Week 5 Short Essay

Gender, Outdoors, and Social Media

Queer representation in the outdoor community:

something that doesn’t happen enough.

“REI Presents: Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, 

For many years, the outdoor community has been dominated by heteronormativity, where the preferred representation of outdoor enthusiasts have been through the archetype of a white, straight, male “outdoorsman”. However, the outdoor world has recently begun to change its tune, and representation of queer hikers and outdoorspeople have been made possible through social media platforms such as Instagram. This new democratic space allows content creators to open up new conversations through democratic dialouge by allowing anyone to post, view, and interact with other users’s material. This enables anyone to promote topics such as queer involvement in the outdoor community to a mass audience little to no barriers of entry. The term “democracy” is used in a context that refers to allowing all social media users to take control of instutionalized narratives such as queer involvement in the outdoors.

Instagram influencers such as “Pattiegonia” are some of the forerunners in this movement and have taken to social media platforms (such as Instagram) as a means of creating queer positive spaces in communities that are normally dominated by masculinity and heteronormativity. In the journal article, “Unlikely hikers? Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone, and hikers of colour” by Phiona Stanley, Pattiegonia’s online presence is praised for inspiring those to unapologetically embrace the queen within us all, and to be unafraid to be different than the common outdoor narrative (Stanley, 2020). “Pattiegonia” is the drag persona of hiker and outdoor enthusiast Wyn Wiley, who has used his social media to normalize queer hikers by sharing content as the worlds first backpacking, outdoor loving drag queen (Stanley, 2020). Wiley combines the use of drag in outdoor adventure settings and Instagram to encourage inclusion and queer representation in the outdoor community.

“The ultimate goal is for Pattiegonia to inspire more people to spend time outdoors, particularly those how have historically been excluded from the outdoor community, including LGBTQ community, people of color, and fat folks” (Stanley, 2020).

This type of social media use has become a powerful tool in the realm of democrtaic social outreach and content sharing as it has helped change the dialogue that surrounds masculinity and gender roles in the hiking world. By sharing this kind of content on a widescale interface such as Instagram, it allows users such as Pattiegonia to shed light on the hiking communities’ over representation of straight, cisgender patrons of the hiking community, and invite others to share in the conversation (Stanley 2020). From the popularity if his Instagram platform, Pattiegonia was able to work with companies such as REI and combine the power of social media with queer representation and outdoor advocacy in the video “Everything to Lose” (linked above and below), where she (he) stars as the face and narrative poetic voice in an envrinomental conservation video regarding plastics in the ocean and the destruction of mother nature. Dressed in numerous outdoor/environmentally themed drag outfits and extravagant face makeup, Pattiegoina stands as a dominant figure that bends the ridgid image of the hyper masculine figure that embodies the image of the outdoorsman (Harris, 2017). By being featured as the spokesmodel for ocean conservation and environmental advocacy in the REI video, Pattiegonia furthers the conversation of cisgender, heterosexuality, and straight people being the default assumption of outdoor enthisats and works to redfine a new normal in the world of social media (Harris, 2017). 

This democratic dialogue relates to the concept of “actually existing democracy” in the public sphere as theorized by Nancy Fraser as it “designates a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk” (Fraser, 1990). The use of social media such as Instagram acts as both the theatre and the medium of talk where anyone can freely speak, and this speech can be used to empower those who are normally under represented. This applies to a political concept for public participation as the LGTBQ community falls into a minority category that is still working tirelessly for a seat at the table when it comes to representation in many public spheres such as social media and the outdoor community. In addition to this, the use of social media platforms such as Pattiegonia’s outdoor environmentalism and queer advocacy for furthering democratic diolauge reflects the notion of sovereignty in the public sphere and that minority groups such as the LGTBQ community can have their own voice, their own representation, and own self governance within the hiking/ outdoor community (Warner, 2002). 

In all, social media has helped create a space for those in minority groups such as the LGTBQ community to gain representation in the outdoors on platforms such as Instagram.This has contributed greatly towards creating democratic dialogue in the public sphere, and in the case of queer represenation in the outdoors, has highlighted social media’s ability to encourage users to interact with the online public in a way that strengthens queer involvement and removing barriers of gender norms in the hiking/ outdoor world. 

“The results are in. Happy pride.”

@Pattiegonia. results are in. happy pride. Published on June, 28, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

“Let me be very clear”

@Pattiegonia. Photo by Wheretowillie. Published on November, 4, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

“SURPRISE BISH !!!! Park ranger pattie is here to write you a ticket for being TOO DAMN FABULOUS.”

@Pattiegonia.Photo by @Erinoutdoors. Published on March,4, 2019. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

Works Cited:

Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” Social Text, no. 25/26, 1990, pp. 56–80. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Nov. 2020

Harris, Jack. “The Power of Queer Representation in the Media” (2017). Tredway Library Prize for First-Year Research.

Phiona Stanley (2020) Unlikely hikers? Activism, Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone, and hikers of colour, Mobilities, 15:2, 241-256, DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1696038

Warner, Michael. 2002. “Publics and Counterpublics.” in Quarterly Journal of Speech. 88.4. Available from:   

Featured Videos:

Dear mother nature:

reifindout. “REI Presents: Dear Mother Nature, Starring Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, 

Everything to lose: 

reifindout. “REI Presents: Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, 

Featured Photos:

@Pattiegonia. results are in. happy pride. Published on June, 28, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

@Pattiegonia. Photo by Wheretowillie. Published on November, 4, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

@Pattiegonia.Photo by @Erinoutdoors. Published on March, 4, 2019. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

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