‘But you don’t look like an adventurer’ was the response I received from a potential sponsor when I explained my campaign for 2015. ‘I’ve had to fire women from expeditions before; they are too distracting’. These examples aren’t even nearly the worst of the sexist remarks that I’ve been subjected to this year. So, I’d like to ask the question, ‘Can only men be adventurers?’
Let me explain from the beginning. I was the kind of kid who came home from school with frogs in my pockets, muddy tights and bruised elbows. Being outside and climbing trees to see birds’ nest was my happy place and following this passion led me to study zoology and ecology at uni. Classroom learning was always frustrating for me as I just wanted to see, smell and feel all that I was being taught in the wild. So, when the opportunity came up to study bats in Honduras for three months, I jumped at the chance. Never had I felt more fulfilled than when I was trekking through that cloud forest in the middle of the night after taking DNA from bats and heading back to my hammock for a few hours of kip before my howler monkey alarm clock would sound.
It was that expedition that truly made me feel like an adventurer. My career after uni took me into sustainability communication and wildlife film-making but, at every opportunity, I’d take myself to explore the remote places of our vast planet to see wildlife and how the local people interact with it. It was these trips that inspired my campaign for this year. I believe that responsible ecotourism is the best tool we have to protect endangered species as it makes those animals and areas worth more alive than dead.
My mission was this; inspire one million people to go on an ecoadventure and do something positive with their time off work. In fact, getting people engaged with nature again is what David Attenborough believes to be the single best way to solve all of the planet’s biggest environmental problems. To do this, I picked 12 wildlife hotspots to write about and photograph and created a website where holiday-makers could be motivated to book an ecoadventure rather than stay in a five star, all-inclusive resort.
What I didn’t expect from running this campaign is an obstacle that I’ve come up against over and over again. I’m not a man! In order to reach my target of one million people, I’ve needed to engage sponsors, partners and media. Many meetings have seen me spend at least 50% of the time trying to be taken seriously by showing footage and images of me swimming with sharks, searching for anacondas, rock climbing with marmosets and setting camera traps for tigers. Yes, a woman can do these things, and yes, other women might like to try these adventurers too. I never even thought of myself as a women who was an ecoadventurer but perhaps this is one sector where what sex you are still matters to be considered a role-model.
A quick test will show how skewed this area really is towards men. If you put ‘TV Adventurer’ into Google images, see how many pages you need to scroll through to find a female. It’s not like female adventurers aren’t out there, I’ve seen the likes of Sarah Outen and Sophie Radcliffe give incredibly moving speeches. But how many of you can put faces to these names? Never one to be knocked back by a problem, I’m trying to find an opportunity in this barrier. And, I’ll keep on campaigning to disprove that ‘Only men can be adventurers’.
This article was originally published in The Huffington Post