What’s so offensive about the marketing of women’s travel, chick trips, girlfriend getaways? Nearly everything.
American Airlines reminded me of this recently by unveiling a women’s travel section of its website that some female business travelers found fluffy and irritating. AA quickly toned down the fluff but left some questions unanswered:
What is "women’s travel?" And why is it usually marketed to girls, girlfriends and chicks?
Here, for example, is an enlightening passage from the official tourism site of South Carolina: "If you’re ready for a great escape with great friends, there’s no better chick friendly vacation destination than the warm and inviting state of South Carolina. What shoes are you going to pack?"
Shoes. No stereotypes there. Chicks and shoes. (Also, chick-friendly should be hyphenated. It’s a compound modifier.)
From many other ads and travel packages aimed at women, I gather that women’s travel is not just about shoes, but also about shopping, spa treatments and drinking wine. I’m not against any of those things. Well, OK, maybe the shopping, which tends to bore me after a while.
But if there’s a market for package deals where women shop for shoes and get pampered and drink wine, let the free market sell it to them. And may they enjoy it. There’s no point in getting annoyed by that.
Except that the sheer ubiquity of this kind of advertising promotes the idea that there’s a standard form of travel that is essentially male by default, and that women travel only in some pampered, vacuous, marginal way.
Sure, women have distinct concerns about safety, bathrooms and cultural attitudes in far-away places. There’s room to talk about that. But it’s peripheral stuff. A female traveler – for business or leisure – generally experiences the same things a male traveler does.
And female vacationers seek, for the most part, experiences that are not particularly sex stereotyped. Witness the organizations and websites devoted to adventure travel and independent travel for women.
So, in order to combat these stereotypes further, allow me to present some of the "chick trips" that have been taken in my family:
- My mother and I went to New Mexico and Colorado and visited the archeological sites at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.
- My daughter and I went to Mexico City and visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan.
- I camped by myself in Zion National Park and hiked along – and in – the Virgin River.
- My mother earned the nickname Grammbo when she backpacked solo along the Long Trail in Vermont.
- My niece and her friend rode 96 hours on a train to Lake Baikal in Siberia.
- My mother and my daughter walked for 112 kilometers (70 miles) in a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.
Oh, yeah. And we all wore shoes.
Above: Grammbo, the chick pilgrim, shoes and all.