Women are changing the face of birding

Here is a fantastic new article called "A Feminist Revolution in Birding -Tired of being marginalized, women are rising up against a macho culture" by Olivia Gentile.


This article deals with the sexism that modern day women in birding face. It is a very true article and well worth a read for both women and men. I've experienced many of these things discussed therein and sexism in birding. For instance I remember one time when a man came up and I was birding with another man and we were looking at shorebirds. I was capable of identifying this shorebird and called it out but the man didn't ask me what it was but asked my male birding partner. As if my Id couldn't possibly be correct... which it was. I was totally dismissed as if I wasn't there and couldn't possibly identify the species. So I know the struggle we as women and people of colour face in all aspects of life including this hobby.

However, I also feel we as women need to work with men and not simply create "women only" birding groups as suggested in this article but mixed groups of both sexes. I feel it is imperative to include men in the discussion and birding. If you bird with men they can respect your skill and you can both learn from one another. When we do this, hopefully more women are taken seriously, put on records committees (where they are traditionally excluded), be made eBird reviewers and promoted to other levels of leadership in birding. There is a real benefit for inclusion in my opinion. It also shows men that we are equals. How can we end sexism if we exclude men?. If we exclude men we become what we are fighting against, which is injustice. It takes women a lot of courage though to bird with some men if they feel intimidated and some can be especially if they are calling down other women which I've also experienced. Therefore, it's important to persevere and just bird for yourself but also holding your ground, if you have an id that is being unfairly challenged or receive sexist comments or are unfairly dismissed, it is important to speak up to another person that you trust. You don't need to suffer in silence. Naturalist clubs need to call out bigotry and sexism as well and acknowledge this is a real problem.

We should also celebrate the men who respect women and treat them as equals and there are many I know of who do. I know it feels funny to celebrate what should be the norm but hopefully one day it won't be so special as it is today that is the goal. I am just trying to highlight that there are many lovely men who dont see gender or colour but sometimes get forgotten in the talk of sexism and racism in birding. I have many male birding friends and as far as I know just see me as a fun birder to go birding with. I wish all men could see us women this way. There are tour operators I guide for like Chris Charlesworth's "Avocet Tours" who promote female birding leaders for example, so it's definitely not true across the board that women are always shafted in birding. However, to achieve the respect to get there takes a long struggle that is unnecessary. I won't name names but when I first came on the scene I faced some heavy exclusion from some of the most respected birders who have now become some of my closest friends once I proved myself. So opinions can change but we women have to work harder than the average male skilled birder. I hope one day this changes.

I try to promote many young female birders to follow their passion and stand their ground in birding and if you hone your skills then your skills really speak for themselves and help you earn respect, even if it is a harder more biased road to get there for women.

This article also talks about the role of women in birding throughout history and how women today are shifting the long-held stereotypes of men being the only top and most respected birders in the field. ie. on record committees and leading tours etc.

Well recognized and respected female birders like Debi Shearwater and Kim Kaufman discuss the gender bias that is alive and well in 2019 in birding around the world. Overt sexism and subtle sexism is discussed. Most women have to deal with this in every day life, so it would be nice if we didn't have to deal with it in our hobby as well. Times are changing and we can't give up until we see a full change.Time's up for the older Caucasian male dominating the conversation in birding. We now want to hear all voices from all walks of life, all colours, creeds and all sexes.

The article also speaks about how women in Africa are breaking through overt sexism and empowering themselves to go birding and become guides which is very inspirational. If women can break through there where oppression is even worse, we have to do so here. I believe the first step is to talk about it, acknowledge the problem and make it a conversation piece. I also urge men to invite a female birder to join them birding and women to invite a man to join them. That simple breaking of the ice can change perceptions quickly. I personally love birding with men and seeing the different perspectives and how we are much more alike than unalike.

I will leave you with an inspirational quote from the article:

"First, women were barred [from birding]. Then, women were marginalized. And then, in the first decades of the 21st century, women finally took charge."

You can read the full article HERE

I'm off to chase Chickens now...over and out.

Comments

  1. I love that Olivia Gentile got all of this into one terrific article--regrettably, she admitted she is not planning a book out of it, as it would make a fantastic one as a deeper dive. While I like birding with nice guys, I do see the advantage of a women-only group of birders, and hold this routine very dear. Hegemony runs deep, and as you point out, even women doubt other women when there is a man around. So that is why I make time to bird with other women--it's an important option to retain in addition to educating men. I do not feel that it is reverse sexism when women have been (and continue to be) excluded from so much of the power in the world at large.

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    Replies
    1. Yes great point Bryony. Some women just feel more comfortable with other women and that’s fine I do honour and respect that.

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    2. And I also should have added I understand that it creates a safe place to learn about birds and ask questions. Also I neglected to talk about how it can be very unsafe for women to bird alone in certain areas so an all female group is also good in this sense to prevent sexual assault.

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    3. Yes, personal safety is a whole separate issue! it is an elephant in the room that could potentially discourage new birders. Personal safety is infuriating to have to consider, as men do not think twice about birding alone. I love birding alone for the meditative experience of it, unique from birding with a group, and it makes me angry that I have to watch my back, never let down my guard.

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