When Feminism Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Georgie Abel
143

As a female climber, I see far less overt sexism and sexist behavior within the climbing “world” than in the general public in the USA. When any rare sexist behavior emerges, it is also far less accepted among climbers than in the general public, or among other sports, where high-profile athletes maintain sponsorships and contracts after repeated domestic abuse. There will always be bad behaviors in any human activity, but if broad-based gender equality is your goal (and what a great goal!) why spend your limited time and energy obsessing about it mostly within western-world climbing, where it is far less prevalent, accepted, and damaging to vulnerable women, than (for example) within the arenas of politics, education, business, society in nearly every other country, or mainstream American sports?

In fact, I think that the desire of outdoor companies and groups to promote female participation in outdoor sports (and in buying outdoor gear) actually leads to an OVER representation of women in sponsorships, media, and photography, strictly relative their accomplishments. For example, what percentage of (new AAJ routes, 5.15 sport climbs, 5.14 trad climbs, V14+ boulders, etc) are done by women? 1% or less? Lower those benchmarks a bit, and you still very rarely see women near the top of any any discipline of climbing, based on subjective measurements. Yet what percentage of sponsored climbers, photo subjects, and article subjects, are women? Their representation and support from the climbing industry is far more than would exist in a pure meritocracy based on achievement.

I’m not going to label this extra representation and support as either a good or a bad thing in moral terms, but it inarguably exists, and certainly complicates your narrative that the climbing world is sexist.

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