going for me. I'm not the straightest looking guy though, and I am getting a bit old, so maybe the Merc is on to something.

further reading:
https://www.portlandmercury.com/feature ... kely-hiker

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by mjirving » April 15th, 2018, 4:27 am

I think one thing we can all agree on is that hiking is disproportionately white-male. I have been very encouraged that over the last couple years that the male part is starting to even out. I’m section hiking the entire PCT and last summer was the first time I ran into more female thru-hikers than male ones on one of the days.

I hike at dawn, so I rarely see any other hikers, even on the popular trails. But I’d imagine that new hikers will tend to go to the popular places at the popular times. (My first hike when I got back into it was to the top of Multnomah Falls on a summer weekend!)

I think anything we can do as a community to be inclusive is a good thing to better diversify. It’s probably the subtle things that are most important to pay attention to as we are probably, generally an excepting group is what I’ve seen, but what do I know...I’m a middle aged white guy. (and I make that statement with honesty as it’s pretty tough for me to determine whether or not this is a problem when I’m not the one in the minority position in this, or in many other circumstances)

Probably behavior on online forums and social media is equally if not more important than trail behavior as I’ve certainly seen snarky comments to “dumb questions” online. (Sometimes it is hard to resist. ;) )

There’s some food for thought to start the convo. Thanks for sharing as it is an interesting topic.


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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by bobcat » April 15th, 2018, 9:59 am

First of all, I’d recommend that people read the entire Portland Mercury article so they can get the whole context.

My first reaction is that the “Chicago transplant” and Jenny reacted entirely admirably – by taking action and founding their own groups to address needs that they realized were out there.

A lot of the time, I’m hiking alone. I realize this is not a luxury all feel comfortable doing. A friend who is a member of the Mazamas rarely hikes alone because she feels vulnerable as a “small woman.” A black colleague once told me that he doesn’t feel comfortable hiking/traveling alone in the national forests or other remote areas of Oregon.

Usually I’m hiking on unpopular trails, but when I meet someone, I always greet and get greeted back. Often enough, we have a little conversation, and sometimes even useful information is imparted. I do not do the greeting thing going to the top of Multnomah Falls, but open up a little after Wiesendanger, and am all smiles past Multnomah Basin Road.

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by Aimless » April 15th, 2018, 10:20 am

I must say that Chip's summary of the article was entirely misleading and unfair, and his sarcasm was misplaced in my view.

As an example, the hungover hike Chip highlighted happened about one decade ago and was used as the lead-in because it provided such a stark contrast to how that hiker thinks, and what she does NOW. I did not read any condemnations of the hiking community in that article, only a description of it. There was a lot more discussion of how outdoorsy people are represented in advertising and the media and how stereotyping (at which advertising and the media excel) can make people who don't fit the stereotype feel like outsiders.

None of us was born a hiker or camper, but many of us were fortunate to be born into a family that hiked and camped, and so it became part of our birthright. For all the others who were not given the outdoors as a family tradition there has to be another point of entry. She is working to create a welcoming point of entry for people who, for understandable reasons, based on what they see and hear before they gain real-world experience, feel like they won't fit in. Good for her.

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by adamschneider » April 15th, 2018, 10:24 am

What "hiking community" are we talking about? Most of us hike alone or with friends.

I think the need/opportunity for change lies with outdoor retailers and marketers, and the article touches on that. In fact, overall I didn't think it was especially damning of this so-called community.

[EDIT: While I was tap-tap-tapping on my phone, Aimless made all my points for me, and did it better.]

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by retired jerry » April 15th, 2018, 11:37 am

Is it okay to say "fat queer hikers" :(

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by Aimless » April 15th, 2018, 11:38 am

I think it depends a lot on the situation, who says it, when and to whom. If you're unsure if it's appropriate, it probably isn't.

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by Bosterson » April 15th, 2018, 2:58 pm

retired jerry wrote:
April 15th, 2018, 11:37 am
Is it okay to say "fat queer hikers" :(
It's effectively a quote from the article.
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by Steve20050 » April 15th, 2018, 4:37 pm

Ok this one got to me. I hike alone most of the time like others here. I don't feel I really embrace or try to disparage someone else from hiking. My wife doesn't because it isn't something she wants to do and she has physical limits. I just like solitude and as others, I head out very early to miss crowds of people of all colors, shapes and sizes. Lets face it if you have been hiking trails here in the Oregon area for 40 years, you see a LOT more persons.

So are we hikers also not embracing equestrian persons? Mountain biker riders? I have to wonder now if I need to be more PC while hiking? The thought hadn't entered my mind very often unless I stepped in some horse manure. :P I don't look at it as embracing other folks or not. I look at it more as a self help of physical activity that helps me cope with other stress in my life. If others have found this, more power to them. I often stop to talk to people when I do run into someone. Just a matter of courtesy.

As a native Oregonian, I do know the history of Oregon's statehood and it isn't very nice to say the least. For those that don't know. Oregon became a state in 1858 just before the civil war. In those days you had to admit 1 slave state for every free state to maintain a balance if you will. There was no slave state ready for admission. Oregon decided to be a free state, but all African Americans had to leave the state. Several lost businesses and many lost everything else. That is also why the white supremacists have considered Northwest as white man's paradise. If you have been here for several decades you have seen a growth in numerous other races that weren't here just a few decades ago. The reason I bring this into the conversation, is that we Oregonians in particular don't have several generations of mixed races in our society and are rather naïve to many of the issues raised when different groups converge and live together. Hopefully going forward we will do better.

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Re: hiking community fails to embrace fat queer hikers

Post by pcg » April 15th, 2018, 5:22 pm

The title of this post is mis-leading. That's not the message of the article. I think, in general, the only people the "hiking community" does not embrace are those that are noisy and those that litter. Like others here, who mainly hike off-trail and/or on weekdays, I rarely see anyone else. The last time I was on an actual trail on a weekend, I was surprised (and happy) to see overweight people and people of color. Hurray to that. I'll be glad when the day comes that I don't even take notice of that. I'm so tired of imagined and feared differences being pointed out, so sick of white privilege and fat-shaming and all that garbage. We are all one. The love of nature is a common bond and I think most hikers embrace that ethic.

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