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