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Still Fighting for Our Rights

Film festival promotes gender equality in outdoor recreation

Photo courtesy Rachel Lightner

Photo courtesy Rachel Lightner

Rachel Lightner, Editor

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It is 2017 and there are still issues with gender equality in rights, workplace, education, and an area that hits home for me: In the outdoors.

Women are still fighting to be noticed in the outdoor industry, and to be participants in a level playing field where we are treated as competent equals. Our gear is still a step below the quality of men’s…and still comes in pink. Our skills are still questioned, both technical and soft, because we are female.

Sierra Nevada College Professor Katy Rendinaro, who teaches outdoor adventure leadership and has been an outdoor guide for the last six years, said she constantly runs into this issue.

“I found there are many situations in which I have male staff partners, clients, or students that don’t think I know what I’m talking about because I am a female, and that’s simply not the case,” said Rendinaro. “It doesn’t just take brute force and strength to be able to be in the outdoor industry; it takes the knowledge, the grace, and it takes the belief in yourself to get by in the outdoor world.”

Don’t get me wrong, exploring with men is great, but sometimes you want a chick by your side to share the experience, and there still seems to be a shortage of women getting after it in outdoor activities. There are movements to back us, like the women’s marches that happened all over the world last winter, and “The Future is Female” movement. Companies like REI started its women-focused initiative “Force of Nature,” and Outside Magazine did its first ever all-female edition. I believe we are taking baby steps in a positive direction, but is it enough?

I was feeling lost in all of this, like I wasn’t doing my part to make an impact on the movement. I decided I wanted to bring this topic to Sierra Nevada College, so I reached out to No Man’s Land Film Festival, the first all-female adventure-based film that advocates for gender equality in the outdoors.

“No Man’s Land Film Festival is promoting gender equality by focusing on half of the population that was previously downplayed or altogether ignored in the outdoor industry,” said Dominique Vermeil, Director of Communications at NMLFF. “We support all genders but we are highlighting women because there have always been women doing the same things as men, but their stories were not being told. We aim to create a platform for those stories and experiences.”

NMLFF compiles several short films into one long feature and creates a space for conversation and the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who are action-oriented and also support the movement.

After looking into No Man’s Land and being inspired at the work they were doing to promote females in the outdoors, I inquired about hosting their film here at SNC through my club on campus, Wild Women of Tahoe, where our mission is to empower women through outdoor activities and gatherings. They said they would love to see the film shown in Tahoe. The importance of bringing a film like this to our active community of Tahoe is apparent.

“As a movement, NMLFF is important because women see women pushing the boundaries and that allows them to give themselves permission to do the same in their own lives,” said Vetromile. “It doesn’t have to be in the outdoors, it could be in the classroom or the boardroom, but seeing women push boundaries in a space that has been dominated by men makes those other spaces seem possible.”

Having other women to look up to for inspiration makes a huge impact. Role models are the people that help shape our actions and paths we follow in life, and having women as role models can play a part in getting other females outside. For Rendinaro, role models are key for inspiring females to get outside.

“Finding those role models for young women to look up to is one of the best ways to get women involved,” said Rendinaro. “Women in the outdoor industry who are making those positive influences and changes public is what seems to grow women in the outdoor field.”

Before the film, there will be a panel of guest speakers consisting of CEO of Zawadisha and Coalition Snow Jen Gurecki, professional skier Michelle Parker, skier Hazel Burnbaum, and Sustain Tahoe CEO Jacquie Chandler. All of these women can easily be defined as role models, and will be answering different questions about being women leaders in the outdoors.

“We have the ability to create a path for future generations of girls. Having role models is huge for younger girls because they see people who look like them doing things they might not think are possible for themselves,” said Vetromile. “It opens up a whole world of possibilities when you find someone to look up to.”

Being a woman in Tahoe, we are lucky to have such a solid community of badass females, but in other locations that’s not always the case. Being able to take the inspiration we gain here and sharing it on a wide-scale platform can create a ripple effect for those around us.

“This issue is important to us because the outdoors has played such a huge role in our lives, we want to give that gift to as many people as possible,” said Vetromile. “We find confidence in ourselves, our work and our relationships because we were taught confidence through the outdoor experience.”

I am so honored and excited to bring No Man’s Land Film Festival to campus Nov. 14. It starts at 6 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend.

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