Mature girls, squirrelly boys, and “wily” risk; gendered risk in outdoor adventure education




Tilstra, Elisabeth

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This thesis critically analyzes how gender intersects with risk processes and practices in outdoor adventure education. I focus on how language, binary logic, and societal norms work together to gender risk and offer three ways that risk may be gendered in the context of youth outdoor adventure education courses with youth. First, I discuss the use of hierarchical language, and the gendering practices of order, labeling, and omission that places girls and girls' needs as external or additional to a “neutral” masculine norm. Next, I analyze how an adherence to a rigid binary in the definition and conceptualization of risk parallels and perpetuates a gender binary that prioritizes masculinity and boys above femininity, girls, and non-binary youth. Third, I consider how societal norms influence stereotypes, assumptions, and expectations that gender risk on courses. I also examine seven situational practices that embody and illustrate gendered risk on outdoor adventure education courses with youth participants: gender as a risk, group composition, risk policies, challenge with non-binary identities, mom/dad instructor roles, hygiene instructional lessons, and transformation stories. In my discussion, I offer suggestions for what this research might practically offer outdoor adventure education and youth programming broadly.



Outdoor adventure education, Risk, Youth, Outdoor adventure, Gender, outdoor education