Researching Women Mountaineers, United Kingdom, 2020

Our final version is completed. Thank you to Dr Adele Doran at Sheffield Hallam University for your patience and contribution in making this a reality.

Adele and I have both independently recently completed our PhD research theses that explore the experiences of women who mountaineer. Adele’s research concentrates on recreational participants and my research explores the experiences of professional female mountain leaders and guides in the UK. Following a discussion last year we agreed to co-write a report that combined some of our research findings that would be pertinent to public organisations like Mountain Training, United Kingdom,British Mountaineering Council and the wider public and private mountaineering community. The report offers insight concerning inequalities in mountain leadership and wider participation. Specifically, it presents the constraints on women’s participation and leadership in climbing and mountaineering, the strategies women use to negotiate these constraints and the benefits they gain. It concludes with a series of recommendations for development and research.

In January we met with Mountain Training, United Kingdom to share and discuss our draft report. Mountain Training kindly gave us feedback and we have since made revisions here is the final version.

You can find a link the report at: Researching Women Mountaineers

Book Review: Deviant Leisure

Privileged to write a review for this new book by Dr Thomas Raymen and Dr Oliver Smith. A timely call for us to adopt a less individualist and more prosocial way of life.

Raymen, T., & Smith, O. (2019) Deviant Leisure: Criminological Perspectives on Leisure and Harm. Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-030-17735-5 ISBN 978-3-030-17736-2 (eBook)

Deviant Leisure Book Review

Dr Jenny Hall – 2 March 2020

Thomas Raymen and Oliver Smith draw upon a diverse range of cutting edge research, challenging readers to rethink the impact of twenty-first-century consumer capitalism embedded in our treasured and coveted leisure experiences. The volume broadens Raymen and Smith’s (chapter 2) theory of the ‘deviant leisure perspective’ by blending conceptual analysis with case studies which comprehensively expands the scope of their framework. The largely ethnographic case studies illustrate, through a range of experimental methods, the harms that are normalised and embedded in our everyday leisure pursuits. The book makes an important contribution to both criminology and leisure by applying a criminological lens to problematise the commonly held notion that all leisure is good (Rojek, 2010). By encompassing a wide milieu of perspectives, the research analyses how the fitness industry, tourism, digital pastimes, pornography, clubbing, gambling, parkour and even leisure within prison life are experienced through a range of power geometries. Questioning what leisure can produce, brings into view how harms are hidden, yet pervasive, in contemporary consumer leisure cultures. Raymen and Smith conclude by offering an alternative conceptualisation of a leisure-world that is prosocial that moves us beyond the capitalist drivers of hedonistic consumption underpinning our global crisis (chapter 2).
The book explores deviant leisure scholarship through several under-researched themes. Firstly it robustly challenges the consumption of leisure as an assumed right, demonstrating that by elevating leisure beyond the status of a ‘social good’, to being an inalienable right (Rojek, 2010) we have created a leisure-world of harm that affects social, environmental and economic security. Raymen and Smith (Chapter 2) critique the unworldly idealism that continues within leisure studies scholarship and ask what leisure spaces would look if they were decommoditised, deindividualised and co-constitutive. Through demonstrating how harm is present within the most familiar forms of commodified leisure, they show through examples such as the ‘Bucket List’ or the ‘The Big Night Out’, how such leisured desires persistently fail to deliver the hedonism that commodified leisure spaces promote (Chapter 2). This illustrates how we relentlessly pursue the individual project of leisure to see and do all those things that we believe will provide fulfilment in life, yet consistently fail to realise them. Moreover, they illustrate how individualism is deficient and can only lead to dissatisfaction in the things we lack in life and ultimately favours private citizenship over the public good, thus showing how we are committed to the norms and values of late-capitalist consumer culture (Chapter 3). Winlow (chapter 3), applies the lens of ultra-realism to argue that the decomposition of civic society is where the academy should focus attention to consider how the continuation of capitalism and the problems of democracy should be tackled to build a sustainable future. Theorising the commodification of leisure as a form of deviancy is a foundational theme enabling the interrogation of the pervasive and embedded harms this process produces in consumer culture. 2

A second core theme centres on how harm is consumed through the pursuit of what Hayward and Turner (Chapter 6) and Ayres (Chapter 7) refer to as ‘cool individualism’; where creating a sense of individual authenticity is founded in past mythologies, hallmarked by hedonistic abandon in the all-out, rampaging, no prisoners taken, hedonism of Ibiza or any pub and club filled high street in the United Kingdom. Veblen’s concept of ‘conspicuous consumption’ illustrates how the drive for personal distinction is manipulated by the ideological dominance of consumer capitalism and phoney counter culturalism. Ayres’ (Chapter 7) insightful exploration of the concept of the 24hr city night-time economy (NTE) demonstrates how harm is produced, symbolically charged and re-engineered via the institutional controls that both infantilise and commercialise excess associated with demonstrating conspicuous luxury and differentiated consumer status. Moreover, NTE is a space of ‘riskless-risk’ where intoxication of substances licit or illicit is hyper-normalised and homogenised through the aggressive marketing of city leisure spaces. Demonstrating how institutional and regulatory powers both create special spaces for and turn a blind eye to harmful behaviours that treat intoxication as a leisure activity in itself. Ayres (Chapter 7) argues that excludes those who exist on the margins of society and are often blamed when alcohol and illicit drug misuse spill out of these spaces of control. She shows how structurally embedded harms of exclusion are initiated through processes of social-cleansing that exclude and criminalise non-consumers such as rough sleepers and sex workers that discriminates across the lines of race, gender and class. In contrast, spatial exclusion can also lead to a paradox where criminal or socially deviant behaviours produce ‘cool transgressive’ identities such as young people who participate in city-based free running or Parkour. Raymen explores how transgressive activities feed an ever-hungry consumer culture looking for the next cool brand and is a vital and a deliberate component of consumerism’s cultural-economic apparatus (Chapter 16).
Thus, the theme of individualism and hyper-individualism is central to the identity of the leisure-seeker, where the taking of drugs, sports participation and surgery to enhance body image and status are bound in selfhood and semiotic markers of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1977). This is acutely illustrated through how technology is harnessed in pursuit of self-expression and identity-making. Hall (chapter 8) discusses how social media tools, such as Instagram, mirror society’s neoliberal valorisation of the unattainable ego, where we constantly reconstruct self-image in a co-created technologically facilitated process of capital accumulation. The production and digitisation of leisure spaces within gaming, gambling, pornography, urban trespass, parkour and fight clubs in prisons that facilitate thrill-seeking, Hall argues, produces a denial of harm, emotional glaciation and diminishment of the recognition of humanity (chapter 8). Atkinson suggests that digital miniaturisation and connectivity has enabled an unbounding of taboo and produced new economies predicated on harm and gender-based violence (Chapter 10). He asks an important question of how this will change our emotional life in the hyper-masculine world of gaming, which is a point that could be applied more broadly to our wider digital worlds. It also raises new questions of social control, regulation and censorship within media more broadly (chapter 10).
Foundational to individualism is our anthropocentric approach to the pursuit of self-fulfilment that White argues is leading us to kill the thing we profess to love – the natural environment. He posits that tourism is deviance on a grand scale and that the environmental harms tourism produces is human harm (White Chapter 13). The deviant leisure approach offers tourism scholars a new lens to explore sustainability in the context of a rapidly growing and increasingly damaging global tourism industry. White argues that our denial of the harm tourism creates and drive to ‘consume, be silent and die is the mantra of twenty-first-century global capitalism’ epitomises a possessive individualism that leads to systemic damage that no one wants to claim responsibility for. Luxury, cheap flights ‘see it before it’s gone’ and ‘getting off the beaten track’, ecotourism and volunteer tourism create 3

moral economies where westerners find security in finding problems they feel they can do something about all produce harms as a result of pursuing leisure through travel (Large, Chapter 15).
Thoughtfully weaving a breadth of theory with rich case studies and academic concerns with the commodification of leisure, Deviant Leisure offers a comprehensive framing for academics and students to critically think through the harms that our leisure activities produce across criminology, leisure and the wider social sciences. There is work to be done to further establish experimental methodological approaches for exploring deviant leisure and criminological scholars could benefit from broader interdisciplinarity through drawing on scholarship across the social sciences such as geography. This is acknowledged in Raymen’s call for criminology to recommit itself to new cultural, political-economic and psychoanalytical critiques of consumer capitalism which, through harm-based or the deviant leisure perspective, could expand our understanding of the harms that are continuously emerging at the intersection of commodified leisure, technology and consumer capitalism (Chapter 12).
Bourdieu, P. (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Rojek, C. (2010) The Labour of Leisure: The Culture of Free Time. London, Sage.
Veblen, T. (1992) Theory of the Leisure Class. London, Transactions Publishers.

Mountain Training Presentation

It has been a busy start to the year beginning with a book review and a presentation of a joint research findings report with Dr Adele Doran, Sheffield Hallam University, for Mountain Training UK.

Our report condenses two PhD research projects that explore the experiences of both professional and recreational female mountaineers.

Book Review – Tourism & Embodiment

Fantastic to review Catherine Palmer & Hazel Andrews new edited collection a great read and incredibly timely in these turbulent times. Here is a link to the new book

Tourism & Embodiment
by Catherine Palmer and Hazel Andrews, Abingdon, Routledge, 2020, 225 pp., £120 (Hardback), ISBN 978-1-138-57355-0 (hbk); £40.49 (e-book), ISBN 978-0-203-70153-9 (ebk)

Review: Dr Jenny Hall

Catherine Palmer & Hazel Andrews draw on cutting edge research to inspire readers to think through the impact embodied experiences have in forming touristic experiences and destinations. Rich case studies are illuminated through a range of experimental multidisciplinary ethnographies that centre on ‘interpreting and representing sensory knowing’ (Pink, 2009). The book makes an important contribution to tourism anthropology by broadening our understanding of how the tourist body experiences, shapes and is constructed through embodied and sensuous experiences. By encompassing a wide milieu of perspectives the volume explores how gendered, queer, racial and disabled identities are expressed through a range of power geometries. Questioning the scope of the tourist body brings into view host communities, objects and technologies as well as human-animal relations to broaden the spaces and places of embodied touristic experiences.

This volume explores embodied tourism scholarship through several under-researched themes, firstly it challenges notions of difference in tourist destinations. It does so, by problematising socio-cultural norms that shape how tourists and hosts communities are expected to behave. Here the notion of ‘othering’ as a term that Powell & Menendian, (n.d.) refer to as a ‘clarifying frame that reveals a set of common processes and conditions that propagate group-based inequality and marginality’ (ibid (n.d.)) is exemplified by the academic insights presented in this book. For example, Portales & Nogués-Pedregal’s (Chapter 5) research shows how disabled bodies carry the stigma of illness that does not match perceived dominant notions of holiday destinations as a place of paradise. Moreover, they demonstrate that embodied research can open up new ways to understand how we should approach cognitive and sensory diversity in developing our understanding of accessible tourism. Difference or otherness is echoed in Anna de Jong and Bradley Rinks chapters’ that explore how the queering of bodies can create exclusive spaces that both challenge and reinforce stereotypes. Difference is also extended beyond human dimensions to encompass human-animal relations in Sally Ann Ness (Chapter 3) insightful chapter, which explores the agency of bears in tourist destinations and how we might move from human-centred or anthroprocentric to a broader more animal-aware or zoocentric theory of tourism. Thus, Ness opens a moral debate on transspecies encounters and meaning-making in tourist destinations.

Secondly, a theme centres on how our interactions with objects and physical places create and recreate destinations on the move by exploring how mobile bodies co-constitute sites of remembrance, technology, yoga, with children or carrying heavy backpacks over challenging terrain producing autobiographical sedimentations in the body. Howard & Dupers (Chapter 14) expand the spatiotemporal notion of being ‘home or away’ through the use of technology demonstrating how we can be at once on holiday and at the same time at home expanding the boundaries of what it is to be on holiday. Such experiences as Palmer and Andrews (Chapter 1) assert gather as a bodily history of travel and knowledge through practices of thinking, movement and sensing. Embodied experiences through sensing are historicised within the body through which it learns and remembers how to behave (Bourdieu, 1977). As such, tourist destinations are relational and in motion where places accompany travellers in embodied forms of memory, digital interaction and kinaesthetic knowledge.

Thus, this book investigates how tourists move in and construct shared cultural worlds through participatory and sense-making processes that are transformative of both themselves and the host communities and spaces they interact with. A range of theoretical explorations from affective, phenomenological through actor-network theory traces the irreducible nature of the interdependence between individual and collective processes and practices of embodied minds. These theoretical explorations provide openings for designing experimental methodologies and ethnographies that provide practical methods for gathering and interpreting embodied empirical data. Methodologically this book makes a nod to the work of anthropologists such as Pink (2009) and Ingold (2010) by taking a holistic approach that explores the senses as interconnected, interrelated and multisensory. For example, Kuijpers (Chapter 11) describes the process of ‘co-performative witnessing’ that goes beyond cognitive experiences, where she experienced the physical stresses and pain inflicted on the body through the production of ‘slow food’ in Turkey. This led to insights on how the romanticised image of slow food has changed the bodies of Turkish women who endeavour to meet the increasing demand for ‘slow food’. In contrast, Rink (Chapter 4) explores the historical touristic mapping of city spaces through the lens of the Pink Map produced for Cape Town, South Africa. Using discourse analysis he reveals how a stereotyped sexualised queer body embodied through a series of texts, symbols and images become a site of consumption.

Thoughtfully weaving a breadth of theory with rich case studies and academic concerns with embodiment, Tourism and Embodiment offers a holistic framing for academics and students to critically think through the body in tourism anthropology and related social sciences. The book focuses on the complex ways in which the touristic body gathers together the social, physical and cultural and transforms them into destinations. It provides a rare and sustained insight into embodiment in terms of difference and the mobile subject and makes an important call to scholars to extend the field.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ingold, T. (2010). The perception of the environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skills (New Preface ed.). London: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
Pink, S. (2009). Doing sensory ethnography. London: SAGE.

Powell, A. J., & Menendian, S. (n.d.) The problem of othering: Towards inclusiveness and belonging. Othering & belonging, expanding the circle of human concern. Othering & Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley [Internet] Retrieved from

RGS-IBG 2019 Conference

This year the conference proved to be very busy, chairing three sessions and also the Geographies of Leisure and Tourism Research Group AGM.

Thursday I co-chaired and presented in the Geographies of Inequality and Hope: Towards Sustainable Tourism Futures, I which I presented a paper with Dr Brendan Paddison. My copy for this paper is below.

This was followed by chairing the Tourism Geographies session and the GLTRG AGM along with attending the GLTRG social event at the Bunch of Grapes.

Friday I co-chaired a session with Dr Maggie Miller

Redesigning the room: Troubling geographies of adventure tourism

This session included contributions from an interdisciplinary international field including New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, Malaysia and UK.

Governance and sustainable engagement: Building equality within public and private spaces

In my paper I aimed to provide an analysis of the gendered nature of governance structures in UK mountaineering and the impact this has on female mountain leaders as stakeholders. I did so by applying the theories of Jacques Derrida to consider inequality in mountaineering destinations.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attack, Derrida used the biological analogy of the immune system to describe how communities exist and become autoimmunitary. The premise of his argument was that biologically the immune system acts to protect the body, creating immunity from foreign bodies and aliens; for which, in the same way, the rules governing mountaineering are highly effective by establishing exclusivity through the processes of achieving legitimacy. In this context, ‘the immune system is riddled with images … of invaders and defenders, hosts and parasites, natives and aliens and of borders and identities that must be maintained’ and governed. Coining the term the ‘terrorist cell’ he painted a terrifying picture of how communities produce autoimmune reactions and turn in on themselves when blanket rules are applied and difference is suppressed.

The structures that govern mountaineering tourism were founded upon the establishment of Victorian middle-class gentleman’s clubs in the mid-1850s. These clubs were and still are responsible for the codifying and classifying mountains providing the structure that governs how mountains are performed, produced and reproduced as destinations. Historically mountaineering has been founded on who makes the first ascent of a route or summit, of which few are women. All new routes are then described in official guidebooks produced by clubs. The codification of mountaineering, as a male-dominated activity, has changed little since the conjoining of adventure-ness to questions of modernity and manliness established during the Victorian period as a leisure and nation-building sport.

Further popularised by the pioneering exploits of adventurers like Hillary and Tensing Norgay who made the first ascent of Everest in 1953. Such highly publicised nation-building events acted as a catalyst for the growth of a booming adventure tourism industry. Fast forward to 22 May 2019 when more than 200 mountaineers ascended Mount Everest, of which only twelve were women.

So feminine spatial practices in mountaineering are constructed through codes fixed by class, gender and race established through masculinised body politics. Transgressing the rules of climbing mountains is socially contentious affecting what, how, and who can make a legitimate claim to be a mountaineer.

In 1944 the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) was formed in an attempt to address the exclusivity of the Club system. Yet this model was fundamentally flawed in its aim, as it was founded, upon the club network. As a non-governmental public body, the BMC chiefly manages access to and participation in mountaineering and thus collaborates with National Parks and Local Authorities to help manage mountain spaces and places. The model illustrates how mountaineering is fundamentally underpinned by the club system.

Female representation in both clubs and public organisations like the BMC have, is poor, with posts within the BMC being traditionally filled by members from the older established clubs. Since the admission of women to the Alpine Club in 1975, there has only been one female president and the BMC appointed its first female president in 2017. Illustrated by a systematic survey of the 32 climbing guidebooks I own, covering the major mountain areas in the UK, only one has received editorial contributions from a woman. Topographically and geographically femininity is virtually absent in the classification of mountain spaces and places as tourist destinations.

Women have attempted to address this imbalance through establishing female-only clubs, mountaineering expeditions and training programmes. However, by replicating the existing club system, my research has shown, that women have reinforced the interests of the dominant norm, through replicating exclusivity that reproduces marginalisation. In fact, early 20th-century female climbing clubs established a code of modest silence in an attempt to preserve space, which continues to be reinforced today illustrated by an article by Schirrmacher in the British Mountaineering Council’s magazine describing how promoting one’s achievements … ‘is just not what British Women do’ (Schirrmacher, 2008) rendering women virtually invisible.

Female mountaineers oscillate between the states of defender and alien within mountaineering communities, by under-promoting their achievements, they reinforce their difference and perceptions of being an outsider within.

In contrast, women have attempted to resist such silencing effects by producing alternative mountaineering spaces through the establishment of codes such as climbing manless. In 1959, Claude Kogan, pioneered the first all-female Himalayan expedition to make the first ascent (male or female) of the world’s sixth-highest peak, Cho Oyu. The expedition was politically charged because women not only wanted to prove they could undertake such projects unassisted but were also demanding public recognition for their achievements. Unwittingly, Kogan’s purist approach to manless mountaineering had established a new standard governing legitimacy of female-only high altitude ascents, which replicated the dominant model of governance. The production of such female codes have had serious consequences for female mountaineers who followed. Wanda Rutkiewicz and Alison Chadwick first ascent of Gasherbrum III, in 1975, was unfairly branded illegitimate because they had been followed to the summit by a male party. In contrast, such accusations did and do not affect male legitimacy if female peers are connected to a male first ascent. A clear illustration of an autoimmune reaction within the mountaineering community.

My research has revealed this legacy pervades where I found that professional female UK mountaineers had a propensity to reject what they saw to be the ‘women’s movement’ because they felt it could mark them out as troublemakers and reduce their space to be considered legitimate mountaineers, professionally, socially and economically. This self-masculinising and self-silencing continues to reduce women’s visibility and therefore has an impact on the number of women assuming leadership roles. Today only 37 women are professionally qualified to lead mountaineering routes in the UK and 6 Internationally. Mountain Training recognizes the need for rebalancing gender inequalities but have yet to produce a strategy.

So what are the solutions and does Derrida offers hope?

The solution Derrida offers is based on specificity, collaboration and learning systems as a way to resolve differences within a community. Although the autoimmunitary analogy used by Derrida has dark implications it also demonstrates how bodies such as communities are vital, ever-changing forces with the absolute potential for change. If, as Derrida suggests, we work to detect the processes of learning and apply them through practice, perhaps difference can be integrated and inequalities can be reduced. When difference becomes a point of learning the fundamental meaning of hero/heroine – the central tenet of mountaineering – can effectively be challenged and evolve.

Key Findings

Examples of learning and adaption were revealed through my research where the use of ‘softer skills’ or more feminised traits, such as giving feedback, unpacking taboo psychological and physiological issues like the menopause and collaborative decision-making are being adopted and in some instances formalised through training.

Concluding Thoughts

Formalising such tools like ‘softer skills’ through training programmes and engagement strategies could facilitate learning and the necessary adaption that diversifies mountaineering opening a doorway to difference.

Chamonix 2019

Another great trip with Louis, Sam, Ruth, Jamie and Grigor.  We mixed it up this year climbing, backpacking, running and building a tryrolean. Photo credit S. King.

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