Bros of the Internet Tell Women how to Rock Climb

A few days ago, Evening Sends somehow managed to discredit the experiences of thousands of female climbers with a single Facebook post:

This post was in response to a survey put out by Flash Foxy that questioned climbers on how gender affects their experience at the gym. In particular, the survery focused on the correlation between gender and physical/verbal harassment, microaggressions, and overall discomfrot in certain areas of the gym.

Unsurprising to pretty much everyone everywhere, the survey found that sexism exists within climbing gyms. With this survey (and an upsurge of climbers speaking and writing about misogyny) it seems that the majority of our community now accepts that sexism occurs in our sport. And now, the conversation has turned into the form of a question: what can we do about it?

This is a huge step forward, however, as displayed by the post above, we still have a long way to go.

Despite the fact that author of the Facebook post is male and is therefore incapabale of fully understanding the female experience, he offers a solution to battling misogyny in climbing gyms:

  1. we should stop being so sensitive to microaggressions and “compliments”
  2. we should “properly communicate” that we don’t want to be hit on
  3. we should climb stronger because that makes douchebags shut up.

Even if we disregard gender bias and the fact that these conclusions blatantly disregard data collected in a survey, I believe that these “solutions” are faulty, offensive, and incredibly damaging to all of us.

In another alarming display of douchebaggery, the bros of Mountain Project took it upon themselves to start a forum that tells women what to wear while rock climbing and how to prevent sexism at the gym: “Solution for female climbers problem at the Gym, gain 100lb and most likely you wont be bothered.”

In addition to these two social media posts, there were other degrading comments made in response to this survey all over Facebook.

So. Let’s start by making a few things very clear:

First of all, when women say that they don’t like it when men hit on us in the gym, we aren’t talking about people who flirt with us in a nice way. If someone came up to me at the gym and was like, Hey you’re a great climber and I’d love to get to know you better…would you like to climb with me some time? I would be SO PSYCHED. I would be especially psyched if this person 1. asked me if I had a minute to chat or 2. waited until it was obvious that I was done/taking a break from my workout to talk to me. And ya know what would be even cooler? If I could say NO to this person without being called a whorebitch or having my safety threatened. That would be just great.

So when we talk about getting “hit on”, we aren’t talking about some dude asking for our phone number in a nice, non-douchy, non-threatening way. We’re talking about being verbally and sexually harassed, comments about our body, invasions of personal space, threats to our safety, character assassination, fearing for our life, and getting raped.

You know, girl stuff.

We aren’t asking for men to do a “better job of being respectful” or to be “more decent” to us. I mean yeah, that’d be nice. But what we really want is for men to stop threatening to kill us when we don’t want to go to Jamba Juice with them.

Also, I know it may seem like it’s our job to “properly communicate” to men when we don’t want to be hit on, since our mere existence within a climbing gym is very similar to asking for dick and why in god’s name would we even be there if we weren’t actively looking for a boyfriend, but sometimes women go to the gym because they want to rock climb. I know, it’s weird.

What about that time I put headphones on and started bouldering, and a dude I had never seen before physically pulled the ear buds out of my ears and asked me why I was being so anti-social and then asked for my name? Was this my mistake, did I not “properly communicate” that I didn’t wish to speak to anyone? Were headphones not enough? Should I have duct-taped the headphones on to my ears so he couldn’t yank them out? Should I have put a little sticky note on my ass that said, “sry can’t talk, only have 45 mins”? Should I have had the girl behind the front desk make an announcement over the microphone, “Attention members and guests, Georgie Abel is in an introverted mood today and doesn’t wish to speak with anyone, thanks folks, oh also if you have a green Subaru, you left your lights on.”

To tell women that they need to “properly communicate” with men in order for misogyny to stop occurring implies that women are in a perpetual state of wishing to be hit on unless we say otherwise. It also assumes that men actually respect our space when we give clear signals that we don’t want to talk.

Microaggressions are another thing that women deal with in the gym, and yet another thing that the bros of the Internet tell us we should stop being so sensitive about. In my opinion, these little comments that have been wrapped up in a normal-sounding, positive package are just as dangerous as any other kind of sexism. If we do feel offended when we experience a microaggression, we are constantly told that we’re just overreacting, being too sensitive, that we took things the wrong way, that we should just chill. The dudes get to be assholes, but they’re being all sketch and undercover about it so we don’t get to have a reaction without looking batshit crazy. And that’s really messed up.

These little comments can really add up over the years, especially when we aren’t allowed to have a reaction to them.

To tell women that they shouldn’t be so sensitive about microaggressions and “compliments” implies that women don’t have the rights to their own stories and emotions, and that if we dare feel offended by something it’s because we’re just being sensitive, that we were just mistaken, that we got it wrong, nope nothing going on here, keep moving along, how could we have even felt that let alone expressed that, how embarrassing, how silly of us.

Lastly, the Evening Sends post (and many Facebook comments) suggests that women should just climb stronger than men to get douchelords to stop being so douchy. You know, show the men up. This is a cute idea, but that’s not how discrimination works. When a douchelord sees a woman climbing well, he doesn’t shut up because he all of the sudden has this overwhelming respect for her and all of womankind, he gets quiet because he feels threatened. Yes, she is dismantling stereotypes within the mind of the douchelord, but he isn’t really aware of that. If a dude who is disrespectful towards women sees a woman climbing stronger than him, it isn’t going to all of the sudden make him respect women. It may help the process, but this shit is way more deep-rooted than that.

And what about women who are beginner climbers? What “should” they be doing to fight misogyny? Should they train harder? Should they not show up to the busy hours at the gym because they’ll reinforce the douchelord’s douchebaggery?

This brings me to the the most alarming aspect of all of these social media commentaries—it puts the blame and responsibilty on women. Why are we still talking about what women can do to prevent this shit? Why aren’t we talking about how men can stop doing this shit in the first place?

Ya know what we really need, what will really help stop misogyny in rock climbing? We need men who will call out their friends when they make sexist jokes or comments at the crag. Instead of our sport’s high-profile writers chalking up the results of this survery to millennial oversensitivty, we need our writers, athletes, and indsutry leaders to be taking this seriously. We need our stories heard. We need men to listen. We need you to trust us.

Thank you so much to all of you who already do this. I write these articles not to call anyone out or be mean, but to push things forward. We’ve come a long way recently, and it’s so good to see.

Let’s keep going.

All my love,