The Vagenda

TripAdvisor Decided That Sexism is an “Irrelevant” Travel Complaint. I Call Bullshit


All too often, I find amongst my female friends that the idea of travelling alone without a trusty male companion is deemed a total no-go, lest your alluring three-day-no-shower look and sunburn garners threaten unwanted attention.

Well, fuck me (consensually). I’m not even that into travelling and I find that annoying. The mere idea that it’s actually a serious, risky choice to decide to travel alone because a collective of sexist arseholes thinks women are irresistible objects for their pleasure really gets me (call me crazy.) And I don’t blame those women who choose not to travel alone because of it. A persistent sense of entitlement, lack of respect for female autonomy and routine victim-blaming means that the majority of – if not all – countries make perusing their fair isles just do much of a bloody hassle. It’s sad but true that male friends then end up standing in as a form of bodyguard.

I have recently been travelling in Denmark, with a female friend. Denmark. You know, the one with a female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, along with an ass-kicking queen who has about three degrees and speaks five languages fluently. According to some random website that corroborates my argument, Denmark’s first feminist movement started in the 1870s. THAT IS SO LONG AGO. Considering Denmark has a culture of powerful, impressive women in high positions, my friend and I were not especially worried about encountering high levels of sexism, hoping that maybe this understanding and respect for women would manifest itself amongst day-to-day Danish people with not so much as a wolf-whistle to destroy our holiday in what was clearly a veritable misogyny-free utopia.

Needless to say, we were wrong. On a free walking tour that we took to legitimise more pastry eating, our tour guide, who initially seemed pretty nice, became increasingly – and incredibly – sexist. He congratulated Berlusconi for objectifiying Thorning-Schmidt, because lol she’s fit. The look on our faces when he impersonated the gesture of looking her up and down and nodding in approval of her fine, legislature-passing arse: disgust, teamed with the creeping social anxiety that we were going to have to do something, along with the sheer despair that we still had two hours left to go. As a strange aside, he also joked about how the birth of twins by the Danish Prime Minister was a sign of impressive masculine jizz virility on the part of her husband. My friend and I decided to not tip, and to complain on TripAdvisor (#theenglishway), where we hoped it would make the most difference.

TripAdvisor have decided to remove my review, twice. On the first instance, unsure of what could possibly be so controversial about ‘our tour guide was sexist’, I perused their generic email for reasons why it was taken down. They stated that my review was not ‘relevant for other travellers’, and that ‘users should refrain from including personal political, ethical or religious opinions, discussion or commentary in reviews.’ After emailing them, they said that it had ‘inappropriate language’ (…I had used the word sperm (!!!!!!!!!!!!)), so I took it out. Then they removed it again.

How long will it take for people to realise that being anti-sexism is not a radical position, because I’m getting pretty fucking tired waiting here? A website like TripAdvisor should be hypersensitive to the benefits of creating a travelling community that makes it safe for women to travel alone. Surely the reason it exists at all is to facilitate travel for, y’know, travellers. On top of this, my review was flagged as a ‘helpful review’ by two readers. It seemed to matter to them.

I’m lucky that I took this trip with a fellow confident feminist friend, because had I been alone, I think the whole charade would have been a lot more distressing. And that’s why sexism is relevant to travellers, no matter what TripAdvisor may think. Sometimes, something as apparently innocuous as a creepy tour guide can knock your confidence to explore the world. And it’s a travesty when we let this happen to women and girls, sucking up their sense of adventure and disposing of it at the airport with all liquids over 100ml, and ending up confining them to places they find guaranteeably safe instead, like, y’know, the home. Let’s not do that to each other. Let’s fight for our sense of adventure.

P.S. Fuck you TripAdvisor, see how you like having an article written about how shit you are. Probably should have replied to my tweet. Gutted.


12 thoughts on “TripAdvisor Decided That Sexism is an “Irrelevant” Travel Complaint. I Call Bullshit

  1. Excellent article.
    Exposing the truth behind the foggy veil of normalcy in our everyday life is what the Vagenda does best.
    It’s very awkward to look around ourselves and our supposed modern society in terms of equality, the environment, animal rights, our solution to problems through armed conflicts and so forth and easily see how we will be perceived by people from the future in pretty much the same way we might perceive people who lived during the Dark Ages of medieval Europe.
    And fuck TripAdvisor….

  2. I’m sorry you had a bad experience in Copenhagen, I love my hometown and generally find that street harrassment and public displayes of misogyny is much less prevalent here that in most other places that I’ve been.
    Who ever your guide was he’s an idiot in more ways than mysogyny, if he actually made a point of the Primeminister (Thorning-SchmidT btw) having twins, she doesn’t, she has two daugthers born 3 years apart.
    Come back and see us and this history teacher promises to give you a mysogynist-free, historically interesting and factually correct tour, and gin with feminists, that too, we owe you that much :-)

  3. It’s really poor service to make your guests / clients feel uncomfortable in the way that this guy obviously did you. It’s a shame that TripAdvisor doesn’t think that poor service falls under its remit… That would be my next argument against them, anyway.

  4. Good article. Sexism is a huge problem for travelling. I’ve been all over Europe, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Canada, South Africa etc on my own or with female friends..and I know it may be a stereotype to most but I found Italy the absolute worst place for women to travel. In my early 20s, I was with three female friends and the abuse and harassment we endured from local men was disgusting. We had erections pressed into our backs on buses and any crowds. One of us even had a man expose himself on the bus. The hissing, whistling and tongue licking blatantly at us were awful – worst in Florence (Fabulous city to look at). Was back in Italy in Sicily and Sardinia when I was 30 in 2012 and ,again, the harassment was disgusting. Not flattering – ever. Tripadvisor is wrong here – completely wrong. I have written reviews for them and I cannot believe they think this issue is not important enough to mention. Let them experience this ‘macho’ behavior and they will change their minds.

  5. I also tweeted this excellent article to tripadvisor. I for one would be grateful to read a review that highlighted any sort of prejudice from a tour, particularly sexist and it would absolutely affect my decision to take the tour. It seems that our even consumer power is under attack from tripadvisor here – actually a lot of people would have found your review useful. Clearly tripadvisor wants to keep sexists in business! Completely unaccaptable!

  6. Interesting article. I travelled alone as a woman for a year through Australia, New Zealand and all over Southeast Asia and I never had a single sexist encounter. Seriously, not even one that I can recall, and I never found myself in a situation where I felt unsafe. Indeed the closest I probably came to sexism were the young European males also on the travel circuit, but the vast majority of them were absolutely lovely, harmless young men just out to make friends and see the world.

    Before travelling I didn’t know anything about feminism and had perhaps a slightly naive view of the world. It’s interesting that now as a feminist with a far better understanding of the risks that women face I know I would find it far more difficult to decide to under-take a similar trip again, despite my positive experience first time around, and can completely understand why women would find the prospect of travelling alone scary. As the article makes clear, the problem with this fear is that it can get in the way of us living full, interesting lives and stop us from having positive experiences that are easily available to our male peers…. which let’s face it, is the end goal of all sexism really.

  7. SO TRUE

    Also how about the way guidebooks totally ignore the issue of sexual harassment abroad! Likely to get nothing but a tiny comment at the end telling women to “dress modestly” lest… what? Oh yeah, you can’t leave the hotel on your own because you’re too scared of the harassment.

  8. So relevant. Came back from Turkey this morning and have vowed not to go back in the near future. Having travelled around Europe by myself on several occasions I didn’t see the issue with going to Turkey as several of my female friends had been there (albeit in groups) and hadn’t faced any hassle. Although there were other issues with my trip which made it a nightmare, the sheer amount of sexism I experienced was horrifying. I covered myself up out of respect to their culture despite it being a tourist area where several other travellers wore next to nothing, and I faced daily harassment from the bar staff and street sellers and got grabbed on more than one occasion. My tour guide said that travelling further east in Turkey would be worse for women as the Islamic culture was a lot more integrated there. Although I would not dissuade anyone from going if they want to, I would just warn them to be extremely wary.

  9. Is it possible to post your Tripadvisor review here? I’d certainly read it and would love to know the name of the company AND the name of your guide. I’m planning a trip there soon and would love to know who not to hire for a city tour.