This paper explores the contested relationships between nature, culture, and gender. In order to analyze these relationships, we look specifically at outdoor recreation. Furthermore, we employ poststructuralist feminist theory in order to produce three frameworks; the first of which is titled Mother Nature’s Promiscuous Past. Rooted in Old World and colonial values, this framework illustrates the flawed feminization of nature by masculinity, and its subsequent extortion of anything related to femininity — including women and nature itself. This belief barred women from nature, resulting in a lack of access for women to outdoor recreation.
Our second framework, titled The Pleasurable Potential of Outdoor Recreation, cites second-wave feminism as a catalyst for women’s participation in wilderness exploration and outdoor recreation. The work of radical feminists and the women’s liberation movement in 1960s and 1970s empowered women at home, in the workplace, and eventually, in the outdoors; women reclaimed their wilderness, yet they continued to employ Framework One’s feminization of nature. Ecofeminsim brought together nature and women, seeking to bring justice to two groups wronged by the same entity: masculinity. In this context, outdoor recreation is empowering for women.
Despite the potential of Framework Two to reinscribe and better the experiences of women in outdoor recreation, we argue that both Frameworks One and Two perpetuate the gender binary and the nature/culture binary, because they are based upon the notion that women are in fact fundamentally different and separate from men, the notion that nature is an entity separate from culture, or human society, as well as the notion that nature is in fact a feminine entity.
Our third framework, Deer Pay No Mind to Your Genitals, engages poststructuralism, asserting that outdoor recreation and activities that occur in nature can serve to destabilize and deconstruct notions of the gender binary. However, we argue that care must be exercised during this process as not to perpetuate the problematic nature/culture binary, a phenomenon that is unproductive in terms of both sustainability and gender liberation. Outdoor recreation has been used by many as a tool to deconstruct numerous societal constraints, including the gender binary; this, however, continues to attribute escapist and isolationist qualities toward nature, and therefore perpetuating the nature/culture divide. Ultimately, we argue outdoor recreation can and should be used as a tool deconstruct the gender binary, however needs to account for the fact that if nature is helping to construct elements of culture, then the two cannot be separate.