Sexism in nature

Sexism in nature

I wrote this post last September after Chris Packham published his fantastic People’s Manifesto for Wildlife and the people’s Walk for Wildlife that followed.

It was the time that I thought female naturalists should have stood up together against sexism and so I felt it was a good day to re-post my previous two blog posts about sexism in birding, nature and conservation.

The posts are from Nov 2015 and Jan 2016, but nothing has really changed since the time I wrote them, except I have now organised eight nature camps for Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) children & teenagers as well as those interested in nature, a conference about how to engage VME people with nature called Race Equality in Nature and set up Black2Nature.

This is what I wrote back then bit.ly/2jCGf13 and http://bit.ly/2kdjI9X.

In the last six months, I have had lots of criticism aimed at me for daring to say that face-to-face competitions tend to be avoided by lots of girls and some boys. This was in response to the fact that no girls had entered the Young Birder of the Year Competition at Migfest for the last two years in a row.

I was told by the organisers that it was my fault that I didn’t like competitions and that I was just afraid of losing. I explained that I had entered the American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year and had no problems with competitions, just this kind of competition which also takes place at the BTO young birders camp.

Birding and twitching in the UK are highly competitive with people keeping lists of their birds and hoping to beat others. Young birders can not help but be impacted by this macho culture. Lots of girls have stood up to tell me that they haven’t had any problems with sexism, implying it must be my problem or imagination. Why might their experience be different to mine?

Some reasons:
I stand out as competition.
I was in a BBC TV documentary as a child twitcher, from which some concluded that I wasn’t interested in birding. This made me fair game for people to “prove” this;
I was the youngest person to see 400 birds in the UK and have seen 485 birds. Young birders my age can’t beat this, but they can set out to beat me in a skills competition;
I have seen over 5000 birds in the world, with lots of adult male birders commenting on social media that they bet my skills are rubbish, whilst others feel it is their duty to demonstrate that I am a poorly skilled birder.
I am vocal with opinions.

When I have talked about sexism in conservation recently on social media, a number of White middle-class women told me how their employers were amazing. Maybe they are TO THEM, however, it is important to look at the total experience and not just a few individuals. There is lots of evidence of sexism within nature, conservation and the environmental sector. Just a quick look at the top male

What can I do to change this?

A couple of years ago, a young birder in his early twenties gave me the most honest advice. He said that if I wanted to fit in with other young male birders, I had to do the following:
Shut down my Birdgirl blog
Shut down by Birdgirl FB Page and Twitter
Stop using the name Birdgirl
Delete my BUBO birding lists
NEVER refer to how many birds I’ve seen
Set up a new twitter account, only follow birders and only RT UK bird news
Stop posting photos from birding trips abroad
Stop my diversity campaigning and shut down Black2Nature
Stop talking to any kind of media – no TV, no articles, no talks
Stop holding my Camp Avalon nature weekends
Go to the BTO young birders camp and act dumb
Chat to other young birders on social media & act dumb I know he was totally right, but I don’t want to fit in that much.  It was too much to sacrifice and I would hate myself for doing it. So instead, I stay away from young birders. I stay away from “competitions” and I stay away from the BTO camp.

 

Camp Avalon

 

Camp Avalon

I have lots of stories and examples but I don’t want to upset anyone.
So, you see, I am not afraid of losing, I am afraid of winning.
Person by person, let’s change this world of objectification and misogyny.

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about what I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

Too much of a person


Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Copyright “Too Much of a Person” toomuchofaperson.com

 

This was a project that I took part in Too much of a person curated by Diana Patient, the founder and creative director. I was really privileged to take part in this project, which empowered me so much as a young girl and one that has a lot to say about the world. Thank you so much.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Copyright “Too Much of a Person” toomuchofaperson.com

 

“‘Too Much of a Person’ is a project chronicling the experiences of self-identifying women and non-binary people being told they were “too much” of something (nice, loud, sensitive, aggressive etc.) to dismiss or conform them to the current perception of how a woman should be.

Your too much could be your power. Let’s reclaim that, take up space together and be whatever we want.

Welcome to the home of the online gallery of this multi-media exhibition which was launched in early 2019. You can listen to the powers and waves these extraordinary people are making in the world, and know that you are not alone.”

Diana Patient

 

THEY SAID I WAS:

TOO MUCH

TOO INTENSE

A STORM

TOO INDEPENDENT

TOO SENSITIVE

I’M JUST TOO MUCH OF A PERSON

Welcome to the home of the online gallery of this multi-media exhibition which was launched in early 2019. You can listen to the powers and waves these extraordinary people are making in the world, and know that you are not alone.”

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Copyright “Too Much of a Person” toomuchofaperson.com

This the video of my thoughts on the subject of being “too much” https://youtu.be/JxC0BXHHF0c and the podcast To much of a person – Mya-Rose Craig

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Copyright “Too Much of a Person” toomuchofaperson.com

Media credit “Too Much of a Person” toomuchofaperson.com


[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about what I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

Women March and sexism in birding

Women March and sexism in birding

Today we saw millions of people march in the USA, London and across the world in #WomensMarch to protest again Donald Trump bring the 45th President of the USA due to his disgusting, derogatory and dehumanising comments against women and his racism.

This is a day that shows that women will fight back against sexism and I felt it was a good day to re-post my two blog posts about sexism in birding, nature and conservation.

The posts are from Nov 2015 and Jan 2016, but nothing has really changed since the time I wrote the blog posts, except I have organised another Camp Avalon for young birders and Minority ethnic teenagers, a conference about getting Minority Ethnic people into nature called Race Equality and set up Black2Nature.

Please read if you haven’t already bit.ly/2jCGf13 and bit.ly/2kdjI9X.

Person by person, let’s change this world of objectification and misogyny.

Thank you.

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about what I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

Sexism in nature conservation – Part 2

Sexism in nature conservation – Part 2

Since I wrote my first blog post on 2nd December 2015 http://birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/letter-to-bbc-wildlife-magazine-on.html, I have had lots of support. I really appreciate all of this; on Facebook Groups, my Facebook Page, Twitter and comments on my Blog.

Some of the advice has been given with really good intentions but without a real understanding of the issues for girls like me. Some people said that I should just appreciate how lucky I am to go on great birding trips (which I do), I should not worry about getting recognition (even though I only want recognition for what I and other girls achieve), I should stop blogging or having a presence on social media as that will stop the bullying (the bullying started way before I started my blog), that if I stopped trying to engage with people I would no longer feel let down and everything will be OK. So basically all these problems have happened because I tried to have a public profile and brought it upon myself. I think this is genuinely what a lot of birders think, believing that they have a modern outlook.

Some people did say “bullying is bad” but didn’t actually say “I’m sorry that happened to you” before being critical. Someone went further to tweet that the young birders group which they were a member was not involved. Despite messaging to say this was not true she didn’t correct herself. If someone doesn’t want to support me, unless are being rude to me, I don’t care. But do I have to ignore things that are untrue?

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Somerset
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Sometimes I do think about stopping it all, but I realise that all the backlash will carry on even if I stopped birding, ringing, talks, conservation projects, blogging and my social media accounts. Then all that would happen is that all these people (as women can be sexist too) would be saying “I told you she wasn’t really interested in birding, it was her parents forcing birding on her and I knew she would stop in her teens”.

The 50 were chosen by the magazine’s advisory panel of 30 middle-aged men (or older) and 2 women (again older) and ‘other’ experts. I would like to know who the other experts were and whether there were more men than women. The result was that only 12 out of 50 chosen were women, with 2 out of the top 10 being women. Jane Goodall was number one, but no one can argue with that? How can that be accurate, with so many women involved in the conservation sector? Was the outcome because it was men who voted or was it because women are not recognised for what they do? Maybe because they don’t shout about what they are doing as much as men? I think next time, they could try to focus on coming up with female names, who are as good and powerful as the men.

This month Birdwatching Magazine featured an article “Bird Watching, The Next Generation – Meet the young birders making a difference” which was in conjunction with the BTO. On the front page was a teenage girl looking through a telescope, which looked promising. First a 4 page article by 24 year old wildlife photographer Luke Massey on a trip back to his roots in France.

Then a 6 page article from the BTO’s Ieuan Evans on how young birders can get involved with BTO and other projects (great, I have been ringing and doing nest box surveys for 4 over years). On page 1 was a photo of a girl ringing and on page 6 one of a young boy birding. It’s good to have the photo of a girl but it would have much better if a woman from the BTO had written the piece. The BTO has lots of capable women.

Then a ½ page article by Findley Wilde age 13 year old on his concerns on conservation.

Then finally, a 4 page article by Nicola Boulton about working as a wildlife guide and photographer in Western Scotland.

So of the articles, 1 out of 4 are written by a woman. It was good that there were two photos of girls birding and ringing but this is bit shallow if they are not given the chance to write.

Then there are a number of young people, under the heading “One to Watch”. I know most of them and they are great birders in influential in our field. I am not saying that they didn’t deserve to be listed but I don’t think they are the only possible people that could have been included in this category. There was only 1 girl out of 7 people. This is my main issue. Were these people chosen by the BTO or the magazine? There are lots of amazing young female birders/ringers out there and I think this was a missed opportunity to showcase more of them. I know from Twitter that the magazine certainly was told about lots of them.

 

Sorrell Lyall,  Nathan Burch,  Alex White, Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Billy Stockwell
at The Wildlife Trusts Every Child Wild Podcast on how to get young people into nature

Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Additional comments
There are situations where even if there isn’t
actual sexism, there is an inequality between men and women in birding and nature
conservation.
Are the number of women who come into our field
impacted by the fact that it appears to be dominated by men?
Would there be more women taking up the hobby, if
women were more visible?

Birdwatch Magazine Birders’ Choice Awards 2015
Again I personally have a good relationship with the magazine and so my comments are not meant to be taken personally by them or anyone who won.


Birdwatch Magazine announced their awards in October 2015 and anyone could vote online.
Four categories were for people:

Conservation hero of the year – Choice of 5/5 men
Local hero – to be nominated by voters
Blog of the year – Choice of 4 men/2 women
Best Book – Choice of 4 men/2 women

Results were announced on 27/12/15, with all the winners being male, who I am not at all disputing their winning.

Conservation Hero – Chris Packham, winning outright
Local hero – Nominated by readers, the
magazine highlighted 11 men/2 women, with the winner being a man
Blog of the year – Mark Avery, winning outright with a woman second (me!)
Book – Martin Garner, which was particularly lovely as he died not long afterwards

Why are those at the top dominated by men? Is it because there aren’t enough women, so they don’t get to the top or is it because men are promoted more than women? Particularly our female nature presenters? Where are they? Where are my role models? Where are my mentors?

Our nature media has to be more inclusive and balanced, publishing writing from men and women and be ethnically diverse where possible. Following my approach to the 4 big NGO’s on the issue of ethnic diversity, the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have been using images of ethnic minority children and young people. This is something the nature magazines need to focus on as well.

I hope the next time articles like this are written, women are fairly recognised and represented.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Somerset
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about what I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More