"If you’re not in a bikini on a beach, no one wants to watch you"
January 1, 2018 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Why are there so few women and POC hosting travel TV shows (and working in travel media in general)? Women account for nearly 2/3rds of travelers today and are spending more money on travel than men, yet somehow travel TV remains a vast sea of (white) men. What gives? Travel TV host Samantha Brown has some ideas.

As you may have noticed, travel TV and travel media in general are also ridiculously white. Oneika The Traveler has some thoughts.

PopSugar suggests 10 female travel bloggers of color we should all be following.

Carrie Speaking discusses how travel writing is genderized over at Matador. "Yet tortured inner journeys shouldn’t be the sole province of women, nor sleek adventure-telling the sole province of men. Both genders should be expected to express in their writing these two necessary sides of travel."

Bani Amor discusses starting a travel writers of color book club. "Like most other industries, travel writing is dominated by white people. But unlike most other genres, writing travel has a specific history embedded in colonialism, the vestiges of which it hasn't really attempted to shed."

In 2015, the New Republic's Gwyneth Kelly suggested that travel writing doesn't, in fact, need any more voices like Paul Theroux's. "Theroux might object to travelogues that explore only the traveler, but it’s time he learned something from them."
posted by faineg (14 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed Carrie Speaking's article and its point of view. However, near the end she writes of her reaction to a particular man's travel piece by saying she "cringed her teeth." This stopped me in my tracks. Do you think she meant "gnashed" or "clenched"? Whatever, "cringed" made me cringe.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:49 PM on January 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Here's one more great piece from Bani Amor (as I continue to descend down this well of interesting writing on sexism and racism in travel media): The Fragility of the Western Traveler: Time to (Un)Pack the Colonial Baggage.
posted by faineg at 6:58 PM on January 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

this is a big reason why i tend to look for youtubers instead, but my interest is strictly with foodies.
posted by cendawanita at 7:27 PM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is from a quite well-to-do perspective, but if anyone's looking for recs, this is a Malaysia-based site for women travellers in Asia, Zafigo.
posted by cendawanita at 7:52 PM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

i miss justine shapiro on globetrekker.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:53 PM on January 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

What a well-put-together post - thanks. Looking forward to digging in to the links.
posted by Miko at 8:54 PM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

One of my best friends was a TV travel host of some renown circa 2003. I might send her the link and see what she thinks!

The other day I was going through YouTube and saw this TED Talk from some guy who was all "here's how you can travel for almost free!". When I saw that Tip #1 was "hitch-hike" I was like "yeaaaaaahhhhhh this only works if you're a dude".

(I think a later tip was something like "work while travelling" and I'm thinking "not all of us can get away with that without getting into visa trouble" - I have friends who perform who can't even do festivals that pay a small fee because then Border Control is all "you need this overly complicated work visa".)
posted by divabat at 9:22 PM on January 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

On AXE channel and AWE channel, the majority of the travel shows have female hosts (mostly white of course), but they are aimed at the top end of the market and heavily feature spa/bikini/private island treatment, but are not that different from Samantha Brown's or even Rick Steve's work.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:26 AM on January 2, 2018

Traditional TV is less and less representative of the culture and has less and less influence over it. It has lost its position as the dominant media platform in terms of ad spend. It is an elevator going down and I wouldn't consider it a big achievement to get your travel show on TV vs. YouTube. We are enjoying a (possibly brief) moment in history when the means of cultural production and distribution at massive scale is in the hands of the people and the gatekeepers are just pretending to matter.
posted by mumblelard at 7:55 AM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

We are enjoying a (possibly brief) moment in history when the means of cultural production and distribution at massive scale is in the hands of the people and the gatekeepers are just pretending to matter.

On the one hand, this is great! On the other hand, that's how you get PewDiePies.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:45 AM on January 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am glad that Brown has new show coming! I liked 36 hours with Kristen Kish (and a soccer player) and Jill Cordes' food focused shows. The travel media industry needs the fresh voices of women who are eager to show and teach instead of show off and preach. Not everyone wants to spend 90 percent of their vacation in a bar.
posted by soelo at 10:49 AM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really wish there were some decent travel TV shows, similar to what Globetrekker used to be. Any recommendations?
posted by mkuhnell at 9:04 AM on January 3, 2018

If you're looking for another travel show with a woman of color, may I recommend Mysterious Islands? The host, Kellee Edwards is cool and adventurous, but also very respectful of the people she encounters.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 10:43 AM on January 3, 2018

This is partially because traveling is different for PoC and women vs white folks or men. It’s so easy for my (wonderful well-meanings) white friends to say “oh, Berlin and Paris and Mexico were wonderful”; traveling as a brown woman or a black man or an Asian-American man[1] to those areas is also great, but involves navigating a whole set of racial/cultural dynamics that most white folks seem unaware of or unwilling to discuss.

[1] Speaking as a Korean-American man, when I travel globally I’m usually assumed to be Chinese, (and treated as such) and depending on the situation I’ve presented myself as Korean, or American, but rarely Korean-American.

So: my travel thoughts involve: wandering around in India, say, while everyone assumes I’m Chinese or Japanese, sometimes introducing myself as Korean, identifying as Korean-American, speaking English.

Involved: the cultural relationships between India and China and the assumptions about people from China by locals. The cultural relationships between India and Korea and those assumptions. The use of English and its meaning. My own Korean-American/NYC/-based understanding of the world. All happily intermingled together.

To this date I’ve never read any sort of travelogue that considers these aspects. Anyone know of any?
posted by suedehead at 10:44 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

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