6 Ways to be a Male Ally on the Trail

6 Ways to be a Male Ally on the Trail

  • Practice self awareness  
  • Educate yourself
  • Use mindful communication
  • Step back and let others take the lead
  • Take accountability for your actions
  • Support different organizations 

  • Not every person feels safe and welcome in outdoor spaces. In order for outdoor recreation to be accessible to everyone and to eliminate barriers, it’s important to be an ally on the trail. An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but who holds a position of privilege and power and can advocate and take action to support that less represented group, without taking over their voice. In particular, women, people of color, people with disabilities and people in the LGBTQIA community can often feel marginalized or more vulnerable outside. Having male allies can help break down barriers by creating a safe space for everyone. In order to empower others to take up space, it’s important for men to commit to allyship and equity in the outdoor industry. Read on to learn six ways to be a male ally on the trail and to help make outdoor recreation accessible for all.

    Practice self awareness   

    One of the first steps to being a male ally on the trail is by having self awareness and understanding your privilege. Although nature is often a place to escape and recharge, it is also a direct reflection of similar biases underrepresented people regularly experience in society. It’s important to remember that being able to recreate in the outdoors is a privilege and men tend to have more access to the outdoors than other demographics. Whether it’s backpacking, hiking, mountain biking or surfing, these opportunities can be more intimidating to anyone who is not a cisgender white male. Underrepresented people often have comparatively fewer resources when the initial interest of a new outdoor activity sparks. Overall, by looking around you, creating a safe and inclusive space and truly acknowledging your privilege, you can take the initial step to being an ally in the outdoor space.

    Educate yourself  

    To continue your path on becoming a male ally in the outdoors, it’s important to educate yourself on ways underrepresented people may be more vulnerable or have less access to outdoor recreation. Start by doing your research, listening to people’s experiences and educating yourself through observation, reading articles and listening to podcasts such as, “Closing the Adventure Gap”. Above all else, take ownership of your own knowledge of the topic and do not expect women and people of color to do it for you. It’s okay to ask questions about ways you can be more inclusive and how to dismantle systems, but expect to do the work of learning yourself. A good way to do this is to listen more than you speak. It’s important for men to take ownership and actively learn how to be an ally as well, not just by relying on others! 

    Use mindful communication 

    Another one of the six ways to be a male ally on the trail is by using mindful communication with everyone while enjoying the outdoors. Don’t question people’s abilities, routes or ways of doing things. Understand that everyone has their own comforts and limits; be respectful and open to new ways of doing things.  Using your voice in a mindful manner is a great way to demonstrate allyship. Take the time to be considerate of the people around you. Ask for feedback about the way you are holding space for others outside by being empathetic and understanding.

    Step back and let others take the lead 

    Stepping back is another great way to be a male ally on the trail as well as giving the opportunity for others to take the lead. Since men often have more representation and leadership roles in outdoor sports and recreation, it’s important to let underrepresented people take the lead. This will give them a chance to make their own decisions and feel empowered whether they are a seasoned hiker or it’s their first time on the trail. Some examples of ways to step back on the trail and let others lead is by taking the rear, letting others decide the routes and allowing others to speak up when making decisions. 

    Take accountability for your actions  

    Taking accountability for your actions may be the most important aspect of being a male ally on the trail. Sometimes when you are an ally and aware of your privilege, you can still occasionally make mistakes. If you say something potentially sexist, racist, or a micro aggression, take accountability and own up to your mistake. People may call you out on something you say, and if you didn’t realize it was wrong to say make sure to – pause, listen, own up to your mistake and apologize. One of the main ways underrepresented people can feel threatened or unsafe while hiking, camping or backpacking is when someone doesn’t take accountability for their actions. Sometimes in response to feedback or different opinions, people can get defensive which can create an unsafe environment. Nothing feels worse than a threat to safety when you are in the backcountry with no escape from a challenging situation.

    Support different organizations 

    If you want to continue to be a male ally on the trail, it’s encouraged to support a variety of different organizations. This can continue to diversify the outdoor industry and help bring in more resources for underrepresented folks. By leveraging your privilege and getting involved with groups or events in your local community, you can help make all people thrive in the outdoors. Check out BIPOC hiking groups making an impact to learn about different organizations diversifying the outdoors!

    The challenges we face with women’s empowerment and creating a more equitable outdoors are intrinsically tied to men being part of the solution. Your participation matters. 

    Written by: Lydia Schuldt
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