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Content Warning: This article mentions sexual harassment and assault.
If this is at all triggering to you, there are numerous resources out there to help. If you need someone to talk to you RAINN has a 24/7 hotline that you reach via live chat or by calling 800-656-4673. You are not alone.
I met him through colleagues at a travel writing conference. We had just enjoyed a lovely group dinner. We discussed politics and how we as travel bloggers have an important role to play in world tourism. It was our job to inform others of our personal experiences. That’s what made our jobs so unique. We could all visit the same place, but have vastly different experiences. It was our duty to remain informed and to pass along cultural lessons to our readers.
After hearing him so explicitly say that we had to be outstanding citizens of the world, that we were held to a higher standard, he sexually assaulted me.
I was furious, yet everyone around me tried to assure me that I was reading too much into the situation. Coos of, “He’s a nice guy;” or “Are you sure that’s really what happened?” blazed through the air. I have never felt more alienated by my peers or colleagues.
I have been sexually assaulted and harassed before. But I was shocked that something this heinous could happen in a community I loved and cherished. A community I thought was different.
Unfortunately, I decided to drop it. In fact, I never mentioned it to anyone ever again.
At a prestigious travel conference a few weeks ago, two male travel bloggers made misogynistic comments about women in the travel industry. One equated female travel influencers, who wear bikinis in the content they post online, to softcore porn. Another, a closing keynote speaker, commented that women in bikinis will not be taken seriously.
After hearing these comments, I felt as if I woke up and it was 1950. Pin curlers and all. Hearing these sexist comments triggered my trauma and I experienced it all over again. But now, I found the courage and anger to speak out.
I will not be providing links to these men’s sites so they do not gain any popularity or traffic due to their misogynistic words and ideals.
Travel blogging needs women
I’m fed up with having to humor misogynistic comments, especially in the travel blogging industry.
You’d think in 2019, society would realize women, bikini-clad or not, are brilliant and should be heard. Due to our gender, we experience travel differently than them and our perspective is not only needed but should be celebrated in the travel writing.
It’s not about our clothes; it’s never about our clothes. These men, who perfectly encapsulate fragile masculinity, want to enforce society’s status quo and patriarchy. By gaslighting women and deeming us as uncredible or unworthy, they strip us of our input and ultimately our voice. We no longer have autonomy and the ability to be heard.
This isn’t anything new
Many may gawk and assume I’m being overly dramatic, but here are the facts: studies estimate that 75 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace.
Sexual harassment isn’t anything new, especially for women. Past studies have shown that as early as 1981, 42 percent of women and 15 percent of men faced unwanted sexual advances or attention in the workplace.
Yet, in 2019, after #MeToo and #TimesUp, you’d think society would take women more seriously; that women would be considered whole human beings instead of oversexualized bodies and nothing more. Contrary to misogynistic belief, women can also have brains. In fact, women can have it all.
Sexual harassment in the workplace
Similarly, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been forced to learn how to accommodate and work with sexist men.
Before becoming a travel blogger, I worked in the news industry. It quickly became apparent that the news industry was a male-dominated field and that there was a well-established boy’s club.
In fact, women only made up a little more than a third of the workforce in the newspaper industry in 2018. Women also struggle to find representation in leadership roles with less than 42 percent of all managerial positions in the United States being held by women that same year.
Studies have noted that women working in male-dominated industries are more likely to endure workplace sexual harassment and assault. Such was the case for me.
I was forced to humor sexual advances and other forms of sexual harassment in order to get the interviews I needed and successfully do my job. To further estrange us, the industry pitted women against each other as men continued to hold the upper hand.
I believed transitioning into the travel blogging industry would change that. I wanted inclusion in an industry which celebrated marginalized voices and didn’t care about archaic stereotypes. Your merit and worth hinged upon your talent and drive.
I’m disappointed to report that I haven’t escaped misogyny. In an industry that should celebrate diversity and welcome all voices, especially at networking events, it is sorely lacking.
TRAVEL CONFERENCES ARE MEANT TO INSPIRE
I attend travel conferences to combat the loneliness and lack of comradery that comes with travel blogging. Gathering together as a community fosters an environment where creators feed off each other’s infectious ambition and creativity to strive towards something greater.
Yet, as we slowly emerged from the self-induced isolation that is believed to come with entrepreneurship, we face unwanted sexual advances. Men bragging about having “hallway passes” and who can have sex while away from their partners with no consequences. The mentality of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” apparently speaks true no matter where they are in the world.
FEELING SAFE AT TRAVEL CONFERENCES
Suddenly, travel conferences no longer seem like a safe place for creators to congregate, especially women.
When “locker room talk” infiltrates lecture halls and used during keynote speeches, it’s obvious women are still objectified and oversexualized in the travel industry.
Just as women begin to embrace our beauty, society decides to knock us down a few pegs to remind us of the overruling patriarchy. We’re reminded that we must appeal to society’s strict norms. Sure, all bodies can rock a bikini, but if you pose with one on social media, you are no longer deemed professional. Yet, make sure that you do conform to society’s beauty norms, otherwise, you won’t reap success as an influencer.
Women are left feeling hopeless and as if we can never win. And with all these double standards, we won’t. But that’s the point. Misogyny aims to repress us enough and force us to grapple with all these unrealistic expectations, leaving us with no time or energy to have a voice or an opinion.
How as an industry can we do better?
The simple answer is more diversity.
We want less of the same lectures that are regurgitated year after year. Offer seminars highlighting our diversity and new issues in the travel industry. Give us diverse panels showcasing minorities and give them a platform to speak their truth. Use these travel conferences as an avenue to broaden attendees’ horizons and as a safe place for writers of all backgrounds to connect and collaborate.
In addition, have a code of conduct that attendees should adhere to. If individuals make comments which cause other attendees to feel unsafe or unwelcome, do not allow them to speak or attend these community events. Set a standard in the travel industry that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.
Travel blogging is a growing diverse industry, travel conferences should reflect that.
Donning a bikini does not make me a less qualified travel writer. A triangle-shaped piece of fabric does not have the power to determine my worth. Nor does anyone in the travel industry who suffers from fragile masculinity and misogyny.
Travel writers need to band together and support diversity. Include voices unlike their own in the conversation and learn from them. Just as traveling is about immersing ourselves into cultures around the world and learning from them, so is travel writing. Our individual preferences, histories and identities construct how we see the world. Sharing these differences and why they affect our perspective and experiences is not only fascinating but necessary.
At our core, travel bloggers are storytellers. It’s our duty to inform our readers how they might experience the world, but also encourage them to seek out adventure themselves. Including diverse voices in the travel community only fosters greater connections and instills that there is no right or wrong way to travel. It’s an individualistic experience that we hope you are lucky enough to embark on.
As much as I resent saying, “Me, too,” I want others to know that there is strength is owning our pasts, even the heinous acts we had to endure. By no longer staying silent, I have found my voice and claimed the power to be heard.
If you have suffered from sexual harassment or sexual assault, there are numerous resources out there to help. If you need someone to talk to you RAINN has a 24/7 hotline that you reach via live chat or by calling 800-656-4673. You are not alone.
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Metamorphosis. When autumn begins, I’m filled with such vigor and excitement for new beginnings. 🌾 After publishing a raw and emotional blog post this weekend, you all have floored me. The number of encouraging messages and thank yous I received for speaking my truth has brought tears to my eyes again and again. It’s this sort of community that makes me feel so cherished and celebrated. We rejoice in our differences, yet band together to spur change. Thank you to all of you who took the time to read my newest blog posts (link in bio). All I ask is that you take the time to familiarize yourself with creators who dare to speak out and ask for change. Lift up their messages and talk about important issues. We will no longer remain silent! 💗