The Awesomeness of the Outdoor Women’s Alliance
If you’re anything like us, you might find the outdoors intimidating and sometimes even a little scary. Sure, you can hike like a champ. Maybe you run outside. And obviously laying out in the park or at the beach–done and done.
But talking with Trish Cloutier, a Grassroots Team Leader for the Outdoor Women’s Alliance made us realize it might not be our fault? And that it’s kind of a thing. Trust, it’ll all make sense soon.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? Where are you from? What inspires you?
Well, I’m from New England. I’ve lived in most states in the Northeast, but I will claim New Hampshire as the place that shaped me as a teenager and adolescent. I also site New Hampshire as my inspiration for forming such a close relationship with the natural world. It’s hard to live in Mount Washington Valley – in the White Mountains – without hiking, canoeing, climbing, etc. So, my introduction to outdoor adventure was there, in my backyard (literally, the White Mountain National Forest boundary abutted the property we lived on when I was a teenager). What else inspires me? Kindness, fear, love. More specifically people being kind, like really purely kind, just for the sake of being kind to another person/animal/tree… Fear inspires me because I think I enjoy the adrenaline rush. Doing things I’m scared of makes me feel strong, like I can conquer anything. And love. I mean, of course. In all of its forms. As far as outdoor pursuits, all of the people I look up to in the outdoor industry love what they are doing. They love it enough to put most of their energy into chasing whatever it is – a big mountain, a hard climb, a crazy trip that people think is impossible. And if you want to get crunchy about it, they love nature. We should all love the Earth.
What is the Outdoor Women’s Alliance and why should people know about it?
People should know about it because it’s AWESOME! Of course. Outdoor Women’s Alliance is a volunteer run, non-profit dedicated to engaging, encouraging, and educating women in the outdoors. It’s about empowering women to get out of the box and try something new. We create a safe and supportive environment for women who have always wanted to try an outdoor adventure sport but didn’t know where to start or who to ask, or were simply too nervous to try. It’s also for women who have found the courage and passion for playing outdoors, but who often find themselves surrounded by men. Men who are bigger, stronger, better, more macho, competitive… this isn’t always the case but is often how it feels when you are the only women in a group of outdoor enthusiasts trying to get after it. So, people should know about it so they know there is a space where they can feel safe and comfortable to try new things or to help others try new things, or just to meet other women who want to go beast mode along with them.
Can you tell me a little about your involvement with the Outdoor Womens Alliance?
Outdoor Women’s Alliance (OWA) is split into a couple sections. We have the online presence (journalism program, website, social media accounts) and we have the Grassroots Teams. These teams are the on-the-ground leaders and members who actually go out and do stuff together. I am one of the two Grassroots Team Leaders for the New England Team. I plan events, talk to people about our mission, connect rad ladies with one another, figure out what these women want to do/try in the outdoors then make it happen. It’s a pretty great gig. I get paid in gratitude and experiences, which sometimes feels more worth it than my day job.
What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Outdoor Women’s Alliance?
My favorite part about OWA is how the tired roles women fall into in the outdoors melt away when women get together. These roles, I call “helpless” and “hardcore,” are what women often take on when they try new things in groups of men. For instance, a woman goes rock climbing for the first time with a group of people, mostly men, and she feels that in order to get attention or help she has to act like a damsel in distress (helpless), so she may hold back and not do the things she is capable of. The flip side of that is the “hardcore” girl. She feels that she needs to prove herself to hang with the guys. She might do things beyond her ability to try to keep up or prove that she doesn’t need help. When a group of women go out together, those roles aren’t assumed as easily and women tend to open up and be honest about their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses – which is amazing to see. Also, the hugging. SO MUCH HUGGING! Every time I meet a new group of girls or have a meeting with a potential partnering brand, we hug. It’s like, if girls ruled the world, there would be way more hugging and almost no bombs. Hugging is the best.
What do you think is the biggest benefit about organizations like this?
The biggest benefit to organizations like OWA is that they create role models for other women and girls. Of course girls don’t think they can _________ (insert any historically masculine/hard/scary/dirty activity you like) because there aren’t enough other women out there doing that thing. Or, if there are other women doing it, nobody is talking about it. So, we aren’t just in this to get women doing things, we are also here to shout about it, tweet about it, blog about it, #aboutit – so that other women know they can do it, too. And there is a lot of power in that.
Is the organization for women of all “active” levels?
YES! Absolutely. We definitely cater a lot of our events to less experienced people because we find that a more organized trip/event is better received by beginners. Then for more experienced people, we encourage them to use our online platforms and Facebook groups to have more casual meet-ups to adventure with other women at their level.
What type of activities do you do and how often?
Well, pick a season! In the summer we do day hikes, short hikes with yoga, overnight backpacking trips, front country camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, surfing, trail running, and paddling. In the winter we ski/snowboard, snowshoe, backpack, cross-country ski, backcountry ski/snowboard, and ice-climbing. Our events are always evolving and it is hard to say how often we do any of them. We try to keep up to date on our website, Facebook, and throughout newsletter, so other women can connect and join us.
Any health benefits of being outside that you’d like to tell the people about?
Is this a trick question? Vitamin D, boost in brain function, helps you exercise and breathe better, helps you get strong, better sleep, improves your mood, you know “nature is medicine.” The list goes on. Google it. It’s amazing out there.
What if women aren’t close to where you are having meet ups?
I’m so glad you asked! We just ran a super successful crowd funding campaign that brought in more than $30,000, surpassing our original goal of 25k!! Most of that money is being used to develop an online platform through our website. The basic idea is that through membership use of the platform you will be able to connect with women in your area (where ever that may be – world-wide!) and go adventuring! It is super exciting, and not something that people are doing on any large scale at the moment. It isn’t up and running yet, but keep an eye on our website, become a member, or join our email list to stay up to date.
If someone wants to be a part of your organization how can they get involved?
At the moment membership is free and fairly vague, but with the launch of our online platform, there will be different levels of involvement and membership. Interacting through Facebook and social media will always be free and we host tons of free events and outings. Paid memberships will include discounts with our sponsors, members-only perks and trips, use of the online platform, and more stuff I don’t even know about yet. The best way to find out more and get involved is to head to our website www.outdoorwomensalliance.com – and find your grassroots team. That way, you can connect with local women in your area. Another way to get involved is through our editorial team. If you like to take pictures or write about awesome women doing awesome things get in touch with the staff through our website and help contribute to ourjournalism program and social media accounts. Or buy a t-shirt and show people how rad you are doing cool stuff in it… that’s the low-key way to get involved, and totally counts.
Thanks to Trish for letting us host and spread the outdoor love! If you want to check out the Outdoor Women’s Alliance and find out how you can involved, visit OutdoorWomensAlliance.com and connect with them on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter