Attention: Solo Female Independent Travel Twenty-Something Expat Blog

Is this how I want to be advertising my blog? Well, sorta. Bookworm Vagabond, and a lot of my other favorite blogs as well (such as Adventurous Kate and Young Adventuress), would be labelled this way without any second guessing. But it's a description that only blogs written by women could use. Imagine if my life were exactly the same, but I was a man. A twenty-something, white, American man living in Hong Kong and working as a history teacher. How ridiculous would it be to label my blog in that way? ‘Solo male travel with safety dos and don'ts’, ‘An independent man and his adventures’, or ‘Twenty-something man, young and single and taking on the world!’ It’s not an accomplishment for a man to be independent. A man doesn’t need to boast that he is doing a courageous solo trip around the world, because that’s not really a big deal for a dude.

Age plays a role in what I am trying to get at as well. Only women would advertise their blog as being for 'twenty-somethings.' A 26 year old man doesn’t need to reinforce the fact that he is still a twenty-something, and therefore relevant. He's young! He's hip! Ha! I can't think of any travel blogs written by men where they would use that label 'twenty-something.' When I turn 30 in a few years and I drop that label, will my blog suddenly become a little less attractive?

Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins do NOT approve
of being boxed into a label, thank you very much

Men my age who are doing the exact same things and blogging about it don’t have to label themselves in any way. They get to be nomads, adventurers, vagabonds, and their stories are universal. It would be absolutely ridiculous to think that their writing was only for men of their age, and yet so many female bloggers my age label themselves in exactly that way, myself included. Women read travel blogs by men and watch tv shows about men (Entourage anyone?) and read GQ and it’s perfectly normal. Why then, am I supposed to aim for a female readership here? Why can’t my stories be universal?

If Orphan Black was about a group of male clones, 
would more people be watching it?

I am constantly reminded of how different my life experiences are as a woman. Feminism is going to be important to me until people stop looking at me in awe and telling me I'm so independent. I label myself that way too, and it's a problem. Men don’t need to brag about being independent, and yet for women, it’s an amazing accomplishment. When will the fact that I am single, and exploring the world, and adventurous, stop being so impressive because I’m a female, and start being impressive because I’m a person?

Here’s another way my life experiences have been shaped by my gender recently: I was told by a male colleague to be more assertive, to stop apologizing. Men don’t get it, that as a woman, the bigger the personality, the louder we are, the more space we take up, the more we have to apologize for. The world is really hard on girls that like themselves. I feel pressure to complain about my body (even though I love it), apologize for being smart (even though I pride myself on it), and downplay my talents (even though I am a kick-ass dancer, I can hula-hoop and play the ukulele and cook up a feast on a whim). Realistically, if I was as blunt or assertive or non-apologetic as my male colleagues, I would face consequences. I could be labelled cold or intimidating or a bitch. This happens regularly both in and out of work. So for a male colleague to tell me to be more assertive, well, I take that with a grain of salt.

Women are conditioned to be hard on themselves-
This clip does a great job of poking fun at that

The girls of Broad City never apologize
and for that I am thankful

Just in case you aren't entirely convinced yet that women have day to day struggles that men don't have to deal with, here's one more little anecdotal nugget. I recently obtained permission from a movie producer to screen a clip from an upcoming documentary about genocide, which I shared with my teaching team at school. Someone in my department asked if I 'put out' to get the film rights. Seriously?! No, I fucking attended a planned teachers’ workshop and stood out (not put out) by participating in an intellectual conversation with the organizers and asked permission to screen a part of the film in a classroom setting. Would a male colleague ever be asked if they had to hook up with someone for a classroom resource?! That this was even suggested in a professional environment is infuriating to me.

It’s maddening how engrained sexism is in my daily life and how constantly reminded I am of how much further society can still progress. Maybe I can start by getting my guy friends to simply stop calling hot girls ‘pieces’… Piece of art, piece of ass, I don’t give a shit, either way is equating a female to an object to be ogled. I’m not an object. I’m not impressive because I am a female who travels. Maybe I am impressive because I am a person who travels, that's for you to decide.

Comments

  1. Excellent post! I've identified as a feminist since a very young age and have been frustrated in recent years to see so many people slag off the word feminist as something bad. It drives me nuts to see young women backing away from the term or people saying we should focus on equal rights for everyone not just women. Of course we should have equal rights for everyone, but when women are still fighting for equality on so many levels, it's too soon to ignore the need for feminism. Every day sexism is still incredibly rampant and too many people don't even recognize it, because it is so ingrained in daily life. That said, my jaw dropped when I read about your colleague asking if you put out for the film. That leaves me speechless. So yeah, keep fighting the good fight!

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  2. McKenzie, I love what you have to say and I've thought many of these same thoughts as you.

    I would love to quote some of this post for my keynote at WITS on gender inequality in the travel blogging industry. Would you give me permission to do that? Feel free to email me at kate.mcculley at gmail. Thanks!

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