Showing up “More as My True Self”: Gender and Mushing in the United States


  • Victoria Beyer Clark University
  • Cynthia M. Caron Clark University



gender, dogsledding, mushing, outdoor recreation, queerness


Mushing exists in several forms: short and long-distance races, adventure tourism, recreation, and sport. While some scholars assert that gender does not influence a musher’s experience, this research, based on interviews with mushers, broadens understanding of how gender influences mushing and a musher’s sense of self. Nearly all research participants initially stated that gender is irrelevant in mushing; for example, in competitions, people of all genders compete directly against one another. As interviews unfolded, participants spoke about how gender norms and stereotypes complicated their experiences and how non-mushers perceive them. Despite depictions of mushing as masculine, participants stated that mushing embodies both masculine and feminine traits and is empowering for all genders. We suggest that scholars in outdoor recreation continue to broaden their research agendas to acknowledge the complexity of gender identities and the empowering nature of the outdoors, particularly for persons who reject the traditional gender binary.

Author Biographies

Victoria Beyer, Clark University

Undergraduate in the Class of 2021

Cynthia M. Caron, Clark University

Associate Professor, International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE) Program Faculty, International Development and Social Change (IDSC) & Women and Gender Studies


Aporta, C. (2009). The trail as home: Inuit and their pan-Arctic network of routes. Human Ecology 37, 131-146.

Asselin, J. (2019). Outdoor women: Thinking about gender, self, and environment through outdoor enskillment programs. Anthropologica, 61(2), 283–295.

Bertella, G. (2014). The co-creation of animal-based tourism experience. Tourism Recreation Research, 39(1), 115–125.

Braverman, B. (2017). Honest dogs: Loyalty and mushing culture. Virginia Quarterly Review Online 93(1).

Brown, C.L., Slayton, L.J., Trainor, A., Koster, D.S., &Kostick, M.L. (2014). Wild Resources Harvest and Uses, Land use Patterns and Subsistence Economics in Manley Hot Springs and Minto, Alaska, 2012. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Subsistence, Technical Paper No. 400, Fairbanks.

Butera, K.J. (2006). Manhunt: The challenge of enticing men to participate in a study on friendship. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(6), 1262-1282.

Butcher, S. (1999). Dogsled racing | sport. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Dean, G.O., Dean, N.M., Turner, & Allan, A. (1991). Personality Profiles of Iditarod Mushers as Compared by Finish Group. Artic Medical Research, 50(3), 131-137.

Evans, K. E., Schmalz, D. L., Anderson, D. M., & Agate, S. T. (2020). “Try not to make waves”: Managing gender discrimination in outdoor recreation. Leisure Sciences, 1–17.

Francis, K.E. (1969). Decline of the dogsled in villages of Arctic Alaska: A Preliminary Discussion. Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, 31, 69–78.

Granås, B. (2018). Destinizing Finnmark: Place making through dogsledding. Annals of Tourism Research, 72, 48–57.

Gray, T. (2016). The “F” word: Feminism in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 19(2), 25–41.

Guemple, L. (1986). Men and women, husbands and wives: The role of gender in traditional Inuit society. Études/Inuit/Studies, 10(1/2), 9-24.

Hentschel, T, Heilman, M.E., & Peus, C.V. (2019). The multiple dimensions of gender stereotypes: A current look at men’s and women’s characterizations of others and themselves. Frontiers in Psychology 10 (11), 1-19.

Herrman, M., & Keith, K. (1997). An Economic Discussion of Competitive Mushing.

Hoffman, R. M. (2006). Gender self-definition and gender self-acceptance in women: Intersections with feminist, womanist, and ethnic identities. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(3), 358–372.

Humberstone, B. (2000). The ‘outdoor industry’ as social and educational phenomena: Gender and outdoor adventure/education. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning 1(1), 21-35.

Ho, V., & Bragg, B. (2019). Photos: Badass women who made history in the Iditarod. (March 9). Anchorage Daily News.

Iditarod Race History. (n.d.). Iditarod.Com. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from

Iditarod Sled Dog Race | History. (n.d.). ALASKA.ORG. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from

Jacobs, L. A. (2020). Gendered terrains. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership 12(1), 3-9.

Kemp, S. F. (1999). Sled dog racing: The celebration of co-operation in a competitive sport. Ethnology, 38(1), 81–95.

Kornbluh, M. (2015). Combatting challenges to establishing trustworthiness in qualitative research. Qualitative Research in Psychology 12, 397-414.

Kuhl, G. (2011). Human-sled dog relations: What can we learn from the stories and experiences of mushers? Society and Animals 19, 22-37. DOI: 10.1163/156853011X545510

Magnusson, E. & Marecek, J. (2015). Doing interview-based qualitative research: A learner’s guide. Cambridge University Press.

Marinucci, M. (2017). Feminist theory, lesbian theory, and queer theory. In A. Garry, S.J. Khadrer & A. Stone (Eds.). The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy (pp. 382-392). New York: Routledge.

Martin, Ashley E. & Phillips K.W. (2017). What “blindness” to gender differences helps women see and do: Implications for confidence, agency, and action in male-dominated environments. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 142, 28-44.

McAnirlin, O. & Maddox, C.B. (2020). ‘We have to be a little more realistic’: women’s outdoor recreation experiences in a community hiking group. Annals of Leisure Research DOI: 10.1080/11745398.2020.1820880

McClintock, M. (1996). Lesbian baiting hurts all women. In K. Warren (Ed.), Women's voices in experimental education (pp. 241-250). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

McNiel, J.N., Harris, D.A. & Fondren K.M. (2012). Women in the wild: Gender socialization and wilderness recreation advertising. Gender Issues 29, 39-55.

Mendelson, M. (2020, August 6). "The Start of it all-Handler Story" [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Merriam, S.B. & E.J. Tisdell. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. 4th edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Meyer, A. M., & Borrie, W. T. (2013). Engendering wilderness: Body, belonging, and refuge. Journal of Leisure Research, 45(3), 295–323.

Michaelson, E. J., & Aaland, L. M. (1976). Masculinity, femininity, and androgyny. Ethos, 4(2), 251–270.

Mitten, D., Gray, T., Allen-Craig, S., Loeffler, T., & Carpenter, C. (2018). The invisibility cloak: Women’s contributions to outdoor and environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education, 49(4), 318–327.

Mosgaard, S., Butz, C. & Waaler, R. (2019). Dogs Sledding as a Field of Study and Research: Shedding Light on the Research Gaps. In R. Waaler & K. Skjesol, (Eds.), Dog sledding in Norway: Multidisciplinary research perspectives (pp. 277-301). Zurich: Lit Verlag GmbH & Co.

Mushing Magazine | Facebook. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2021, from

Nwokocha, E. (2019). The "Queerness" of ceremony: Possession and sacred space in Haitian religion. Journal of Haitian Studies 25(2), 71-91. doi:10.1353/jhs.2019.0018.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Prato?Previde, E., Fallani, G. & Valsecchi, P. (2006), Gender differences in owners interacting with pet dogs: An observational study. Ethology, 112: 64-73. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01123.x

Pritchard, A., & Morgan, N. J. (2000). Constructing tourism landscapes—Gender, sexuality and space. Tourism Geographies, 2(2), 115–139.

Siegel, J.A., & K.B. Sawyer. (2020). “We don’t talk about feelings or struggles like that”: White men’s experiences of eating disorders in the workplace. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 21(4), 533-544.

Sjögren, K., Hansson, E. E., & Stjernberg, L. (2011). Parenthood and factors that influence outdoor recreational physical activity from a gender perspective. BMC Public Health, 11(1), 93.

Sled Dogs. (2017). Retrieved from

Togo: Full Movie: Disney+. (2019, December 20). Retrieved from

Walker, R.A. (2018). Road to Iditarod: Rural native mushers dwindling because of funding. Indian Country Today;

Warner, S., Dixon, M. A., & Chalip, L. (2012). The impact of formal versus informal sport: Mapping the differences in sense of community. Journal of Community Psychology, 40(8), 983–1003.

Warren, K. (1996). Women's outdoor adventures: Myth and reality. In K. Warren (Ed.), Women's voices in experimental education (pp. 10-17). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Warren, K. (2015). Gender in outdoor studies. In B. Humberstone, H. Prince & K.A. Henderson (Eds.), Routledge international handbook of outdoor studies (pp. 360-368). London: Routledge.






Regular Papers