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Front. Sustain. Tour., 15 June 2023
Sec. Social Impact of Tourism
Volume 2 - 2023 |

Protest tourism as gendered experience: constraints, feelings and gender roles of female activists

  • College of Social Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan

This paper investigates protest tourism as a gendered experience. Recently, scholars have shown increasing interest in protest tourism, but they have mainly focused on the participants' motivation, emotions, and identity. Understanding gender differences in protest tourism is important in the investigation of both protests and tourism. This study discusses Japanese female protest tourism, focusing on three aspects: constraints, feelings and gender roles. Previous studies on tourism and social movements provide a research framework for these three aspects. Based on writings described by female activists and on interviews with participants, the paper reports three key findings. First, female participants face constraints when taking part in protest tourism due to domestic responsibilities and resource limitations. Second, women's protest tourists have fears about the risks of harassment and violence and are uncomfortable being in a marginalized position. Third, they are forced into a feminine role in demonstration speeches and accommodations; however, if they ignore social norms, they can liberate themselves from that role. These findings demonstrate the discouragement factors associated with protest tourism, namely its danger, one-time nature and uniqueness, by focusing on the marginalized actor. The discussion of the concept of protest tourism therefore includes a wider range of behaviors.

1. Introduction

There are a number of social movements that bring together people from different regions in specific places, such as the #Occupy movement and protests against international conferences (e.g., the G8, WTO and COP) (Feigenbaum et al., 2013; Brown and Osman, 2017). These movements present a kind of extraordinary opportunity. Protests involving tourism have significant accommodation and travel costs and require resources such as money and language skills (Juris, 2008; Doerr, 2009; Maeckelbergh, 2009). While this can exclude people with physical disabilities and linguistic minorities, these movements provide an opportunity for protesters to connect in solidarity at a worldwide level.

Solidarity with others whom we do not usually meet and the exclusion of minorities are of course present in the everyday social movements in the neighborhoods in which we usually live (Venegas, 2022). But these social movements at the level of everyday life are so small that they are often invisible. By studying collective action through the lens of tourism, we can better examine the culture among activists in social movements.

Previous tourism and social movement research has shown an interest in protest tourism (Pozzi and Martinotti, 2004; Siméant, 2013; De Jong, 2017; Tominaga, 2021; Shim et al., 2022). Protest tourism is conceptualized as visiting a destination with the major aim of viewing or participating in protests (Shim et al., 2022, p. 243). Many protesters join demonstrations, marches, and festive events, and sometimes stay together in collective spaces, such as camps, for a limited period of time.

Some empirical research about protest tourism has been conducted, providing important insights, such as the push and pull motivation of protest tourists (Shim et al., 2022), gaining collective identity (Tominaga, 2021), and achieving emotional solidarity with others (De Jong, 2017). This paper focuses on gender differences in protest tourism, as gender differences are an important topic in both tourism and social movement studies.

From a feminist perspective, a number of researchers have discussed the constraints that prevent women from participating in travel, while at the same time highlighting the liberating and empowering effects that travel has for women (McDermott, 2004; Aitchison, 2005; Jordan and Gibson, 2005; Whittington et al., 2011; Doran, 2016; Seow and Brown, 2018). In social movement studies, examinations of collective actions from gender perspectives have revealed the discrimination inherent in protests that aim for social justice (Throne, 1975; Cable, 1992; Blackstone, 2004; Lyytikäinen, 2013; Craddock, 2021). Tourism studies and social movement studies with a focus on women are considered to have theoretical links, particularly in terms of participation constraints and gender roles.

This paper focuses on the writings of and interviews with female activists who have participated in protest tourism in Japan, discussing their experiences based on three factors: participation constraints, feelings, and gender roles that they are forced into support social movements. This analytical framework is drawn from previous research on female tourism and social movements. This research contributes to the research on protest tourism based on the experiences of female protest tourists.

2. Previous research and research perspectives

To understand women's experiences in protest tourism, previous research in two areas is reviewed. The first is the study of female tourism, and the second is the study of the gendered division of labor in social movements.

2.1. Female tourism: fear of vulnerability, constraints and division of labor

Many studies have discussed women's experiences of tourism. We can categorize women's experiences described from three factors: fear of their own vulnerability, constraint to take part in tourism, and the role they play in the journey.

First, many previous studies have discussed the vulnerability and anxiety of female tourists. Female tourists are often exposed to sexual attention, violence and harassment from men and some studies have highlighted female tourists' feelings of vulnerability and strategies for avoiding unwanted threats. The threats prevent female tourists from freely enjoying their holidays (Gibson, 2001; Coble et al., 2003; Jordan and Gibson, 2005; Jordan and Aitchison, 2008; Wilson and Little, 2008; Seow and Brown, 2018; Brown et al., 2020). Women internalize such attention, according to which they are sexual objects, and they are forced to take action to protect themselves during their travels. Women must take care in what they wear, how they behave, when they go, where they stay and visit, and what rides they accept.

Risks and threats restrict female tourism in various ways. For instance, they avoid unsafe destinations where people consider it inappropriate for women to travel alone. Dangerous experiences are personal, yet such experiences are communicated through the media, so women decide in advance to avoid dangerous places and times (Wilson and Little, 2008; Seow and Brown, 2018) and their fears and vulnerability exist regardless of the distance female tourists travel (Coble et al., 2003; Brown et al., 2020).

Second, many previous researchers have shown interest in the constraints on women's participation in travel (Gibson, 2001; McDermott, 2004; Wilson and Little, 2005; Doran, 2016; Brown et al., 2017; Seow and Brown, 2018; Eger, 2021). Emotional constraints include fear of vulnerability, as well as factors such as lack of confidence in one's ability to travel, and self-perception as a “weak woman” (McDermott, 2004; Wilson and Little, 2005; Seow and Brown, 2018; Wilson and Little 2005). Some studies also argue that women's participation in travel is discouraged by the fact that the travel industry caters primarily to men and by gender norms that women should stay at home (Small, 2005; Wilson and Little, 2005; Cockburn-Wootten et al., 2006; Berdychevsky et al., 2013; Doran, 2016). Women are seen as representing socio-culturally constructed gender roles, such as taking care of the family. There are many discourses of motherhood, sharing the assumption that mothers should be present at all times so that they are emotionally and physically available to all family members (Small, 2005). At times, females also perceive themselves as having this caring role, so they think of themselves as people who are not fit to travel and feel guilty about going out. Moreover, there are also resource constraints on women's participation in travel. These include a lack of money and time to participate in trips to adventure tourism destinations, as well as women's lower earning power compared to men (Doran, 2016).

Third, women are often assigned specific roles in the journey based on the gendered division of labor (McDermott, 2004; Jordan and Gibson, 2005; Junek and Binney, 2006; Whittington et al., 2011). When traveling with other people, female tourists are often assigned a caring role. Jordan and Gibson (2005) argued that women usually travel with their families, as they tend to have less free time than men. The reality is that working women on holiday have to look after their children and do optional work, even if their workload is reduced (Junek and Binney, 2006).

In addition to the role of the mother, the female tourist often plays a role that is carried by the woman on her journey. In terms of a canoe adventure, the women were expected to take more responsibility for activities that belonged to the female gender, such as cooking, bowing and carrying paddles and life jackets, while the men were expected to be responsible for activities that required physical and technical strength (McDermott, 2004). Moreover, young female travelers on a girls-only adventure programme felt stressed at being teased about their inferiority in terms of physical ability on trips where boys were also present (Whittington et al., 2011). By contrast, the opportunity to travel may well disrupt the division of labor between men and women, and outdoor adventures may, for example, be an opportunity for men to cook and for women to collect wood and build a stove (Doran, 2016).

In this section, the author has discussed women tourists' and activists' feelings of vulnerability and anxiety, the constraints on their participation, and the roles that are imposed on them. In the next section, the author discusses women's experiences in social movement research.

2.2. Gendered experience as a social movement

Previous research has shown that gender differences affect women activists in terms of gendered roles in movement organizations, barriers to participation in collective action, and the emotions that they experience when participating in social movements.

First, regarding gender roles in social movements, male members tend to become formal leaders in social movement organizations, while female members often play practical roles through affective function and social capital (Malinick et al., 2013). Some researchers have argued that female activists engage in “shitwork,” such as typing, mailing, and serving coffee, whereas male activists engage in so-called frontstage (Goffman, 1959) work, for example, confronting police in the streets, registering voters, and speaking out in public (Throne, 1975; Cable, 1992; McAdam, 1992; Blackstone, 2004; Bobel, 2007; Lyytikäinen, 2013; Craddock, 2021). In other words, activists also internalize and perpetuate the dichotomy of a social movement, with men in positions of radical, direct action and women involved in moderate, less direct action, such as volunteering online participation and the lifestyle movement based on everyday routine (Blackstone, 2004; Bobel, 2007, p. 156–57; Craddock, 2021).

Gender stereotypes and the skills that women possess are seen as factors that lead to women being forced into certain roles (Creasap, 2021; Kouki and Chatzidakis, 2021). The boundaries between men's and women's work are sometimes challenged by social movements and participation in movements that have enabled women to break free from the norms to which they were previously constrained (Espinar-Ruiz, 2022). However, previous research also made clear that some activists still relate care work in social centers to females because of the gender stereotype that women are more suited to provide care (Kouki and Chatzidakis, 2021) and women tend to have a heavy responsibility for household work while men consume the architectural skills because that is the most efficient way to utilize the skills they are usually developing.

Second, in terms of barriers to females joining and participating in specific types of action, previous studies have considered the dangers of certain types of action and women's responsibility for care work as barriers to participation (Craddock, 2019; Choi, 2022; Jaureguiberry-Mondion, 2022).

Political action involves going out into the streets, participating in demonstrations, and engaging in conflicts with the police while female participants are discouraged to take part in such repertoires. Previous research argued that many activists thought that frontline demonstration was “dangerous” for women: it is a participant barrier for women to take part in a specific type of action (Craddock, 2021; Choi, 2022). Although it is not a radical action, women are less likely to attend late-night meetings and study groups. This is because women have more caring responsibilities than men. The issues surrounding the disparity in participation between men and women lead to women feeling guilty about not doing enough for social movements (Craddock, 2019, 2021).

Third, previous research argued that the emotions that female activists experience when participating in social movements (Bobel, 2007; Brown and Pickerill, 2009; Kennelly, 2014; Craddock, 2019, 2021) are heavily related to their commitment level and the types of repertoire created in activists' communities. The number of activists perceived as doing a sufficient level of the right type of activism is low, and many studies have pointed out that women activists experience more anxiety and guilt, feeling that they are not fulfilling the gold standard of a true activist (Brown and Pickerill, 2009; Lyytikäinen, 2013; Kennelly, 2014; Taft, 2017; Craddock, 2021). Male activists typically occupy central positions in movement organizations and create the right type of movement, while female activists internalize the values of males who occupy central positions in social movements (Portwood-Stacer, 2013, 95; Craddock, 2019, 2021). Female activists feel anxiety, pressure, and guilt about the amount and type of activism that they carry out (Brown and Pickerill, 2009; Kennelly, 2014, p. 244–45; Craddock, 2019, p. 148, 2021, p. 154). This is because women are burdened with the awareness that they are not doing enough of the right type of activism.

Based on the findings of previous research, this article has categorized the experiences of female protesters in terms of gender role division, participation barriers, and the negative emotions that female activists have. These three factors are considered to overlap with previous research on women's tourism. Therefore, this research has focused on the experiences of female tourists from three points of view: participant constraints, gender roles, and feelings such as fear, anxiety, pressure, and guilt.

3. Research background, case, and methodology

This section describes the context of women's participation in social movements in Japan and explains the methodology and case studies of this study.

3.1. Social movements and women in Japan

This study examines protest tourism by female activists in Japan for two reasons. First, because, there is a large gender gap (World Economic Forum, 2022), especially among people involved in political issues in Japan, it can be assumed that there are clear differences in the experiences of men and women in social movements (Kobayashi, 2020). Second, because the practice of protest tourism became well-established among female activists after the 1970s, and as the resources that women can offer to social movements are relatively abundant, we can expect to see many women participating in protest tourism (Saito, 1994).

Japan is considered an outlier among the old liberal democracies in that women's political representation in the House of Representatives has stagnated at around 10% for almost two decades (Shin, 2020, p. 78). Japan's political environment remains broadly male-dominated, with numerous factors complicating women's access to and success in the political environment (Miura, 2017). The cultural background of the low number of women politicians is the problem of violence faced by women in politics in Japan. From sexist abuse to verbal harassment, unwanted physical contact and hate speech on the internet, the harassment suffered by women in politics is diverse, yet many do not see it as a problem (Dalton, 2017; Fuchs and Schafer, 2020).

Situations in which women in politics are attacked are not limited to female politicians. Female journalists and activists often face similar attacks, including hate speech and verbal harassment from sexists. Furthermore, these acts of harassment are sometimes made by male journalists and male activists of similar social and political status (Ishikawa, 2019; Tonami and Yoshida, 2022). Given this fact, the environment for women activists in Japan is unfavorable. Moreover, considering the large gender gap, we can easily find the gendered division of labor and restrictions on women's participation in protest tourism.

Second, the women's movement in Japan has a long history of protest tourism, and activists have often organized trips. This was triggered by feminist tourism to the UN-sponsored World Conference on Women held in Mexico City in 1975 (Saito, 1994). Japan was in the midst of economic growth at the time, and many activists were economically affluent housewives and well-educated working women, which may have made activities such as protest tourism possible (LeBlanc, 1999).

Although the economic situation of individuals and countries has now worsened, the experience and knowledge of these women's movements have been passed on to the younger generation. From then until now, women activists have been widely involved in development and environmental issues in developing countries, as well as in women's liberation movements. We can find articles discussing how Japanese female activists have joined in protest tourism for both domestic and international issues (Tominaga, 2017; Sakuma, 2021). Therefore, the authors thought that it would not be difficult to find female protest tourists today.

3.2. Case and methodology

This paper uses 3 methods: interviews with female protest tourists, participant observation of some meetings held by activists, and analysis of zines and magazines.

First, data were collected from interviews with 9 female protest tourists (see Table 1). Individual protest tourists were interviewed using semi-structured interviews that lasted for approximately 90 min to gain an in-depth understanding of the participants' perspectives. In addition, two other people were interviewed to understand the situation of women's protest tourism in Japan. These were not women or protest tourists, but they were involved in some form of hosting or resource support. Soon after they were completed, the interviews were transcribed with Microsoft Word. During the transcription, notes were taken. The interviews were coded using qualitative research and thematic analysis software. The informants were as follows:


Table 1. The biographical situation of the participants interviewed.

Second, the author herself participated in protest events held in collective housing and social centers in Japan. The author did not observe these events from a consistent point of view, sometimes attending as a symposium speaker, sometimes as a supporter of social movement organizations, and sometimes as a participant. Therefore, the data in this study are used as a supplement to the analysis of the articles and the data from the interviews rather than as purely observational findings.

Third, Zines and magazines are utilized in this study because we believe that female activists express their true feelings and trace their memories precisely in such media. In particular, writings by female activists who have been continuously involved as activist tourists were chosen. In Japan, there are numerous zines and books written by female activists. This study included books and zines describing tourism to international activist conferences, major protest events, and other opportunities to engage in collective action written by authors who define themselves as female. The analysis focused on aspects related to the research questions: the women's motivation for protest tourism, which role they played, their commitment, and the effect of their participation in protest tourism. In addition, we examined the detailed process of protest tourism, including choosing or refusing destinations, means of transportation, and eating and drinking choices. A total of 44 reports and essays written on the women's protest journey were included in this research. Twenty-nine of these were in zines, while the others were in commercially distributed books and magazines.

4. Experiences of female protest tourism: constraints, roles and feelings

Based on the discussion of previous research on both social movements and female tourism, this article finds three overlapping factors relating to the experiences of female participants in tourism and social movements: constraints, gender roles, and feelings such as fear, anxiety, pressure, and guilt. In this section, we analyse the data from interviews, participant observation and women's writings (e.g. zines and magazine articles).

4.1. Constraints: care responsibilities and resource limitations

As previous research on female tourists has shown (Wilson and Little, 2008; Seow and Brown, 2018), female activist tourists seem to avoid certain places and times to take part in protest tourism as well. Participant AS is a female activist who joined an overnight workshop organized by youth protesters. These are workshops in which young activists learn the methodology and theory of social movements held every year. However, there is often a reluctance to invite other women activists, as described in the following:

It seems that women are reluctant to stay overnight, to participate in social movements and to be involved in workshops. There are only five women out of 20 participants in the workshop I attend. I do not think that's a lot. When I ask the opinion of women who don't want to participate, they are reluctant to stay overnight. Most overnight workshops usually have a lecture and discussion and then everyone goes out for drinks and socializing, but a lot of women ask if they can just listen to the lecture. (Interview with AS, 30 April 2021)

In this research, the women activists said they avoided overnight workshops because it was exhausting to listen to and discuss things with male activists during long drinking sessions (e.g., Interview with AR, 7 December 2018). Long meetings and deliberations are characteristic of social movements that respect participatory democracy because of their strong belief in democratic procedures, which do not favor a system of majority or top-down decision-making (Polletta, 2002). However, the fact that activists place importance on endless meetings and discussions without fixed end times means that participants must return to their homes late in the evening and it prevents females to take part in social movements (Craddock, 2021).

One of the reasons for women's avoidance of late-night meetings and overnight participation in social activities may be their responsibilities for family care. Activist BA, one of the organizers of a large union movement organization who sometimes became a host for protest tourism in the labor movement, spoke as follows:

For example, in the case of our organization, we have branches all over Japan and 70% of the members are women. However, when we have a national collective meeting once a year in the capital area, it is particularly difficult for women from rural areas to come even if the organization pays for transportation costs. The reason for this is because of care norms. When we try to invite them, we often get responses like “I have to ask my husband.” So, I think our annual conference is more male-dominated than the actual gender ratio of members. (Interview with BA, 26 December 2022)

Activist BA's statement suggests that it is difficult even for activists who show an interest in gender equity to challenge the role of women in domestic care inside their homes. The situation is even more difficult outside Japan. In the following, a veteran activist recalls attending an international conference on women's rights in Mexico:

At that time (the 1970s, when the Mexican Women's Conference was held), it was not easy for women to be away from home for a week because pre-prepared food was not sold. Therefore, some of them had to give up halfway through. Another barrier was language, which made it difficult for them to engage in meaningful discussions. (Saito, 1994, p. 6)

Although this situation happened 50 years ago, contemporary female activists say the situation is not so different today (Activists AV, AW, 17 November 2022). Female activists find it difficult to participate in the long-distance activism they used to do when they had children, and they began to participate on a day-to-day level, such as at the nursery school their children attend or at the workplace where they work (Activist AX, 10 September 2016).

Among the women who did not take part in protest tourism were women with family care responsibilities as well as women living alone. The following is the narrative of a woman who said that she was invited to participate in protest tourism in Japan but declined:

I didn't take part in the protest tourism to an international ministerial conference because I simply didn't have the money. Almost all of my activist friends are freelancers, and we could not afford to fly, even with a domestic flight. I could not even take time off work to do activism. (Interview with BB, 30 September 2014)

Previous studies of female tourism have argued that women are unable to participate due to resource constraints such as time and money (Doran, 2016), and we can find similar problems in protest tourism as well. This is not just a problem for women; however, as long as there is a gender gap in terms of job stability, there remains a barrier to participation that appears to be stronger for women.

4.2. Feelings: fear of vulnerability but refusing to talk openly

In the previous section, the act of lodging overnight in order to be able to stay at protest sites late into the night was identified as a barrier to the participation of women activists. In the articles collected in this study, women activists described being sexually assaulted by men in collective housing and being sexually harassed on buses (Association for Women's Present, 1996, p. 137; Shimpo, 2021). However, there were few articles describing such sexual victimization (of course, it may be that there were few articles because it is difficult for women to reveal their experiences, even anonymously). The follow comment describes sexual harassment during protest tourism:

After the demonstration, several men and women who had missed the last train stayed together. I woke up with a hug from the man next to me and being sexually harassed. I resisted by scratching him, but I was too scared and panicked to speak. Because he was a trusted friend, I was really confused with my anger and pain. Moreover, I was very afraid that our relationship would be destroyed and it was difficult to talk to others. Even afterwards, I was fear that I and our movement would be looked at with curiosity and scandal (The Collective of “Against All Ridiculous Revolutions”, 2020).

There were fewer articles or interviews in which women wrote about sexual attention directed at them by men, as has been noted in previous research on tourism. They did not confess their victimization unless the situation was very serious because of a fear of breaking solidarity and betraying empathy (Norimatsu, 2021). It is therefore not surprising that confessions of sexual victimization and their vulnerability in protest tourism are made decades later. The following is the recollection of a woman who participated in the youth movement 20 years ago.

Within the barricades, the sexual division of labor was enforced, and women were expected to be rice cooks and lovers supporting male activists. When I boarded the overnight bus of activists returning from Tokyo to Osaka, I was unable to protest when I realized that my breasts were being touched. So I simply acted as if I didn't notice and turned my back to the male activist harasser (The Women's Present Association, 1996, p. 137).

A lawyer for a victim who was sexually harassed by another activist during a protest said that the victim could not tell others about this victimization because she understood herself as an activist and did not want to look like a weak person to others (Activist BC, 14 July 2021).

Women who avoided staying in protest tourism accommodation did not state in the interviews that they might be looked at sexually by men or that they might be victims of harassment. However, female protest tourists did express their uncomfortable feelings in other ways:

AT: The collective housing and protest camps are not designed for us to stay there. The spaces are mostly untidy and dirty…. I understand that it is typical of activists to have a taste for disorder and messy space, but I think that is a kind of devotion to masculinity. We [AT and AU] like clean spaces, even if they say we don't look like activists. (Interview with AT and AU, 30 April 2021)

What is remarkable about this narrative is that the women talked about the messiness and clutter of their rooms in relation to a kind of activist-ness. Through their discomfort and vulnerability, women participants were sensitive to who was at the center of protest tourism and the ways in which they were excluded and marginalized.

4.3. Women's role in protest tourism: re-constrained and liberation

Women are sometimes given “feminine” roles in protest tourism. AZ said she was asked to give a speech as a kind of representative of women activists at an anti-war symposium in Hiroshima, the area where the atomic bomb was dropped, even though she was not a resident of the area and was just a bystander who had wandered in.

AZ: I went to an anti-war event, and elder participants made me give a speech there. To be honest, I did not like it because I do not have a coherent idea about peace and nuclear issues, and I thought, why me, maybe because I…

(Author: Because you were a youth? or woman?)

AZ: I think both are true. I guess that organizers in the movement wanted to show that youth and women took part in their movement as well. (Activist AZ, 27 August 2016)

Female participants had to play the caregiver or feminine role not only in demonstrations and symposiums but also in accommodation on protest tourism. Female participants were often assigned the role of cleaners in community housing. While they were not directly forced into the role of a housekeeper by male participants, they had to undertake it reluctantly because they “inadvertently” noticed dirty dishes and untidy rooms in most cases (Interview with AT, 30 April 2021).

Whether as housekeepers or as speakers at demonstrations, it appears that the female participants have not been liberated by protest tourism, and, despite their travels, they have been re-constrained to their everyday roles. However, since protest tourism was an opportunity for some of the women participants, they took on unusual roles and activities and found them liberating.

The female activists interviewed by the author used the term “education” to mean persuading people, such as opposing partners or family members, to come to a consensus regarding their participation in protest tourism. For example, they indicated that people's opposition to participating in protest tourism is based on a gendered division of labor, according to which women should do the care work at home and should not leave their children. Therefore, female activists seek to “educate” people who oppose their decisions.

The author interviewed a woman who successfully “educated” her partner and was able to attend a youth activist conference in South Korea. Initially, she had given up on attending because of her partner's opposition, but when another female activist told her that “educating such conservative partners is one of the processes of social movement,” she was persuaded and attended the conference. For her, changing the values of her partner was far more liberating than the journey itself (Interview with Activist AY, 16 December 2017).

5. Discussion

This study analyzed the gendered experiences of protest tourism through interviews with female activist tourists and writings described by them. Drawing on the findings of previous studies, this study investigated the constraints to participation, the feelings that female protest tourists have, and the roles that female participants are forced into.

Similar to the findings from previous research, female activists faced constraints such as family care responsibilities and limited resources to spend on protest tourism. In the process of tourism, they felt the fear of harassment, abuse, the sexual gaze of men, and uncomfortable dirty and messy spaces: female protest tourists understood their marginality and exclusion from the activist culture that the majority of protesters created. Regarding the roles that female participants were forced into, while they were forced to play feminine roles, such as speaking as women's representatives at demonstrations and cleaning up the accommodation, they also experienced a sense of liberation in actively breaking these norms.

Based on these findings, this study provides a new perspective on protest tourism research. The study of protest tourism has mainly focused on the motivations, socialization and effects of protest tourism (De Jong, 2017; Tominaga, 2021; Shim et al., 2022). By analyzing the experiences of women as a minority, this study helps understand the factors that keep people away from protest tourism. The findings are particularly closely related to those of Shim et al. (2022), who conceptualized the motivations for participating in protest tourism.

Shim et al. categorized tourists' motivation into push factors and pull factors (Shim et al., 2022, p. 251). In line with the findings of Shim et al. (2022), the factors that discourage people from participating in protest tourism can be summarized as follows Table 2:


Table 2. Applying our findings to the framework of motivation and discouragement.

Applying our findings to the framework of push and pull motivation (Shim et al., 2022), it becomes clear how protest tourism can be distinguished from other types of tourism by women and social movements.

Protest tourism is strongly characterized by its one-time nature and uniqueness. This is a pull factor that attracts people, while also being a push factor that encourages participation in the sense that people participate because they want to experience such uniqueness. Conversely, because protest tourism is a temporary event, it can also lead to sexual harassment and violence, as people do not make continuing connections with the people they meet. The research also found that not all people are able to arrange their time to fit in with protest tourism, which is held in a limited time and space.

This one-time nature and uniqueness are closely linked to the authenticity of protest tourism (Shim et al., 2022, p. 246). In protest tourism, tourists construct or reconstruct authenticity for themselves by seeing the actual sites of the movement rather than through social media or mass media coverage. What this study has shown, however, is that the very acts of “authenticity” (MacCannell, 1973, 2013; Hillman, 1999), such as witnessing physical conflict on the street or experiencing demonstrations, are only possible for a certain type of protester who has resources, takes risks, does not care about dirtiness and messy environments, and has fewer domestic responsibilities.

Previous research on social movements has suggested that the value of “participating in risky social movements” and “joining the action in the street” is authentic and was created by white, middle-class, male-dominated movements. This constructed authenticity could marginalize minorities who are unable to participate due to resource constraints or physical risk as “second-class participants” (Portwood-Stacer, 2013; Craddock, 2019, 2021). The emphasis on the dangers, the one-time nature and the uniqueness of protest tourism can lead to an increase in the exclusion inherent in social movements. For this reason, it is necessary to include and analyse moderate activities that are closer to everyday life, such as staying in the shared accommodation of activist friends (Jaureguiberry-Mondion, 2022) or lodging in a camp with other activists (Tominaga, 2017), in the category of protest tourism.

6. Limitations and future research

There are several methodological limitations in this article. First, most of the informants in this research are relatively young women in their 20s and 30s. We can assume that older women have more responsibility for their care and they show different constraints of participation, emotions and gender roles than the younger generation. If older generations were included in the review, it would be clear that there are more nuances in the roles imposed and emotions expressed in the journey.

A second limitation is the focus on Japanese women in this study. particularly in terms of their high vulnerability and care responsibilities on the trip, this research has led to powerful findings about travel constraints, negative feelings of female travelers, and the gendered roles that female participants are forced to play on the trip. While it is true that previous research and official statistics have shown that Asian women are particularly vulnerable and have high gender gaps (Seow and Brown, 2018; World Economic Forum, 2022), this finding should be applied cautiously and directly to protest tourism occurring in other socio-cultural contexts.

A third limitation related directly to the question is which of the factors make the constraints, feelings and gendered roles of the informants specific to protest tourism and which are not. For example, the risk of sexualisation by male participants and the possibility of reinforcing gender roles can arise not only in protest tourism but also in the demonstrations and symposiums that activists organize on a daily basis. In order to accurately identify the differences in the underlying constraints of these everyday movements and protest tourism, it is necessary to compare the two.

Finally, the purpose of this article was to identify the discouraging factor for participation in protest tourism. The concept of protest tourism can help us understand how to make social movements more inclusive. To achieve this, we need to explore the participation of protest tourists from different generations and demographics, as well as social movements that are easier to join and move around in daily life.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The study following research ethics guideline provided by The Japan Sociological Society. The participants provided their consent to giving their information in this study.

Author contributions

KT: reviewing previous research, collecting data, writing paper, and funding.


This study was supported by the Murata Science Foundation, Egashira Hospitality Foundation, Labor Research Center, Toyota Foundation, Railway Research-Culture Promotion Foundation, Obayashi Foundation, Window Research Institute, National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperatives, The Foundation for Dietary Scientific Research, Yamaoka Memorial Foundation, Dai-Ichi Life Foundation, JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 19K13929, 18K18613, 22K18559, and 15K17195.


I am grateful to all of informants for sharing their experience. I also thank R. Endo, S. Sayaka, A. Oshiro, Y. Yang, S. Nabekura, N. Nakaue, R. Suzuki, and R. Okawa for their important contributions. Finally, I would like to thank the editor of this article, N. Sharma, and the reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the paper.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

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Keywords: protest tourism, gender difference, female tourists, social movements, gendered experience

Citation: Tominaga K (2023) Protest tourism as gendered experience: constraints, feelings and gender roles of female activists. Front. Sustain. Tour. 2:1154646. doi: 10.3389/frsut.2023.1154646

Received: 30 January 2023; Accepted: 31 May 2023;
Published: 15 June 2023.

Edited by:

Nitasha Sharma, University of Alabama, United States

Reviewed by:

Benjamin Iaquinto, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
C. Michael Hall, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Wendy Hillman, Central Queensland University, Australia

Copyright © 2023 Tominaga. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Kyoko Tominaga,