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Re: Teton Gravity Research, “Is This Real Life? Outdoor Women on Social Media.”

This is a response piece to an article by Carolyn Highland, published by Teton Gravity Research about the authenticity of women in the outdoors who post their adventures on social media. Read the original article here

In light of Essena O’Neill quitting social media, many articles, YouTube videos, debates empowerment, confidence, agreeing, disagreeing, and even publicly bashing (huge reason why I left a community of outdoor bloggers this week. Bashing of Essena and bashing of another person in the outdoor community behind the closed doors of a Facebook Group).

Regardless of what you think about O’Neill, there is no doubt that social media is shaping our world, especially in the outdoor industry.

In a recent Teton Gravity Research article, Carolyn Highland questions the authenticity of “everyday,” women who have big social media followings and are sponsored by big brands. One of the first things she chooses to point out is how Brooke Willson, a traveler, mountain climber, and all-round explorer is “immaculately groomed for a weekend outdoors.”

I’m sorry, but is this not a classic example of picking on the pretty girls? Why does it matter if you wear makeup or don’t? It’s the choice of the woman. Why is there a need to question her authenticity if she wants to wash her hair prior to a hike or put on mascara?

I personally choose to wear makeup whenever the hell I want. Instagram in mind, or not.

No makeup, drenched, and muddy.

No makeup, drenched, and muddy: does this make me more authentic?

Highland then presses, “are women actually doing outdoor activities in clothing like this?” Find any of these influencers on another social media platform, such as Snapchat, and you will find your answer. YES.

The article continues to point out other things, like “why is so-and-so’s hair so perfectly coiffed after such-and-such hike,” and the fact that the photo might not be the first shot.

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Made-up, obviously posed, and looking/feeling cute: am I less authentic?

Guess what? This is a result of social media marketing. It does not have anything to do with the authenticity of these women. Outdoor brands are relying more and more on influencer strategy vs. catalogs, stock photos, and commercials. They want us to see real people out their using their product, and if there is someone out there with a following who is already living that life, why not pay them to get the word out? (The responsibility of these influencers to require money vs. free gear AND to question the ethics of a brand/supply chain are other topics I am passionate about, but that’s for another day).

I am a freelance digital marketer and when I create influencer strategy, I do things like “find influencers who can help us promote the brand,” and when I do, I look for authentic people, and authenticity isn’t necessarily dictated by their following, hair, makeup, or lack thereof.

The other thing that really annoyed me about this article was the lack of questioning the authenticity of men. Why are they excluded from this? There are countless van-bros out there who are sponsored, have huge followers, and perfectly poised headlamp shots (which I hate, by the way). I’m assuming that there is gender specificity in who can and cannot come across as authentic in the outdoor marketing world?

In conclusion, not all females want to be covered in scabs and have dirt in their hair. It does not make someone any less authentic if she prefers to dry shampoo her hair while camping or take a photo at sunset on the top of a mountain. After all, the time spent getting to these locations is not effortless, so how can it be considered fake?

There is beauty in the dirt and beauty in the glitter: why try and plot them against each other? 

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  • Reply Michelle

    Perfectly written. Thank you for being a breath of fresh air in all the negativity that exists surrounding this topic.

    November 6, 2015 at 9:59 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      <3 it's so important to realize that banding together is what this world needs. We already, and women especially, cut each other down and are so so judgmental. I think outdoor brands, like Teton, could use their following for good. Maybe say, I don't know, help with bringing awareness to the waste problem in this country so we can enjoy the outdoors we love so much?


      November 6, 2015 at 10:03 pm
  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN

    Yes!!! Why on earth do we keep stereotyping ourselves?!? You don’t have to look a certain way to enjoy a hobby! Women are so harsh with each other!

    November 6, 2015 at 10:30 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      I know! Uplifting each other uplifts ourself. 🙂

      November 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm
  • Reply JJ Smith

    Amem to this article!!


    November 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Haha! me too. 🙂

      November 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm
  • Reply Mara Kuhn

    Well said 👏

    November 6, 2015 at 11:12 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks, Mara! 🙂

      November 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm
  • Reply julian carr

    Nice words friend

    November 6, 2015 at 11:18 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Hey thanks, JC! 😀

      November 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm
  • Reply Laura Grieser

    Well said, Tiffiny! I especially love your last line, “There is beauty in the dirt and beauty in the glitter: why try and plot them against each other?” I believe that this conversation needed to get sparked, though, and that there’s some good that we can make out of it. I’d like to hear more thoughts! A link to my response to the article and a survey:

    November 6, 2015 at 11:32 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks, Laura! I will take a look.

      And yes – women bashing women doesn’t help anyone and the conversation needs to continue!

      November 6, 2015 at 11:33 pm
  • Reply Kimberly

    Nailed it! You touched on every single thought that has been running through my mind ever since I read that article tonight. Well said, and thanks! 🙂

    November 7, 2015 at 2:47 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks, Kim 🙂

      November 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm
  • Reply ShaeK

    Go girl! Great points and so glad you spoke up for us!

    November 7, 2015 at 3:47 pm
  • Reply Johnie Gall

    I really thought that article was going to have some great things to say, but reading it put a sour taste in my mouth. It smacked of jealously. The entire time I was thinking….oh no, I could totally have been one of these examples (minus the good hair thing). Then I thought….who the hell cares. I’m having a great time!! Thanks for the thoughtful response lady! -JG

    November 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      As you should have a great time! 🙂

      Thanks Johnie~

      November 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm
  • Reply Holly Johnson

    I meant to comment earlier. I love this… and I’m so glad you spoke up!! I’m also glad you can offer some insight in regards to brands and their influencer strategies, and why they utilize certain people. Thank you for being awesome!!

    November 9, 2015 at 1:22 am
  • Reply Courtney Morrissey

    Love this and all the other ladies’ responses. Just gotta pipe up my support for another point you make – I think it’s GREAT that brands are recognizing the power of using real women to advertise their stuff! I just don’t get why all these people are complaining about advertising. We live in a material world, and we will always be surrounded by ads, whether overtly or covertly – there’s just no way to separate yourself from it unless you return to caveman times. Personally, I love that IG influencer trend makes the relationship between brands and audience much more personal. It makes outdoor companies feel much more accessible, and let’s face it, what outdoor woman doesn’t love getting into a long conversation about the pros and cons of a certain piece of gear?

    November 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      I think folks not understanding the methodology of online advertising is a big issue here! Great callout 🙂


      November 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm

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