“I Didn’t Want to Look Stupid”: Exploring the Impact of an All-Women Leisure Education Class
Keywords:Leisure education, Gender, Single-sex spaces, All-women programs
AbstractEXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The social norms surrounding gender impact the types of leisure pursuits in which females tend to participate (Freysinger, Shaw, Henderson, & Bialeschki, 2013). Single-sex classes have been utilized and examined in K-12 education settings (Gurian, Stevens, & Daniels, 2009), but have largely been ignored in relation to leisure education. Leisure education courses are aimed at building a foundation for lifelong leisure and provide an environment that may be conducive to helping women resist social gender expectations (Datillo, 2008). Research has yet to explore how women’s participation in single-sex leisure education courses may influence their participation in leisure activities dominated by men such as hunting. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of college students participating in an all-women leisure education hunting course. Researchers conducted focus groups and individual interviews with 32 female students at a mid-sized university in the southeast over a two-year period. Results indicate that an all-women leisure education course may act as a facilitator to leisure participation by allowing participants to avoid embarrassment, providing a less competitive and intimidating environment for participation and by providing opportunities for participant bonding. In addition, single-sex leisure education environments may affect females’ perceptions of leisure activities dominated by men. These findings are shaped by leisure education goals including self-confidence, social interaction, and leisure awareness. The findings of this study provide a number of implications for professional practice. First, as a way to help participants avoid feeling “stupid” as they learn new skills, it is important for practitioners to consider modifications to programming formats for leisure education including single-sex classes. In addition, beyond offering single-sex options, agencies may need to consider the instructors’ sex and experiences with varying populations to ensure participants will feel as comfortable as possible. Next, professionals should focus on programmatic offerings in which participation rates among women are low to better understand factors that may be impacting their involvement. This evaluation should include programs that may be seen as the “norm” in the specific region or culture the agency serves, such as a hunting course in the south. Doing so may help to diversify the participant base for leisure programs dominated by men. Finally, the results of this study indicate that single-sex offerings may be most beneficial in beginner level courses, especially when the goals of leisure education models are taken into consideration. Thus, practitioners should focus efforts at providing single sex opportunities for entry-level programs to heighten first-time participation by women.
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