Do Something: An Open Letter to Outdoor Brands

Via ferrata in Telluride, CO by Marisa Jarae, the diversity dilemma in outdoor media

Photo by Marisa Jarae.

Original piece: “Why Don’t They Look Like Me? The Diversity Dilemma in Outdoor Media”

Dear Outdoor Brands,

Are you offended? Are you angry? Do you think you were unfairly called out or linked to? I’m glad I struck a note. You should do something about it, if you think I’m in the wrong. But by do something about it, I don’t mean aggressively emailing me to take my links down because it’s driving negative traffic to your site.

Instead of telling me that you’re a diverse, minority-owned company, and we’re fighting the same fight, and that I’m wrong, you should prove me wrong. I posted an opinion piece. In my opinion, what you’re presenting doesn’t seem that diverse. Is it my place to tell people whether or not something is diverse? Of course not, I am not the diversity police. I linked to you because I wanted people to be able to form their own opinion. So prove me wrong. Prove the traffic wrong. Give those link clickers a reason to say “Hey Company, what is wrong with this blogger? She’s clearly wrong.” Give me a reason to say I’m wrong.

Instead of sending me aggressive emails and commenting on my Facebook posts, you should do something. And by do something, I don’t mean more emails or comments. Look at where you are in this space. Look at the number of followers, customers or users that you have. Look at the people beating down your door to work with you. Look at all the people you know. That’s how many people you can reach. You’re in a position to actually drive change. You have the power to create solutions. You can write a new narrative, one that truly includes everyone. You know tons of photographers. You have a diverse array of users and customers and those championing your cause. Use them and their network. (Bonus: those inclusion points make them more likely to champion you forever.)

Instead of stomping your feet and trying to shut me down, how about working together? In my piece, I offer several solutions, like trying to diversify your ambassadors, explorers, and storytellers, or making the rules and putting a conscious effort to recognize that people come in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes in the imagery that you put out. I even told you that I’m happy to work together, discuss more, or collaborate on driving some local impact. You dismissed me and basically told me, “That’s nice, just take our link down.” If you don’t want to work with me, that’s ok. I can, at the very least, point you in the direction of other people who are far more eloquent and poised than I.

Instead of judging my character and telling me about your disappointment, take a moment and think about your actions and how they reflect upon you and your business. You’re a company. You’re in it for the long haul. You want to stand the test of time. What are you doing focusing your efforts on a small-time blogger? I don’t do this full time. I’m not going to be around forever. My blog is a hobby. I don’t monetize. I’m not trying to go global. If I, or my words, disappeared, nobody would ever know. You have the power to create something long lasting for generations to come. But right now, you’re clearly more focused on removing the negative traffic that’s coming to your site, than affecting change. If we’re supposedly fighting the same fight that you espouse to be supporting, rather than take offense, take it as constructive criticism. If not that, use it as fire to rally around your cause and the message you are trying to convey.

Instead of taking offense, take my words as a call to action, a challenge. Rise up to it. How can you do better? How can the industry do better? Raise the bar. Be the example that others strive to be.

Backpacking Granite Lake in Emigrant Wilderness by Blair Lockhart
Photo by Blair Lockhart.