It’s no secret that women are strong, beautiful, and overall just plain awesome creatures. Despite this, us ladies don’t always get the respect and treatment that we deserve, especially when it comes to women who actively display their strength and independence. Never does sexism become more blatant than when you are planning for, or in the midst of, an amazing experience and people loudly and unnecessarily try to bring you down for gender-based reasons.
No matter where you go abroad, it is going to be apparent to some degree that there is a stigma against female travelers because of the overall stigma against female independence. So, in honor of International Women’s Day, we have compiled this article to tell the world the things that strong female travelers are officially done hearing.
1. “Are you sure you want to go there?”
Chances are if you’ve done your research and booked a plane ticket to a specific location, it probably means you’re sure you want to go there. People love to jump on fear-based bandwagons and will make you feel terrible for your decision to go to a certain place (especially if it is somewhere more off-the-beaten-path), but just because people hear snippets from the media about how one area is more dangerous or poor or whatever than another area doesn’t mean that you can’t go there. The harsh reality is that women are usually at risk of people trying to hurt or take advantage of them, so you shouldn’t have to avoid a certain area just because of a few unpleasant soundbites.
2. “Wear a fake wedding ring!”
Statements like this are incredibly damaging. What this says to the woman in question is “your worth is determined by belonging to someone else and people won’t leave you alone unless it is clear that you are taken.” It’s not enough that perhaps you have your own feelings and desires and simply might not be attracted to the person expressing interest in you...you need to have something symbolizing that you belong to someone else. Would you give a male traveler the same advice? No, because a man wouldn’t have to prove that he is not interested, whereas a woman does.
This also implies that you never would want someone’s attention and you should keep to yourself when traveling. There is nothing wrong with having fun while traveling (kind of the whole point of traveling, right?), so if you want to grab a drink and flirt with some locals, then do it!
Meaningful travel is all about immersing yourself in a different culture, and there is no better way to kill your integration options than by going into the experience already closed-off.
3. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
Killed. Quite a bold statement to make. Injured? Sure. Broke? Probably. But killed? You need to get out more. What is it about a woman traveling that automatically means she is going to get herself into trouble? Female travelers still have common sense, and they are most definitely still aware of basic safety tips for traveling abroad.
4. “Look at you, always having to make a statement.”
The only statement someone makes by traveling to another country is that they are brave and open-minded. You’re not exactly flying the flag of equality every time you purchase a plane ticket, you’re just going about your business as any man would do. Travelers travel for themselves, not to prove a point to someone or “make a statement”.
5. “You couldn’t find a guy to go with you?”
There are several things wrong with this question. First, it suggests that all women are straight, which -- surprise! -- they’re not. Second, it implies that men are somehow better or stronger, and therefore the obvious travel companion. Third, what’s wrong with wanting to travel solo or going with a group of fellow ladies? Even if you are dating someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your significant other should come with you. Once again, travelers travel for themselves, not for anyone else.
6. “Why don’t you settle down and save this money for your future family?”
Not only does this blatantly say that there is only one way to settle down, but it also suggests that having a life of adventure is inherently wrong. You can’t “settle down” and live a life of excitement? Why are the two mutually exclusive? Just because you someday want to have a family doesn’t mean that you can’t also explore different parts of the world or that you need to save all your money for the children you may or may not have 10 years down the road. Perhaps you will learn something during your travels that will help make you into a better parent or partner. Shouldn’t we celebrate that instead of punishing it?
In addition, this statement also implies that the woman in question is absolutely going to have a family. There is nothing wrong with a woman who wants to fly solo (literally and figuratively), so stop shaming women who don’t fit the “mold”. Male travelers are never made to feel like their potential future family comes before themselves, and women shouldn’t either.
7. “Can’t you just party here?”
This question is really insulting. For some reason, many people interpret “I’m traveling to xxx” as “I’m going to get drunk on a beach”, or something similar. Women don’t just go on relaxing all-inclusive vacations, they also travel meaningfully. When a woman says she is going somewhere, it could be to volunteer in an orphanage or learn a new language, not just party. Even if you are going just to party and relax, you don’t have to justify your reasons for travel to anyone.
8. “You haven’t outgrown this phase yet?”
If someone makes the conscious decision again and again to book a ticket somewhere and go, it probably means that it’s not a phase but rather an actual part of the person’s life. There are good reasons behind why every woman should make meaningful travel a priority, and shaming someone for continuously pushing themselves to learn more is not okay.
9. “What does so-and-so think?”
Asking what your significant other or parent or anyone else thinks about your decision to travel is really just rude. It doesn’t matter what other people think because it’s your life and up to you to decide your definition of happiness. Any friend or partner worth being with will support your desire to experience new things, and everyone else is just projecting their own insecurities and ignorance.
10. “Good luck fitting all of your clothes and jewelry in your backpack!”
First of all, not all women are obsessed with material things, so chill. Despite what some people think, it is possible for women to survive off of just a few different outfits. This statement also demonstrates a severe lack of knowledge about space bags, which magically enable women to pack practically their entire closets. So, even if you are a fashion-forward lady, it won’t be hard to fit a few extra statement necklaces and cute sandals into your backpack. Give a girl a more difficult challenge, please.
If you’re a woman who has heard any of the above statements, we encourage you to keep doing your thing and not let ignorant and judgmental comments derail you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your experiences, point out the unfairness of the comment, and help society continue evolving.
If you are someone who has said any of the above statements, we encourage you to take a step back and reflect.
What motivated you to say such a thing and what were you really trying to accomplish? No one is perfect and everyone says things out of ignorance, so use this as an opportunity to learn about women’s struggles for equality and really grow from it, because women can go abroad too! Just because a traveler is a woman doesn’t mean that she is any less of an explorer (or person) than a man is!