Yesterday a man on Twitter disagreed with one of my blog posts. Called '25 walks women should put on their bucket list', the post was a round up of a survey I did with Glamoraks members about which walks they'd like to do. Plus tips on how to make them happen.
The gentleman felt that they should be walks for people - rather than women - to put on their bucket list. He felt he had done several of the walks and he couldn't understand why women had been singled out. He felt if walks had been selected for people based on the colour of their skin, there would be outrage, so surely walks being selected based on their gender should be viewed just as poorly.
I did point out that it was aimed at the readers of a women's walking group, hence the female bias in the blog post. And nowhere did I say that men couldn't do the walks. To which, he said: 'In the age of equality, why single out women?'
And that is an interesting question. You could argue that sadly, there still isn't equality. But leaving that aside, is it sexist to have a women-only walking group? If there was a male only walking group, would women get upset?
I suppose the answer to that would be based on why the group was male-only or what the reasons were for that decision.
So I want to outline why Glamoraks is a women-only walking group:
I want the Glamoraks group to be a place where women can meet like-minded women to go walking with. I want them to feel comfortable saying to a complete stranger on the internet, 'Let's meet at this walking trail'. Sure there is a chance that a woman can be a complete psycho, but largely, women will feel more comfortable meeting an unknown woman for the first time in a remote place than they would a man.
Rightly or wrongly, women are warned repeatedly to take care of themselves. Just this week, the York police issued a statement urging women not to walk alone at night following three sexual assaults in as many days. They later went on to adjust their statement, saying that 'everyone should take care walking alone at night'. But women are taught from a young age to be careful and not put themselves in potentially dangerous situations - like meeting a strange man in a quiet bit of woodland on their own. Hence the need for a women-only website so that they can share where they'll be walking without worry.
This is a generalisation - so apologies - but feedback I've had from some women as to why they don't enjoy mixed sex walking groups is because many of the walks are led by men who tend to turn it into a competition to see who can get their first or navigate best. It all becomes a bit of a route march. And if you are a woman who enjoys that, go for it. But many women prefer to go walking for the relaxation it brings, rather than to prove a point about who can get there first.
Confidence and guilt
The reason I set up Glamoraks up was because I can see how many women spend their 30s, 40s and 50s juggling the demands of kids, careers and ageing parents. I'm not saying men don't have these demands, but women seem to feel more guilty about taking time off for themselves. They spend much of their life enabling other people to do things, while putting themselves last. This has a knock on effect on their confidence. They don't feel as fit, brave or adventurous as they used to be. Sometimes they don't feel it's right for them to leave the family for a week so that they can take on a long distance walk. The group was set up to inspire them to regain their confidence, to set aside their guilt and to rediscover that person they used to be. I'm not saying that men don't need to do that, but I think this is typically more of a feminine issue.
Peeing, periods and personal stuff
There are things that women have to deal with that men just don't. Like periods and how to manage those on a big walk. Or the need to squat behind a tree to pee. Or which bras are most comfortable and supportive when walking. Or how walking might help with the menopause. Even just which kit is lighter or designed with women in mind. Men are most welcome to join in these discussions, but I imagine, most wouldn't want to. I think it's ok for women to have a safe space to discuss any of these topics without feeling as though it's awkward. What's more, the conversations women have with each other while walking are different, more honest and more personal when there are only women around. And I think it's ok to create that female-only environment so that those conversations can happen.
I walk with my husband and many Glamoraks walk with their husbands, partners, fathers, brothers and friends. And I have done group walks with men and women, including climbing Kilimanjaro where there wasn't too much left to the imagination or privacy. It is a wonderful - and completely different - experience to walking with just women. Glamoraks is not trying to eliminate men from the walking agenda or be sexist. It is simply trying to create a female-focused group to address all of the areas listed above.
To the man on Twitter, sorry if I couldn't respond adequately to your questions but it took more than 140 characters.
I welcome any thoughts on this issue. And if you are a woman and would like to chat to and find other like-minded walkers, feel free to join the Facebook group here.