The Problem with Feminism? It Needs More Climbers


There is a great video I found on YouTube that for me is a wonderful illustration of what climbers have achieved in terms of gender equality and what feminism can learn from the climbing community.   Please enjoy the next 4:15, or watch the first minute or so and then skip to the last minute.  I’ll wait.

For those of you who don’t climb, let me explain the video a little and then I’ll provide some context.

In the beginning you will see some guy trying to climb on some plastic holds stuck on a wall in a climbing gym.  He is trying to get to the top.  He tries and falls, tries again and falls, getting further each time.  After four tries he hasn’t gotten to the top.

Then walks up another climber to try.   She is much shorter, and can hardly reach the first handhold.  She tries and falls, tries again and gets further and falls, and then finally on her third try she climbs to the top hold.

No big deal right?  What does this have to do with feminism?  So what, a girl climbed something that a guy couldn’t.

Let me provide some context:

For those of you who don’t climb, that is not just “some guy” trying this route,  that is Chris Sharma, arguably one of the strongest climbers ever to climb really difficult routes.   He has done some things that no other person on earth has been able to repeat.

To help put it into perspective for the non-climbers:

In the NFL he would be Tom Brady,  in baseball he would be Ted Williams,  if he played basketball he would be Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi if he played soccer (err…football?).  If he were a physicist he would be Albert Einstein and if he were a politician he would be Tommy Douglas.  My point is, he didn’t just get good climbing on rocks, he is ONE OF THE BEST EVER to climb on rocks.

And then you see what happened here?  After he fell four times trying to climb something, this much smaller climber (Alex Puccio, obviously amazing as well) SENT IT!  Chris Sharma fell four times, and she sent it in three tries!(sent=got to the top without a fall).

To me the video illustrates perfectly something that every climber learns.  Achieving excellence is not about how strong you are (the answer, never as strong as you want to be), or how tall you are (never tall enough, or too tall), or whether you are a boy or a girl. The rock doesn’t care.  Excuses don’t matter.

What matters is: Are you strong enough to keep trying after you fail?  Are you brave enough to keep pushing despite seemingly overwhelming challenges?  Are you willing to admit you might need to improve before you succeed?  Are you willing to work through the difficulties in order to achieve your goal?  All items which I believe fauxminism works to convince women that they are not.

There are no accommodations made climbing outdoors.  If women wanted to climb as hard as men did, all that was required was that they climbed as hard as men did.  And boy did they ever.

Much like life, improvement in climbing comes by challenging ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Success is  something that you achieve through hard work and personal investment.  Modern day fauxminism seems to teach that there should be no challenges or obstacles in life and if there are they are unfair. The way to deal with it is to hide away and find others to commiserate with about your challenges, or have accommodations made so you don’t have to deal with your obstacles.

This video to me illustrates perfectly what every climber knows, equal doesn’t mean same, and that difficulty and failure does not necessitate accommodation.  Concepts that I feel are either ignored, misunderstood or purposely misinterpreted by modern day fauxminists.  Is she as strong as him?  Not even close (she’s ripped, but he’s Sharma)  Is she as tall as him?  Nope.

Now if  the situation were reversed and she fell a bunch and he climbed it, feminists would tell you it is not fair to expect a women to be able to compete at the same level as a man because she isn’t as tall or as strong.  Accommodation should be made because it is not fair for her.  Patriarchy, Patriarchy!

What is so beautiful here, and in climbing in general, is the fact that we did not see any call for accommodation.  There are no extra holds put on for women climbers, there is no expectation that if a route is too difficult that it should be modified to accommodate female climbers.  There has never been accommodation made for women.

Meritocracy is the name of the game in climbing, and it has to be because there is  no room for B.S.  The rock doesn’t care if you’re male, female, both or neither.  The holds don’t get extra big because you’re a guy, and they don’t get closer together because you’re a girl.  It is perfectly egalitarian, and speaks the same words to any climber,

“Don’t whine that I’m too difficult, don’t make excuses.  You’re either ready to climb me or you’re not.  It is up to you.  Oh and by the way, be careful, because if you’re not or you don’t know what you are doing, you might die!”.-  Rock

The point is, there has never been gender accommodation made climbing outdoors. There has never been an expectation that there should be accommodation made.  You either climb or you fall.

What has been the result?

With no excuses allowed for being smaller or weaker than men, did women lose interest in climbing?   Did they get lost amongst the men?  Of course not!

What we find in climbing, are women who absolutely kick ass and are in every way equal to men in terms of their accomplishments and respect in the community for their achievements.

In an environment that does not allow for accommodation,  it is not surprising  that we find a community where women excel, and their achievements are celebrated alongside their male colleagues.

Arguably the greatest climber of all time is Lynn Hill, whose one day free ascent of The Nose is still considered one of the greatest feats ever.  Not one of the greatest things done by a  women climber, the full on G.O.A.T.  How many sports can actually say that some of their greatest physical feats were done by a woman?

Steph Davis and Beth Rodden, also in the pantheon of legendary climbers, are considered athletes who pushed the limits of their sport.  Not ‘female’ athletes who pushed the limits of ‘women in sports’, but as climbers who pushed the limits of boldness and difficulty and changed what was considered possible for everyone.

That is what results when we create a true environment of empowerment.  Women don’t shrink and get lost amongst the men.  They flourish and succeed and achieve alongside the men.

Empowerment and equality cannot happen when we create an environment that provides easy excuses for failure, that encourages the belief that your challenges are unique and due to oppression, while others success is due to their privilege.  You can never achieve excellence when there is constantly a call for accommodation to suit your individual needs or perceived weakness’.

Go learn about Lynn Hill and get inspired.  Get out of your safe spaces and find some amazing ones instead!

Climbers, understanding gender equality before gender equality was cool.









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