/ Femininity and Climbing

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Hazzo - on 16 Oct 2013
I am a student at Aberystwyth University studying Geography and am undertaking dissertation research for my final year. My topic of interest looks into how women, in particular, integrate into the climbing society which was once, and maybe still is, deemed a masculine dominated environment. I aim to understand how women are challenging the idea of climbing as a masculine dominated sport, how the preconceptions of femininity and expectations of the female gender are changing and how men are reacting in response to these alterations of discourse.
I am mostly interest in this post about getting your thoughts on how femininity is seen and conducted in the climbing scene. For example do you, as female, feel as though you need to make up for a loss of femininity (through partaking in the sport) by extenuating other feminine characteristics.
Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.
Any feed back you could give would be helpful. I don't mean to offend or patronise anyone through my wording.
marsbar - on 16 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: This has come up so many times before, have you tried a search?

I don't feel that I have to accentuate my feminine characteristics, probably because I don't think climbing causes a loss in femininity. Or maybe because I have better things to think about. Its not something that keeps the average UKC woman awake at night.
johncoxmysteriously - on 16 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

>Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.

No.

jcm
marsbar - on 16 Oct 2013
In reply to marsbar: What does make me wonder is why this is geography, and how a dissertation can be written based on UKC comments. I am actually female, but you have no way of knowing that. Its not exactly robust.
Hazzo - on 16 Oct 2013
In reply to marsbar: hiya, its comes under social geography. Im not basing my diss on this alone - I have over 100 questionnaires filled in and 12 interviews with the like of wildcountry, climbing instructors and climbers as well as archival research based on magazines and have done some filming myself on different styles of climbing between males and females. This is acting as additional comments and material to help cover some extra points in my research...
griffen - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
does climbing equal a loss in femininity?
Could we all just buy pink gear to make up for it?
sparkass - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to griffen:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
> does climbing equal a loss in femininity?
> Could we all just buy pink gear to make up for it?

I'd buy pink gear!
heleno - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

Rachel Dilley has done some research on this. If you do a google scholar search on Rachel Dilley climbing you should get some useful papers for your literature review plus some ideas for collecting your own data.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
> Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.

Usually an improvement.
Lukeva - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
> deemed a masculine dominated environment.

By who? I know lots of female climbers- it's not is it, certainly not at climbing centres?
veteye - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
Also you may gain by looking at the obverse(although not solely that)by reading "Everyday masculinities and extreme sport-male identity and rock climbing" by Victoria Robinson(Sheffield University).Berg Publishers.

Probably the opposite is true to what you may be implying at times.In other words male climbers would prefer that women climbers act in the same way as them, and not do role play that does not fit the bill for getting on and climbing a route.We all just want to enjoy the challenge,thrill and enjoyment of the climbing.

I suppose that the only issue is that of the female who wants to impress by dint of their beauty/sexual attraction, which can be annoying partly because of the distraction, and partly as we don't go climbing for the page 3 effect.

Older female climbers cannot be set in a mould necessarily either.I know several female climbers who started climbing after fifty.

teflonpete - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:


> Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.

In terms of conduct among my fellow climbers? No. When I'm climbing with my friends, a lot of the conversation is based around climbing, family, friends, work etc. That's the same whether I'm climbing with male or female friends and no concessions are made for either gender.

Personally, I like socialising in mixed company, whether that's through climbing or something else, I'm far more comfortable in a mixed environment than an all male one, part of the reason I'm not much interested in separated gender sports.
silo - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

I remember looking at a picture of a female climber. Her hands were typical of a climber, scratched and with calluses but here nails were painted. Her hands didn't look feminine!

Nick Russell on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
> Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around[?]

At a university bouldering wall I used to climb (and set) at there was this amusing phenomenon I noticed. When the female:male ratio reached a certain threshold, the male climbers seemed much more interested in the dyno/campus problems. Anecdotal, of course - I didn't have the time/inclination to try to quantify it.
GrahamD - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

> I aim to understand how women are challenging the idea of climbing as a masculine dominated sport,

This sounds like one of those comments that people think should be there but which actually make no sense.

Climbing IS a masculine dominated sport. What is the point of challenging that idea ? The question you need to look at is whether the fact that climbing is male dominated is in itself a barrier to women's participation and whether this is something that can or should be addressed.
avictimoftheDrpsycho - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Nick Russell:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
> [...]
>
> At a university bouldering wall I used to climb (and set) at there was this amusing phenomenon I noticed. When the female:male ratio reached a certain threshold, the male climbers seemed much more interested in the dyno/campus problems. Anecdotal, of course - I didn't have the time/inclination to try to quantify it.

Yes and the tops tend to come off as well. Only happens indoors mind, outdoors I've never noticed female presence make much of a difference to the atmosphere.
The Lemming - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:


I'd rather belay a female climber than a male any day.

They have nicer bottoms.
Carolyn - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to GrahamD:

> Climbing IS a masculine dominated sport. What is the point of challenging that idea ? The question you need to look at is whether the fact that climbing is male dominated is in itself a barrier to women's participation and whether this is something that can or should be addressed.

I think that's a very good point. Climbing is male dominated (less so at an indoor wall, but much more so if you look at winter climbing, etc, and particularly IME mountain rescue) - but is that a problem, and is it really much to do with climbing itself rather than wider views in society about what girls and women "should" do? And practical stuff like suitable clothing - maybe an issue 20 years ago when I was starting out, but hardly a problem now until you get to the very "top" of the ranges.

TBH, I've never really encountered anyone from within the climbing community behaving differently because I'm female. Nothing more than mild surprise that I'm willing to lead/navigate for myself/snow hole etc, and the odd assumption I wouldn't want to do something (generally followed by mild embarrassment that they'd made that assumption).

Apart from in pregnancy, or with kids were very tiny - definitely a minority of climbers who hold strong views on that (which I can understand, but don't feel are actually justified). Worth a search for threads on pregnancy if that's within the scope of "femininity".

Because I'm not sure I have any clue how climbing might reduce my femininity. I'm not likely to go winter climbing in heels, sure - but I can still wear them to go out for dinner in the evening if I want to. But then a bloke isn't generally likely to go climbing in a smart suit. At worst it's going to mean my nails aren't in much of a state to look pretty...
Enty - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to griffen:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
>
> Could we all just buy pink gear to make up for it?

Think Pink!

E

KTC - on 17 Oct 2013
I watched a chap at the wall last night, climbing with who I assumed was a new female acquaintance. She was a nice safe belayer, and he really felt the need to impress. He was trying to lead routes that were clearly about three grades higher than he could manage, on a heavily overhanging wall.
Embarrassing.

Back on topic. I don't think climbing has much effect on masculinity or femininity. But as someone else said, girls bottoms are nicer to look at.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to KTC:

>But as someone else said, girls bottoms are nicer to look at.

Seriously, guys (if you are guys). I'm not sure if this is meant to be funny in a laddish way or kind of ironically self-referential.

If itís the former then, trust me, itís not funny. Itís, granted only in a small way, pathetic, embarrassing and a pretty negative thing.

If itís the latter then, while in principle Iím up for it, on this occasion itís a bit too outrť IMHO.

jcm
duchessofmalfi - on 17 Oct 2013
You are assuming quite a lot, for instance:

The presence of a "climbing society" by which I think you mean culture - assumes a mono-culture.

Sounds like you probably mean a of a European a climbing culture which may be rather different from, say, Nepal or Iran.

It was masculine dominated - possibly there were numerically more men but significantly? as for masculinity I don't know and I'm not sure it is right to assume this without pointing to the evidence and again it presupposes a monoculture that we all identify with.

"Challenge" - appears to suggest that acceptance in to the cabal is the key thing - climbing isn't competitive in this fashion - it isn't like the Royal and Ancient the hills don't come with a gender qualification to get in.

You presuppose that climbing comes with a "loss of femininity" but you seem to offer no evidence that femininity (or masculinity) has anything to do with climbing or climbing culture and presuppose that it will be lost - again no evidence or reason.

You might want to look at where gender is formally enshrined into climbing culture - try the BMC and competitions.

You need to assume less and spend a little time developing the theory and premise of your research, it would also probably help a lot to focus down and define what you are trying to look at.

As for what happens when women are around - I can tell you this based on a statistically insignificant sample of climbers but over a statistically significant number of observations - when women are around more climbing gets done and less tea gets drunk.



Blue Straggler - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to KTC:
> I watched a chap at the wall last night, climbing with who I assumed was a new female acquaintance. She was a nice safe belayer, and he really felt the need to impress. He was trying to lead routes that were clearly about three grades higher than he could manage, on a heavily overhanging wall.
> Embarrassing.

OK...I wasn't there and you were...but from your text alone it looks like you've made a lot of assumptions. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate that falling off is OK and that it's worth trying to punch above your grade sometimes. Maybe he put himself into a failure position so that he didn't look like a show-off (surely it would be more impressive to cruise routes within his grade, in fantastic style?)

Have a smiley :-)
KTC - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Sorry about that. I shall return home and flog myself with birch until I change my opinions.
In reply to KTC:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
>
> Sorry about that. I shall return home and flog myself with birch

Pervert...

BCT on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: Not at all. If anything I feel more feminine as working using both physical and mental attributes forces me to acknowledge my strength such as flexibility and therefore more in tune with myself, and being a female I guess I feel more feminine! but to be honest it does not cross my mind at all. I climb, I'm a woman. I feel no less feminine and no less "worthy" to climb. I enjoy climbing with both males and females and feel equality within the climbing community. You will always get a group of obnoxious bloke climbers but they are generally obnoxious to everyone, not just females! Very rarely find obnoxious women climbers....
graeme jackson - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> ( Itís .... a pretty negative thing.

On the contrary, I'm positive female bottoms are nicer to look at. Your opinion may differ.
In reply to veteye:

> Also you may gain by looking at the obverse(although not solely that)by reading "Everyday masculinities and extreme sport-male identity and rock climbing" by Victoria Robinson(Sheffield University).Berg Publishers.

Yep, I'd echo this, the OP should definitely read this book and cite it. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Everyday-Masculinities-Extreme-Sport-Identity/dp/184520137X Not sure if anything similar has been done since building on it.

One thing I have wondered about that maybe supports the OP's thesis is the propensity of (normally) younger women to upload a UKC profile pic which is a close up of them in a non-climbing situation; normally a photo where you could imagine people thinking - "that's a decent photo of me, I look alright in that".

You'd have to do some serious coding of all the profile pics to get solid data on it but it seems to me that guys even if they have a close up face pic normally select one where they are in a climbing situation, whilst at least a significant proportion of women UKCers don't. I'd want to control for age though as my feeling is this is something done predominantly by younger women (Facebook generation?). A spin-off of these types of pics is that I've noted certain UKC regulars (blokes) who very often leave comments on them. These are never mean and often complimentary but definitely when you see the same person doing it again and again, come across as a bit leering.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

Really?!? I seem to remember reading a page or two of Ms Robinson's oeuvre and thinking that it absolutely redefined crap. Not least because she obviously know nothing whatsoever about rock climbing.

Still, being crap is never much of a bar to getting sociology research published, so don't mind me. Carry on.

I agree that profile pictures and unpleasant male comments thereon would form a mildly interesting side-study.

jcm
tlm - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to veteye:
> male climbers would prefer that women climbers act in the same way as them, and not do role play that does not fit the bill for getting on and climbing a route.

I don't think most male climbers that I know care one way or the other if you act in a traditionally 'feminine' or 'masculine' way. They are more interested in that you are good company and how well you climb.
Babika - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
I don't feel any need to "make up for a loss of femininity" on the climbing scene. I wear pink because I like it and if they made pink climbing boots I'd probably buy them. I had a great pair of pink Salewa crampons until some bugger nicked them at the Hohaas Hut

I think you can overanalyse these things.
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Still, being crap is never much of a bar to getting sociology research published, so don't mind me. Carry on.

And of course knowing very little about sociology is no bar to commenting on it on either.

It's ages since I read the book but I remember there was plenty I disagreed with, but presumably you understand that the purpose of a literature review is to look at all the relevant research on a subject, not just the stuff you agree with, when writing a thesis. I may be wrong but I suspect there aren't many other published works on climbing and gender, particularly not UK focused.

In reply to Babika:
> I had a great pair of pink Salewa crampons until some bugger nicked them at the Hohaas Hut

I remember then - looked cool. I think you could get them in luminous yellow too, although that might have been the Austria Alpine version. Of course I suspect the colour was more to do with the 80s than gender. :)

johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

>presumably you understand that the purpose of a literature review is to look at all the relevant research on a subject, not just the stuff you agree with, when writing a thesis. I may be wrong but I suspect there aren't many other published works on climbing and gender, particularly not UK focused

Yes, fair point. Just so long as the OP (who presumably knows nothing about climbing either) understands that the work in question, while it may be the only study in the field, was also ill-informed drivel.

jcm
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Golly.

http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Rock_Climbing.html?id=R7AI-9TQibsC&redir_esc=y

Apparently VR knows nothing about US climbing either.

The blurb claims she's an experienced climber. Well, I can think of three possibilities. Number one, what this actually means is that someone once took her top-roping at Stanage. Number two, she's become an experienced rock climber since publishing her last book in 2008. And number three, it wasn't her book I remember reading a small part of but some other book.

Oh well.

jcm
Carolyn - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

So much for that sharp legal mind.... ;-)

I struggle to take it seriously when climbing's described as an extreme sport. Suggests to me that it's all adrenaline and risk of imminent death. I'm far too much of a bumbly for that to be the case. But maybe that's how I maintain my femininity?
MikeStuart26 on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: I'm curious who you are... I'm at Aber myself
Wingnut - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:
>>I struggle to take it seriously when climbing's described as an extreme sport. Suggests to me that it's all adrenaline and risk of imminent death. I'm far too much of a bumbly for that to be the case

Likewise. ::o)

Then again, I've always mentally defined an "extreme" sport as "one you can use to sell energy drinks".
ianstevens - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to MikeStuart26: I think what Mike is trying to say is that there is an entire mountaineering club's worth of data you could get, and seeing as he does both that and is a 3rd year Physical Geog student, drop him a line.
MikeStuart26 on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to ianstevens: Yeah I didn't mean to sound creepy or weird - oopsy
tlm - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Are you overusing oeuvre?
tlm - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

I am a woman, I climb, I don't really see 'femininity' as a single narrow way of being? I don't feel that climbing leads to any 'loss of femininity'??? How could it? I really just don't understand where that concept might come from? Although there are more men than women who climb, it isn't really 'male dominated' because it is a sport where anyone can just go and do it, without really being affected by the other people who climb. You choose who you want to climb with and you go climbing. There isn't any 'domination' (despite the harnesses and ropes!)

In my experience, climbing is one of the least sexist sports. People seem far more interested in who you are as an individual. There is a much greater percentage of women who climb nowadays, but this percentage changes a lot, as someone said higher up, depending on the type of climbing that you are talking about.

Are you just looking at the UK, or further afield? What sort of climbing are you looking at? There really isn't a single unified 'climbing society'.

Women have been climbing since climbing began, so they have always been involved.
galpinos - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Babika:
> ......and if they made pink climbing boots I'd probably buy them.

Your wish.......

5.10 pinks, back in shops Spring '14.
galpinos - on 17 Oct 2013
Moondancer - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
> For example do you, as female, feel as though you need to make up for a loss of femininity (through partaking in the sport) by extenuating other feminine characteristics.


No. Just thinking about winter climbing: camping, getting up at 6am when it's cold and dark, doesn't really leave much time to think about make-up or what to wear (if that's what you mean by femininity).

I think if anything, climbing has made me less feminine. I met my partner and many of my friends through my university climbing club. Spending weekends with them in huts, bothies, tents, etc. has made me less fussed about how I look. This has translated into my daily life and I now hardly ever wear make-up and can't remember the last time I wore heels.
Craigyboy13 - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

climbing is male dominated yes like most sports, but the women who do climb are treated equally in my experience.

i often watch female climbers and aspire to climb like they do, as opposed to males.

and women can climb as well if not better than men. women have to use skill men can get away with a lack of technique.

johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Moondancer:

>>> For example do you, as female, feel as though you need to make up for a loss of femininity (through partaking in the sport) by extenuating other feminine characteristics.

>No. Just thinking about winter climbing: camping, getting up at 6am when it's cold and dark, doesn't really leave much time to think about make-up or what to wear (if that's what you mean by femininity).

It looks like thinking about other people's problems hasn't left the OP much time to think about what he or she means by extenuating, by the look of it. He or she appears to think that it means 'exaggerating', rather than something more like the opposite.

jcm
Carolyn - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

"accentuating", maybe?
Carolyn - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:

And it's a no for me. Buying women's fit because it fits better and keeps me warmer, yes. I might wear a necklace whilst climbing, because I wear one most days. But then there are plenty of climbing blokes who wear surfer type necklaces.

But beyond that, I'm rather lost for ideas of what I could do to accentuate my other feminine characteristics whilst actually climbing, or on a climbing trip, rather than at completely separate events. Maybe I'm lacking in imagination?
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:

Yes, good shout. Could have been. Hard to tell.

jcm

Carolyn - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I felt a need to prove my linguistic capability after having to Google "outrť" earlier....
In reply to Carolyn: 'emphasising' or 'amplifying' I would have thought. But then I've been proof-reading a PhD thesis all day which mainly sounds like "A second distinction I make is between the specificity of researching how the discursive manifestations of radical right populist ideology under scrutiny gain consistency through the use of particular conceptual structures and rhetorical political analysis" so my head is probably not in a good place. Only 170 pages still to go though! :)
Bulls Crack - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Nick Russell:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
> [...]
>
> At a university bouldering wall I used to climb (and set) at there was this amusing phenomenon I noticed. When the female:male ratio reached a certain threshold, the male climbers seemed much more interested in the dyno/campus problems. Anecdotal, of course - I didn't have the time/inclination to try to quantify it.

Was there also a correlation between that ratio and shirts off?
Hazzo - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to MikeStuart26:
> (In reply to Hazzo) I'm curious who you are... I'm at Aber myself

Hiya, well im a Harriet... im president of the expeds up at the uni this year but not involved with the mountaineering club unfortunately if that's what you mean...
Jessgummer123 - on 17 Oct 2013
Hello sounds like a very interesting topic, i did my dissertation, i work in outdoor education and did mine on gender in outdoor ed and whether females are under represented in the field of outdoor activities. I could look at my bibliography as there was some good literature and a couple of books/journals related to rock climbing and gender if you would like me send you some? as a female who climbs i dont feel a loss of femininity, however to your other question do you notice a change in atmosphere when climbing amongst males, yes i sometimes do, sometimes when bouldering male friends of mine can joke around not directly at me but sublty around gender if you want to email feel free do more discussion be happy to help/discuss

Jess
Hazzo - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
Just wanted to thank the people who have commented so far.
Several people have picked up on the language, poor word choice and my preconceptions about the sport however id like to say in retaliation that im merely trying to give you a quick overview of my research which may have resulted in it sounding presumptive and unjustified; however it has been well researched and im not as closed minded as some may suggest.
For some context, I have been climbing for 8 years now, I worked as a climbing instructor for year in the southwest and have been doing freelance work during the summer. I am therefore not naÔve to the 'climbing world.'
This study is proving to be quite an interesting topic and is producing some surprisingly emotional and defensive feedback - which is good!
Just a note - yes it is meant to say accentuating rather than extenuating ;)
another_alex - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

As someone who's genderqueer/ trans one of the things I really value about climbing as a sport is that it's not gender segregated in the same way as many other sports. Other than indoor competitions (which I'm not really into anyway), there is little that I can't participate in without being forced into a binary gender role (compared to say having to play in either a male or female football team).

At the same time I really notice a lot of sexism in the social culture around climbing. Often the environment can be really laddish, with a lot of anti-gay/female/queer jokes, portraying the idea that being feminine is 'less good' than being masculine.
The ways masculinity is performed tend to conform to a very dominant/stereotypical understanding of what 'being male' means, and it seems hard for men who don't fit that as well as women.
I notice a lot of gender-policing.


As someone who's genderqueer/ trans one of the things I really value about climbing as a sport is that it's not gender segregated in the same way as many other sports. Other than indoor competitions (which I'm not really into anyway), there is little that I can't participate in without being forced into a binary gender role (compared to say having to play in either a male or female football team).

At the same time I really notice a lot of sexism in the social culture around climbing. Often the environment can be really laddish, with a lot of anti-gay/female/queer jokes, portraying the idea that being feminine is 'less good' than being masculine.
The ways masculinity is performed tend to conform to a very dominant/stereotypical understanding of what 'being male' means, and it seems hard for men who don't fit that as well as women. I notice a lot of gender policing in climbing.

It may be that I really notice this a lot more because I spend a lot of my time in femimists/ queer subcultures, so I'm not sure how it compares to the mainstream.
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

My thinking was that "accentuating" and "extenuating" sounded sufficiently similar to have been confused - not that it was necessarily the best word for the context.

How much further have you made it through the thesis? Reads very much like some of the strategies that come of our local authority that I have to work my way through..... I got so sick of them we made "filing cabinet strategy" along the lines of "fridge door poetry". Rather childish but very satisfying. And scary how dated the buzz words looked a year later!
duchessofmalfi - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to another_alex:

I would agree with a lot of another_alex's observations - and they are backed up by a lot of comments on this thread.

The original OP asked about masculinity and femininity in climbing-- I'd argue that this is different from sexism and homophobia and not part of "climbing culture" - it just happens that a lot of people how climb think it is ok to be sexist, homophobic or racist so it is representative of mainstream culture permeating climbing.

a_a is also right the you can observe a lot of gender policing - often this is men showing off for the benefit of other men. I tend to associate this with newbie, indoor climbers fresh from the gym and in need of an extreme sport to bore their friends down the pub with, although, experience on UKC suggests that a lot of middle aged paunchy men feel this sort of this is perfectly fine from the anonymity of the internet.

PS "retailation" is a very odd word to use when commenting on being picked up on language.

ads.ukclimbing.com
nickh1964 - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
I agree with the comments re the propensity of men to remove shirts when there are women about, my wife and I use the phrase "a shirts off kinda guy" to denote exactly that type of alpha male.
Personally I have always enjoyed climbing with women and being in mixed gender groups, there is less laddish and immature behaviour and thats a good thing.
I dont see my wife as any less feminine since she took up climbing, our pastimes do not define our gender, but then again I do all the cooking so maybe we are an odd couple.
The kind of climber who wants to bang on about how extreme/death defying/balls to the wall/hardcore their experiences are tend to be shirts off types who are perhaps insecure and need to bolster their sense of self worth.
The caving scene is an interesting contrast, far less image conscious, trendy and gender stereotyped, people are seen as cavers and gender rarely seems to be an issue. I wonder if the commercialisation of climbing over say the last twenty years has changed the sport as it used to be more like the caving scene in many ways.
Just my two pennorth.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

I've never seen the gender police at the wall. Are they like detectives or do they have a uniform like the belay police?

How does it work anyway. Do they like come up to you if call 'take' and flash their badges - "Gender police sir. That was a bit girly we're going to have to write you up."
Blue Straggler - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to nickh1964:
>
> The kind of climber who wants to bang on about how extreme/death defying/balls to the wall/hardcore their experiences are tend to be shirts off types who are perhaps insecure and need to bolster their sense of self worth.

Funnily enough the worst (by FAR) example of this sort of climber that I have recently encountered, is a transgender person.
Dave Garnett - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler:
> (In reply to nickh1964)
> [...]
>
> Funnily enough the worst (by FAR) example of this sort of climber that I have recently encountered, is a transgender person.

What was their, er, direction of travel?
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to nickh1964:

Strange lives some of you people lead. What you say is total cobblers in my experience; people who readily take their shirts off are more likely to be boulderers or sport climbers than trad bores.

jcm
The Lemming - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Probably because Trade climbers have real balls and walk the walk rather than indoor boulderers and indoor wall warriors who talk a good game by flexing their muscles inches above the floor.
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

And you certainly don't come across much "shirts off" posturing when it comes to Scottish winter climbing....
Simon4 - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:

> And you certainly don't come across much "shirts off" posturing when it comes to Scottish winter climbing....

Never seen the pictures in the Clachaig of the ascent of Elliots Downfall with 5 points of contact then?
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh: That would be quite funny if a) it wasn't totally obvious to anyone with half an ounce of common sense exactly what it means and b) three clicks wouldn't have taken you to the wiki article on it. So http://lmgtfy.com/?q=gender+policing
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

It's not actually obvious to anyone what 'gender policing' means. Many people manage to live their lives without giving this sort of notion a lot of thought, you know?

jcm
In reply to Carolyn: Interestingly when I lived in Scotland in the 90s and climbed each winter it was quite striking how hugely male dominated the activity still was and 'gendered' the stereotype of "Scottish winter climber" was.

When did the SMC vote to allow women to join? Late 80s was it or even later?
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: I think most people have an idea of what gender means and most know what policing means. Are you really suggesting people without an A level in Sociology couldn't take a stab at what joining them together might mean?

sugar and spice and all things nice.../slugs and snails and puppy dog tails - etc.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to tom_in_edinburgh) That would be quite funny if a) it wasn't totally obvious to anyone with half an ounce of common sense exactly what it means and b) three clicks wouldn't have taken you to the wiki article on it. So http://lmgtfy.com/?q=gender+policing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony#Socratic_irony

Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to another_alex:

> At the same time I really notice a lot of sexism in the social culture around climbing. Often the environment can be really laddish, with a lot of anti-gay/female/queer jokes, portraying the idea that being feminine is 'less good' than being masculine.

I wouldn't deny there's often a lot of banter, which is often, as you say, based around joking accusations of being a bit of a girl or a bit gay.

But when I've encountered it, it has always been light-heated banter, and certainly didn't mean those concerned really believed women can't climb well. It might help that they've all been firmly out climbed at the crag by a young woman (not me, on either count ;-) ), so even if they once believed that, they've been proven wrong!

It certainly wouldn't happen in the most politically correct of settings. But it's also a damn site more mild than I've come across in other settings, where it's actually been believed by those saying it.

Personally, I don't mind it, and whilst I can understand that others might object, I'm not sure how it might reduce my femininity?

And someone will have to explain "gender policing" to me....
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh: But that only works if the idea you feign ignorance of has no intrinsic value. You only need to walk into a toy shop (or perhaps watch a bunch of 18 year old male boulderers hurl vaguely homophobic insults in jest at each other) to know exactly what gender policing means.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

I assure you that you're mistaken, Toby. It's an opaque phrase which will convey no meaning to a lot of people who aren't in the relevant industry. It's true that one might perhaps be able to formulate a reasonable guess if one devoted some time to the question, but that doesn't mean it's obvious.

jcm
Blue Straggler - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:
> a young woman (not me, on either count ;-) )

You're neither young NOR a woman? :-)
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:

>certainly didn't mean those concerned really believed women can't climb well

I always find this sort of comment puzzling. As far as I can see no one, absolutely no one, believes that women cannot climb well, because everyone knows that Lynn H has done what sheís done and Josune B has done what sheís done, and so on.

On the other hand everyone, absolutely everyone, believes that in the round men climb better than women, largely because they do. Adam O and Chris S and Alex M are in the news every day climbing 9b+ and Font 8c and so forth, whereas women arenít, and itís reasonable to suppose from that what oneís eyes anyway suggest, that the pyramid of women climbersí abilities is generally placed a little lower than that of men.

That being so, any man confronted by any woman is going to think that the odds are he climbs a little harder than her, because those are indeed the odds.

It is also true that many men can be motivated by observations along the lines of Ďcome on, are you going to let a woman beat youí and so forth. This is partly because any motivation is good, partly because they think, rightly, that with their natural strength advantage they ought to be able to climb harder, other things being equal, partly just because itís fun.

The drive many women have to mythologise what are in truth examples of the above two tendencies along the lines of Ďhe couldnít believe a woman could climb harder than himí is remarkable.

It is also true that some men like to show off to sexually attractive women. This is obviously dreadful. Luckily, it never happens in any other area of life.

These things are, broadly speaking, obvious to everyone. It doesnít really strike me as material for the interminable PhD theses that presumably follow upon the likes of the OP here, but hey.

jcm
Blue Straggler - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to duchessofmalfi:
>
>
> it just happens that a lot of people how climb think it is ok to be sexist, homophobic or racist so it is representative of mainstream culture permeating climbing.

I would add to this (just an observation, not a direct response to anything written by anyone on this thread), that I see more girls and women, than boys and men, referring to their climbing failures as "totally gay" (and variations thereof). Maybe a 3:2 ratio.
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

The obvious examples - eg small boy not allowed to wear pink, or push a doll in a pram, because his parent thinks those are for girls - yes, I get.

The fact that all kids toys seem to come blue or pink these days - gender segregation, but not in itself "policing"? Or would that be seen as policing?

Climbing:
- if a bloke says to his straight male mate "man up" or similar - OK, I can see how that's policing
- if he says the same to me - I'm less clear - is he policing the fact that men are supposed to be stronger, and suggesting I can't do it, or challenging me disprove that assumption?

Blue Straggler - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:
>
> Climbing:
> - if a bloke says to his straight male mate "man up" or similar - OK, I can see how that's policing
> - if he says the same to me - I'm less clear - is he policing the fact that men are supposed to be stronger, and suggesting I can't do it, or challenging me disprove that assumption?


I have a female climbing friend who gets her knickers in a right old twist about this phrase. I have modified it to "toughen up, Princess" :-)
monkeytash - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
I think this thread is a pretty good illustration of how gender and climbing intersect. I really like the fact that the sport doesn't feel segregated and I can and do outclimb the lads occasionally. As you can see from this thread it doesn't take long for people to start saying things like "Trad climbers have bigger balls" or "man up" but generally I can give as good as I can get.
I almost exclusively climb with men and I have always found them to be respectful, friendly and willing to teach me whatever they know. I have noticed that if I am climbing in a mixed group at the crag the guys generally decide which routes everyone's gonna do, who's gonna lead and second etc. I think this is mostly because the men I climb with tend to be the experienced climbers rather than anything else. Comments about women having nice bums or frenzied excitement about 'belay bunnies' can get a bit tiresome, but hey, that happens everywhere.
As for feeling like I'm somehow compromising my 'femininity', I find that whole notion a bit questionable.I don't think that climbing is 'masculine'? or 'feminine'. It's certainly male dominated in terms of numbers, but I think this kind of essentialist notion about what's 'masculine' and what's 'feminine' doesn't help anyone. I think this is just as ridiculous as assuming that women all want to wear pink.
duchessofmalfi - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

"any man confronted by any woman is going to think that the odds are he climbs a little harder than her"

Horseshit - next time you stand next to Leah Crane I'll bet you anything you don't rate your odds this way.

It may be argued, but I don't see this as proven, that men are physically better suited to climbing at the extreme limits than women (just like reaching high shelves favours men because they are taller).

However, there are many other potential factors at play and the fact that the likes of Adam Ondra aren't huge tends to suggest that this is an open question.

johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

Yes, perhaps I should have spelled that out. Confronted by any *unknown* woman.

jcm
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> >certainly didn't mean those concerned really believed women can't climb well
>
> I always find this sort of comment puzzling. As far as I can see no one, absolutely no one, believes that women cannot climb well, because everyone knows that Lynn H has done what sheís done and Josune B has done what sheís done, and so on.

Maybe not within climbing (though I reckon I could introduce you to a couple).

On the other hand, I have come across people (and not all of them male), who have really, truly believed that a woman couldn't drive or crew an ambulance (20 years ago, when it was still fairly rare). Or possibly that they could, but shouldn't. I never really worked out which.

And people extrapolate one to the other. In order to stamp out the second, it's also necessary to eradicate all joking references to it. Not my take, but there's not an easy point at which to draw the line. Particularly as those who do seem to have firmly held beliefs that there's stuff women can't do often resort to "oh, I was only joking" when they're challenged.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:

>As for feeling like I'm somehow compromising my 'femininity', I find that whole notion a bit questionable.I don't think that climbing is 'masculine'? or 'feminine'. It's certainly male dominated in terms of numbers, but I think this kind of essentialist notion about what's 'masculine' and what's 'feminine' doesn't help anyone. I think this is just as ridiculous as assuming that women all want to wear pink.

Sometimes (not often, I admit) I really feel this forum could do with a 'recommend' button.

jcm
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Rumbled!

Possibly not the best phrasing, but I intended to refer to my mediocre climbing ability and age....

As you well know ;-)
Blue Straggler - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

You are rather eroding the credibility of some good points you made earlier, with this stubborn pedantry
In reply to Carolyn: It's more if he says "never mind, it's a hard move" when its obvious that you were actually just climbing crap that he pushing you back into your pinky fluffy cutesy gender role. Obviously saying, "Carolyn, put some effort in- you're not normally this rubbish" is the correct insult to hurl at you. ;)
Dave Garnett - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously) I think most people have an idea of what gender means and most know what policing means. Are you really suggesting people without an A level in Sociology couldn't take a stab at what joining them together might mean?
>

I haven't yet clicked through to your references Toby, but it's honestly not obvious to me what combining the word gender and the word police means. Does it mean checking that men and women (and the transgendered) use the appropriate facilities or religious practices or some other way behave in a gender-appropriate manner? Or does it mean chastising those who use gender-specific stereotypes?

What it actually means, of course, is obsessive correcting of people who struggle to use the right pronouns with French or German nouns...
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Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

The point he is making is that statistically the average man will climb harder than the average women because they (again statistically and on average) are naturally stronger. Therefore if you were to pick 2 people at random in a climbing wall (or elsewhere) the chances are statistically that the man is more likely to climb a harder grade. It follows therefore that many men, knowing fine well how the statistics play out on average, will make the assumption that they probably can climb harder than the next woman who happens to walk into the vicinity.
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> It follows therefore that many men, knowing fine well how the statistics play out on average, will make the assumption that they probably can climb harder than the next woman who happens to walk into the vicinity.

Although that would be an obviously dumb assumption to make if you are a man who knows that you don't climb very hard at all. This is why John's original assertion seemed so weak - most of us know if we are good, bad or middling.
Carolyn - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Carolyn) It's more if he says "never mind, it's a hard move" when its obvious that you were actually just climbing crap that he pushing you back into your pinky fluffy cutesy gender role. Obviously saying, "Carolyn, put some effort in- you're not normally this rubbish" is the correct insult to hurl at you. ;)

And he'd risk a friendly slap in return (although I suspect my mates would only risk it when they had me suspended well out of reach) ;-)

But yes, that makes sense to me. As in the explanation makes sense; however, it doesn't fit with my experience of climbing (and that's what made me question the earlier suggestion that there was a lot of gender policing in climbing).
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:

Ok after looking it up I have a general idea of what 'gender policing' means. I have to say though that I dislike the term and find it simplifies things somewhat. The term 'policing' gives the impression that gender stereotypes are enforced on individuals/groups knowingly, but this is often not the case. Many (most?) will have subconscious ideas of how men/women in general - and how they themselves (self-policing?) - should act/perform/look, and the way they act / things they say/do will be informed by this discourse. But these gender stereotypes are also being constantly reinforced unknowingly and, it would seem, quite naturally.
Jon Stewart - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to nickh1964:
> (In reply to Hazzo)

> The kind of climber who wants to bang on about how extreme/death defying/balls to the wall/hardcore their experiences are tend to be shirts off types who are perhaps insecure and need to bolster their sense of self worth.

In my experience the alpha-male SOBOs (shirt-off-beanie-on) only go bouldering indoors, and their idea of hardcore is scrutting around 3 inches off the deck under a rock at Stanage Plantation in the freezing cold.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
> Although that would be an obviously dumb assumption to make if you are a man who knows that you don't climb very hard at all. This is why John's original assertion seemed so weak - most of us know if we are good, bad or middling.

That's why I said "many" men.

I don't think it is a weak assertion at all. I suspect he is correct in that being the way many men will think, and since statistically this is the case it would be quite understandable (for them to think this). The difficulty of course is that this would be difficult to prove as chances are many would deny having these preconceived ideas!
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to nickh1964:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
>
> The caving scene is an interesting contrast, far less image conscious, trendy and gender stereotyped, people are seen as cavers and gender rarely seems to be an issue. I wonder if the commercialisation of climbing over say the last twenty years has changed the sport as it used to be more like the caving scene in many ways.
>

Interesting point. I am under the impression (rightly/wrongly?) that caving is far more male dominated than climbing. This is perhaps partly because there hasn't been a proliferation of indoor caving centres!

Andi Turner wrote a piece in a recent Climber magazine talking about (paraphrasing) how caving has changed less and how he sees things in caving which originally attracted him to climbing.

tom_in_edinburgh - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to duchessofmalfi)
>
> The point he is making is that statistically the average man will climb harder than the average women because they (again statistically and on average) are naturally stronger. Therefore if you were to pick 2 people at random in a climbing wall (or elsewhere) the chances are statistically that the man is more likely to climb a harder grade.

Not actually true because the people at a climbing wall isn't a random sample of men and women. It's a self selecting sample and there are fewer females than males at the wall : my guess is that this indicates more selection on the female than the male part of the population i.e. unfit women are less likely to go to a climbing wall than unfit men. I wouldn't be surprised if you picked a man and a woman at random in a climbing wall if the women were more likely to be climbing a harder grade.


Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Carolyn) Interestingly when I lived in Scotland in the 90s and climbed each winter it was quite striking how hugely male dominated the activity still was and 'gendered' the stereotype of "Scottish winter climber" was.
>

I would venture to suggest that this is probably still the case, though perhaps not quite as hugely male dominated?

johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> I wouldn't be surprised if you picked a man and a woman at random in a climbing wall if the women were more likely to be climbing a harder grade.

Really? Have you ever been to a climbing wall? I would be astounded if this were true at any wall I've ever been to.

jcm
monkeytash - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
I really don't think this is true at all! Climbing isn't just about strength - often women make up for their lack of upper body strength by having better technique and just climb differently to men. If this was in any way true, I would never get burned off the wall by 12 year olds who are clearly not stronger than me, just amazingly flexible with a good strength to weight ratio. I think it would be an interesting experiment at a climbing wall - go and pick a male and female at random and see who climbs hardest. I think you might be surprised. It amazes me that any man at a climbing wall would make the assumption that they climb harder than any woman they can see there. Maybe I'm too idealistic but this strikes me as sexist drivel.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
> Not actually true because the people at a climbing wall isn't a random sample of men and women. It's a self selecting sample and there are fewer females than males at the wall : my guess is that this indicates more selection on the female than the male part of the population i.e. unfit women are less likely to go to a climbing wall than unfit men. I wouldn't be surprised if you picked a man and a woman at random in a climbing wall if the women were more likely to be climbing a harder grade.

To be honest the indoor wall is perhaps the place where male:female participation would be most equal! That said, I think the difference in numbers participating (at any venue) is more due to inclination than fitness.

Should such a study be hypothetically carried out at a wall it would perhaps be advisable to compare within different groupings, e.g. top-roping, leading and bouldering, as one might expect boulderers to climb harder on average, and top ropers to climb the least difficult routes.
Howard J - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: It seems to me that many are falling into the trap of thinking there's such a thing as a single climbing culture. Firstly there are the different styles of climbing which all attract their own culture and stereotypes. Climbers also come from a very wide range of backgrounds and bring other prejudices and stereotypes from outside. Age, class, upbringing, gender and geography all play a part. Unlike more structured sports there aren't rules and competitions to impose a degree of uniformity.

A 60-something trad climber who belongs to a club is going to have a very different perception of 'climbing culture' from a 20-year old boulderer who climbs with a small group of friends
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:

>Climbing isn't just about strength

It's not *just* about strength, but as we know, "technique is no substitute for power".

Iím not sure what youíre saying, to be honest. If you think that the average standard among women and men at most climbing walls is similar then I think youíre deluded. This has never been remotely true at any wall Iíve been to. Contrary to tominedinburghís proposed statistical bias, I think it works the other way. Beginners are fairly equally divided between men and women. Regulars are heavily male-biased. Since people tend to get better with practice, this larger preponderance of women at the inexperienced end will drag the overall performance of women down.

> It amazes me that any man at a climbing wall would make the assumption that they climb harder than any woman they can see there.

Obviously that would be unwise. If there is a 75% chance you can climb harder than any given woman and you can see 20 women then clearly thereís a very good chance at least one of them can climb harder than you.

jcm
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> I really don't think this is true at all! Climbing isn't just about strength - often women make up for their lack of upper body strength by having better technique and just climb differently to men. If this was in any way true, I would never get burned off the wall by 12 year olds who are clearly not stronger than me, just amazingly flexible with a good strength to weight ratio. I think it would be an interesting experiment at a climbing wall - go and pick a male and female at random and see who climbs hardest. I think you might be surprised. It amazes me that any man at a climbing wall would make the assumption that they climb harder than any woman they can see there. Maybe I'm too idealistic but this strikes me as sexist drivel.

This isn't meant to be (and I don't think it is?) any way sexist, purely an assertion that basic statistics informs the way people think in life. This isn't just how men think either - I would suggest that many women would make a similar assumption.

You are correct that women climb differently to men, and I would agree that on average women will be less able to manage with poor technique. I think though that at any given wall there will probably be as many men using good technique as women? 12 year olds partly do so well because they have less weight to carry, and therefore need to be less strong. But it is surely fair to assert that out of two people with equally good technique, the stronger one (male or female) will be more likely to succeed on more hard routes?

It would indeed be an interesting experiment, but to have any faith in the results one would have to ask a lot of people.
Jon Stewart - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:

The results on average would be fairly obvious. Men climb harder than women. Women climb with better technique than men, controlled for the grade and amount of time they've spent climbing. I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> It amazes me that any man at a climbing wall would make the assumption that they climb harder than any woman they can see there.

I think very few would think that. They might expect there to be a greater than average chance of them climbing harder than any one woman though.

Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
>
> Women climb with better technique than men

I know this may seem like a fair assumption but is there anything other than anecdotal evidence for it? Whether someone gets up harder routes is much more easily measured.

monkeytash - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
"technique is no substitute for power"
Out of interest, who are you quoting?
In my own, purely personal experience, I have taken quite a few of my male friends to the climbing wall. They are always stronger than me and think that that means they will outclimb me, despite never really having climbed before. I invariably outclimb them because I have much better technique. I think the whole strength thing is relevant, but you only have to be strong enough to carry your own weight. I'm at least 2 stones lighter than my male climbing partner so therefore I don't need to be as strong.
I don't think I'm deluded, maybe I just know a lot of good female climbers, but I still don't think statements that generalise based on gender are particularly accurate or insightful. And I generally feel pretty equal to the other men I climb with. Sometimes they climb harder than me, sometimes I climb harder than them.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
>
> In my own, purely personal experience, I have taken quite a few of my male friends to the climbing wall. They are always stronger than me and think that that means they will outclimb me, despite never really having climbed before. I invariably outclimb them because I have much better technique.
>

Interesting. I think you've just accepted what I was saying - many men assume they will climb harder?

Michael Gordon - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:

Obviously in your example they were mistaken and if they did indeed think so, quite silly since they were beginners and you were more experienced.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:

Ben Moon. It's true that this observation has more force when you already possess the technique of one of the world's best climbers, mind you.

Of course you can outclimb beginners. That doesn't prove much.

>but you only have to be strong enough to carry your own weight.

Nonsense. You have to be able to pull it up, for a start, but anyway the main point is - what hold can you use to carry your own weight? The stronger you are, the smaller the hold you need.
jcm
Jon Stewart - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> I know this may seem like a fair assumption but is there anything other than anecdotal evidence for it? Whether someone gets up harder routes is much more easily measured.

Well since you can't quantify technique, the evidence would come from, say, scoring people on observation. So it's sensible to assume that the evidence, if you measured it in this way, would correspond with anecdote, since it's by observation of lots of climbers that the anecdotes form.
Jon Stewart - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)

> In my own, purely personal experience, I have taken quite a few of my male friends to the climbing wall. They are always stronger than me and think that that means they will outclimb me, despite never really having climbed before. I invariably outclimb them because I have much better technique.

Pretty much anyone who is experienced will outclimb any novice regardless of gender or strength. A strong bloke isn't going to be able to outclimb anyone until they've learnt how to climb reasonably efficiently. I know you get fit, strong people who think they'll be great climbers from the off, but they're just people who've underestimated the skill that has to be acquired before you can use any of your strength to good effect.

As for gender differences, in every wall, and at every crag I've ever been to, the men have been climbing harder grades on average (by a wide enough margin to be noticeable without actually counting up). There are thousands of reasons why it turns out that way, some physiological others psychological and sociological. I think you can have a look at the UKC logbook data (skewed in lots of ways obviously) if you are in doubt.
Ramblin dave - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to nickh1964)
>
> Strange lives some of you people lead. What you say is total cobblers in my experience; people who readily take their shirts off are more likely to be boulderers or sport climbers than trad bores.

Whereas conversely the people who go in for self-aggrandisement the most are arguably the old farts who did it in 1970 and thought it was solid at severe, of course, we didn't have cams in those days we just had to accept that risk was part of the game, I remember watching Joe Brown do the first ascent in woolies pumps with a hemp rope round his waist... ...modern wall-bred climbers... ...taking mattresses to crags nowadays... ...convenience culture... ...what will they think of next... ...aargh nurse where's my prescription...

:p
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I know you get fit, strong people who think they'll be great climbers from the off,

Do you? My experience is that this is rare.

Given that (again in my experience) a reasonably athletic male beginner will be able to follow non-specialist VS straight away (some women can, but it's rarer), I can't help feeling monkeytash must have fairly incompetent friends or some rather advanced technique relative to her profile grades.

As for the usefulness of strength and gymnastic ability, I took my brother (a non-climber but at the time a decent gymnast) out climbing once. He had no trouble following Flying Buttress Direct at Stanage. I wasn't so mean as to try him on the jamming cracks, mind.

jcm
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Ramblin dave:

The older we get the better we used to be, in fact.

Self-aggrandisement is pretty widely spread and takes many, many forms, I would say.

jcm
Ramblin dave - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
Oh, I've just remembered winter climbers who'd feel it was a massive breach of propriety to brag about what grade they'd climbed yesterday, but always manage to drop in the fact that they got from the North Face car park to the CIC in 7.5 minutes although that was moving a bit slowly cos they've been a bit out of shape lately...

Anyway, the diverse range of climbing humblebrag is well off topic, sorry.
monkeytash - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
I think it proves that technique is a substitute for power, that was my point.
monkeytash - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
And yep, I do think that some men who are beginners assume they will be able to climb better because they are men, but I would hope that more experienced climbers would realise quite quickly that this isn't true. I don't think sweeping statements based on gender are helpful. At the wall and generally in the wider climbing world, of course, the climbers climbing the hardest grade are male, but I think that people should be judged on their experience, how hard they train and how fit they are. To assume you are a better climber than someone just because you are a different gender is sexist and often wrong. That's what I'm trying to say. And in my experience, just not true.
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Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:

I don't think anyone's making sexist assumptions, just commenting on genuine observations about the overall trends. People object vehemently to "generalisations" as if noticing a fact about the world is the same as stereotyping or discrimination.
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
> I think it proves that technique is a substitute for power, that was my point.

With the best technique in the world you won't get far if you can't pull up on the holds. On the other hand you can barndoor off the most simple moves if your feet are in the wrong place. Neither is a substitute for the other.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
I'm a male climber, and a historian (of mountain-walking and mountaineering in turn-of-the-century Europe, when many women mountaineered, but relatively few wrote about it, while men wrote about their exploits out of all proportion to their activity, using heavily gendered language).

It strikes me that the debate here has rather become bogged down in the question of ability (which, we should remember, belongs to the systems of competitive physical activity devised by men, for men, in the early-19th century). Here, climbing is not much different to other sports, with the possible exception of extreme endurance events, in which the gap between female and male athletes narrows and is sometimes reversed.

Yet there are other ways in which gendered assumptions about climbing manifest themselves. A good example is the tendency for men to be the assumed leaders on climbing routes. I know people are going to disagree with me here, so I'd encourage people to go to the exhibition currently on the Alpine Museum in Bern, if you get the chance. Here, female mountain guides explain the assumptions that many men, and some women, hold. For example, many clients continue to feel uncomfortable in being led by a female guide, bewildered by the possibility that a woman might have the strength and experience to get them out of trouble. When meeting other mountaineers en route, or in huts, male clients are assumed to have chosen the route, and are asked about protection, condition, difficulty etc - these guides record embarrassing moments when men have to explain that they have been dragged up on a rope and are not really qualified to offer advice. The guide is then sometimes congratulated a little too much on having led the route - even though they are now clearly a guide and were probably not really stretched. These are anecdotes, of course, but these social situations, repeatedly experienced by guides who are in the mountains day after day, require some explanation. It would appear to me that, in male-female pairs, there remains some assumption that the man will choose the route, do the lion's share of the leading, and plan the day (although of course this is not shared by everyone).
A similar problem has been expressed by some female climbers I know when first getting into leading - they felt more comfortable climbing with other women, with whom they could share similar problems. I would say, then, that climbing remains both numerically dominated by men, and culturally dominated by certain forms of (hegemonic?) masculinity. In these cases, male identities based on leadership, exploration and assertiveness result in assumptions that men will lead and women will follow, despite all evidence to the contrary. I hope that helps!
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to monkeytash)
> [...]
>
> With the best technique in the world you won't get far if you can't pull up on the holds. On the other hand you can barndoor off the most simple moves if your feet are in the wrong place. Neither is a substitute for the other.

No, but in bouldering at least, it's easier to climb hard grades with power but lacking technique. I have climbed in Font with people (men, unsurprisingly) who can climb a 7b+ roof but not a 6b arete.

And after all, Ben Moon was talking about the top end - there isn't much room to improve technique once you're climbing at that level, whereas power can be trained specifically for a certain move/problem.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:

PS. I may as well plug myself I guess - the latest issue of 'Sport in History' is a special edition entitled 'climbing and gender'. It might be worth seeking out....
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Hazzo)

> It would appear to me that, in male-female pairs, there remains some assumption that the man will choose the route, do the lion's share of the leading, and plan the day (although of course this is not shared by everyone).

I've noticed this almost universally, but I don't think it's to do with gender-based assumptions.

When I see women climbing hard routes, it's most often with female partners. When I see male-female pairs, it's almost always the man climbing harder. I think this is to do with who the passionate climbers pushing themselves are, and who the couples or social climbers are.

That said, when I'm climbing with a female partner (only one compared to lots of male climbing partners who want to climb the same stuff as me), she's usually the one battling, "balls out" as it were, up an E4 roof crack, and I'm moaning that I have to follow it and it hurts and it's nasty. When it's my turn to lead, I'll do a dainty little E1 slab!
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to monkeytash:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> And yep, I do think that some men who are beginners assume they will be able to climb better because they are men, but I would hope that more experienced climbers would realise quite quickly that this isn't true. I don't think sweeping statements based on gender are helpful. At the wall and generally in the wider climbing world, of course, the climbers climbing the hardest grade are male, but I think that people should be judged on their experience, how hard they train and how fit they are. To assume you are a better climber than someone just because you are a different gender is often wrong.

Fair enough. I think we've both agreed that some people make subconscious assumptions about others without knowing anything yet about the individual. I agree that this can be problematic, even if the statistics would suggest they may be correct. For those assuming they are likely to be better, being occasionally outclimbed is a good leveller; while for those assuming they are likely to be worse, occasionally coming out on top may be a good boost.
andrewmcleod - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

What is femininity? If it is the things that girls are 'supposed' to do, like make-up (to use an example someone used earlier in this thread), then I think society would be better off without it.

The same can be said for 'masculinity', which I have no time for either.

Not the same as climbing balls of course, of which I have little and plenty of the female climbers in my club have lots :P
Carolyn - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:

Or indeed, the implication that climbing harder routes is the most valid reason to go climbing - whereas many people (perhaps more women?) climb simply because they enjoy it, with no burning ambition to increase their lead grade to E9 by the next season. In much the same way that many people play in local pub football leagues at the weekend for fun, not because they hope to progress to playing in the premier league.

I can well believe that female guides get that kind of comment - along similar lines, if I mention mountain rescue in conversation, I'm usually then asked "oh, is your husband in the rescue team?"
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
>
> It strikes me that the debate here has rather become bogged down in the question of ability (which, we should remember, belongs to the systems of competitive physical activity devised by men, for men, in the early-19th century). Here, climbing is not much different to other sports, with the possible exception of extreme endurance events, in which the gap between female and male athletes narrows and is sometimes reversed.
>

I don't quite understand this. What is wrong with discussing ability in the context of a sport or outdoor activity?

The Lemming - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> The same can be said for 'masculinity', which I have no time for either.
>


I have lots of time for masculinity and femininity. Its how the world rubs along.
John_Hat - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to duchessofmalfi)
>
> The point he is making is that statistically the average man will climb harder than the average women because they (again statistically and on average) are naturally stronger.

I think there's a lot of assumptions in that statement.

1) I think indoor walls (generally) especially at higer grades are more set up more for the use of upper body strength than technique. Huge overhangs on jugs are common in climbing walls, extremely uncommon outside. Very delicate slabs are rare inside, common outside. Hence in a climb wall environment men are very likely to outperform women (in a "grade" sense) as its set up to play to their strengths.

2) However pure strength does not = climbing harder. I've taken some very heavily built folk climbing and they have performed very badly. Only three friends have ever climbed 6a inside on their first session, all three were women.

3) Smaller hands and feet mean smaller holds are bigger.

4) Women are generally more flexible and have a lower centre of gravity.

To be honest, I think that women should probably climb at least as well as men outside, where disadvantages such as reach and strength will be offset by smaller hands/feet, lower bodyweight, greater flexibility, etc.

However, if you look at the grades in logbooks, etc, there is a huge bias towards men climbing harder.

Why though?

I think part of the problem is that women are taught from a very early age to be risk-adverse and not get "dirty", whereas the opposite is more or less expected from boys. Whilst there are plenty who buck the trend and refuse to be turned into pink princesses, there will be a lot of potentially brilliant climbers who are put off because they are repeatedly told its not feminine to be hanging off a rockface by their fingertips.

or more likely, never allowed to get anywhere near the rockface in the first place.

Plus that women are judged in society - almost entirely - by looks, not deeds. I look at my (female) godchildren and its all fake makup and nail polish. It's a hell of a strong character that says "actually I'm going to buck the trend and s*d the lot of you". Nail polish and climbing does not mix well.

So the population of climbers that are women is going to be lower to start with. Hence the population of good female climbers. Hence the population of great female climbers. The female counterpart with more potential as Dave Mcleod may well be now wandering around looking after kids whilst dressed in a pink dress but looking slightly longingly at the trees in the back yard.

And then of course, you get a decent female climber, who is climbing as well or better than the lads, and prenancy and childbirth comes along which pretty much (as several friends have complained) takes your body and systematically destroys it for the sake of the child.

We men don't realise the advantages we have.

(a) pretty much free rein to do whatever we like as a kid, take as many risks as we like, etc.
(b) a "strong, fit" man is generally praised and seen as an ideal body image in media. an emaciated women is seen as an ideal female body image in media.
(c) "male" clothes are generally good for movement and use in a physical environment,
(d) we have zero pressure to wear heels, do nails, and look pretty
(e) we can't give birth to kids
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Carolyn:
> (In reply to Ben1983)
>
> Or indeed, the implication that climbing harder routes is the most valid reason to go climbing - whereas many people (perhaps more women?) climb simply because they enjoy it, with no burning ambition to increase their lead grade to E9 by the next season.

There are lots of different motivations for climbing hard. I'm not grade/goal-oriented (if I was I'd take up sport climbing, but it bores the arse off me), but I need to be climbing at my limit to get the buzz I'm looking for. Staying within my comfort zone all the time is just not satisfying, though I accept that for others, getting out of their comfort zone is not a nice experience and they avoid it.
John_Hat - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

p.s. one post, so many typos! Sorry! The excuse is that I'm not a touch typist and many of the letters on the keys on this keyboard have worn off.

I have a keyboard which says:

Q _ _ _ _ Y U _ _ P
_ _ _ _ G H J K _
Z X _ _ B _ M

It's making life difficult!
In reply to Ben1983:

> PS. I may as well plug myself I guess - the latest issue of 'Sport in History' is a special edition entitled 'climbing and gender'. It might be worth seeking out....

<like>

I don't suppose there is any chance of cheeky pdf for those of us not affiliated to an institution with good access to journals online?


Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
> I think there's a lot of assumptions in that statement...

Some people are always drawn towards social conditioning as an explanation for trends in behaviour, others go for underlying differences in human nature, and I'm in the latter camp. That's not to say that the social conditioning isn't present, just that it's not the full explanation.

Anyway, I reckon an important reason you get so many more men than women climbing hard grades is that men (in general, statistical terms) tend to focus a lot of energy on getting good at stuff. I think women are generally more sociable and men generally more competitive. I think it's a trait more commonly found in men that they try something like climbing and think "this is great, I'm going to do it 5 times a week and get really really good", whereas a woman is more likely to think "this is great, I'll do it again some time". Since men are a bit less concerned about the social aspects of stuff, they only need to find other people who want to go climbing, whereas I think women are more likely to want to find friends that also want to go climbing too. I think there are a load of subtle differences in the nature of men and women, plus the physiological differences, all combining to cause the trend we see.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon (and Jon Stewart and Carolyn):

I'm going to have a go at replying to three posts at once. Here goes!

There is nothing wrong with discussing ability, but I think the debate needs to be broadened out to include other aspects. This is partly just for the sake of completeness. However, as Jon has outlined and Carolyn has more explicitly stated, notions of ability and 'climbing hard' are not universally accepted. As my parentheses suggests, the veneration of this aspect of sport as the single most valid aim of physical activity is questionable precisely from the perspective of gender. At the same time, while climbing is a nice case study, we should be discussing this topic within the context of sport more generally (where the literature is vast); there are, however, other aspects of climbing unique to it which remain unexplored.

In reply to Jon (Carolyn - absolutely, couldn't agree more): It seems to me that according to what you have said here, women are only passionate climbers when not climbing with men, which I can only explain through gender. Perhaps you have another explanation for why climbers are only passionate when in single-gender groups? Then there is the question of leading - not just climbing harder. I have no evidence for now, of course, but I have seen many couples in which the man leads, the woman seconds, rarely the reverse. Is there something special about being first? Peter Hansen's new book (The Summits of Modern Man) is a great exploration of this question.
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Agreed. It's probably around 50% nature, 50% nurture.

Regarding nature, as well as strength as you say there is the mental side to it. I think men on average tend to be both more inclined to push themselves, as well as naturally bolder.
John_Hat - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Ben1983)
>
> [...]
>
> <like>
>
> I don't suppose there is any chance of cheeky pdf for those of us not affiliated to an institution with good access to journals online?

+1 !!
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> Agreed. It's probably around 50% nature, 50% nurture.

The interaction of the two: it's a false dichotomy.

> Regarding nature, as well as strength as you say there is the mental side to it. I think men on average tend to be... naturally bolder.

Perhaps because men can still successfully pass their genes on even if they're dead, if they've put it about a bit already?
John_Hat - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:

The "naturally bolder" thing I've mentioned on here before. I think there is a case for saying that men are more willing to accept physical risk, and one could argue that for very good survival of the species reasons if you're going to have someone to try the death-defying leap its better if its a bloke. As if he plunges to his doom then there's plenty of others to take his place.

However whilst the theory makes sense I have difficulty in seeing any evidence in separating this from nuture in a western world which sees female children as little china dolls to be dressed up in pretty frocks.
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon (and Jon Stewart and Carolyn))
>
> However, as Jon has outlined and Carolyn has more explicitly stated, notions of ability and 'climbing hard' are not universally accepted. As my parentheses suggests, the veneration of this aspect of sport as the single most valid aim of physical activity is questionable
>

Of course there is more to climbing than doing something really difficult (whether this be relatively or absolutely).

But surely notions of ability and 'climbing hard' are as good as universally accepted? The only real measure of the above is whether one manages a hard move/route, and of course for ease of comparison this is measured by way of grade. Generally speaking, if you manage something you have a certain level of ability, if you don't manage it you have lesser ability.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Actually, another principle (which I heard from a biologist) is that it is 100% both, 100% of the time. The problem with separating the two out, from my humanities perspective, is that it forces us to assume that 'social conditioning' is a mysterious immaterial process. This is clearly nonsense, since it actually has a lot to do with behaviour, performance, the objects that are placed around us etc. But if we include all of these things, then they are a part of the material world in which we grow up, and it is this material world in which our 'natures' emerge - genetic information always responds to something - some things are activated, others not. So having a greater propensity to being 'passionate' (something I would strongly dispute is a genuine gender difference - was Lynn H. passionate, or a woman?) is formed through the interaction of someone's body (including their mind) with the world around them, always nurtured nature.
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

As I say I think it's unquestionably both nature and nurture.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon (and Jon Stewart and Carolyn))
>
> I'm going to have a go at replying to three posts at once. Here goes!
>
> There is nothing wrong with discussing ability, but I think the debate needs to be broadened out to include other aspects. This is partly just for the sake of completeness. However, as Jon has outlined and Carolyn has more explicitly stated, notions of ability and 'climbing hard' are not universally accepted. As my parentheses suggests, the veneration of this aspect of sport as the single most valid aim of physical activity is questionable precisely from the perspective of gender.

Are you saying that there is some kind of problem with the "veneration" of achievement (of high grades) in climbing? How else would you like it to work? What do you mean by "questionable"?

What attracts me to climbing is that it's so unstructured, and isn't a sport. I choose to get involved in a very uncompetitive, non-grade driven aspect of climbing (mid-grade UK trad), because that suits my personality and is fantastically exciting. If I was competitive and grade obsessed I'd get into sport climbing and find a competitive bunch of mates to climb with. Or if I just wanted to bimble around on mountain Vdiffs, I'd do that. There is no tyranny of achievement in climbing.

>
> In reply to Jon (Carolyn - absolutely, couldn't agree more): It seems to me that according to what you have said here, women are only passionate climbers when not climbing with men, which I can only explain through gender.

No, I'm saying that the passionate female climbers tend to be the ones climbing in female-female pairs, not the ones out with their boyfriend or with a club. They're different personality types, the ones who are out to climb specific routes at their limit, versus the ones who are out climbing because it's a good day out (or, as I quite often see, because that's how they get to spend some time with their partner).

> Then there is the question of leading - not just climbing harder. I have no evidence for now, of course, but I have seen many couples in which the man leads, the woman seconds, rarely the reverse. Is there something special about being first? Peter Hansen's new book (The Summits of Modern Man) is a great exploration of this question.

Well in trad (which is all I know really) leading is just the same as climbing harder and pushing yourself. As I say, more men than women approach climbing in this way, for a whole load of reasons arising from the interaction of underlying human nature and the social environment which stems from those differences.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
Yes, sorry, of course we all understand notions of ability and 'climbing hard' - what I should have said was '... not universally accepted as the most valid reason for going climbing.'
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)

> However whilst the theory makes sense I have difficulty in seeing any evidence in separating this from nuture in a western world which sees female children as little china dolls to be dressed up in pretty frocks.

No one is asking you to separate it from nurture. The nurturing environmental influences exist because of underlying nature, not randomly. So the two are fundamentally not separate, nature is expressed through the 'nurturing' social environment.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> Actually, another principle (which I heard from a biologist) is that it is 100% both, 100% of the time.

Exactly as I said, "nature vs nurture" is a completely outdated way of looking at the world.

> So having a greater propensity to being 'passionate' (something I would strongly dispute is a genuine gender difference - was Lynn H. passionate, or a woman?) is formed through the interaction of someone's body (including their mind) with the world around them, always nurtured nature.

Yes. But please, please do not use single examples as evidence in a discussion of statistical trends. It makes people like me scream, bash my face against the keyboard, etc. Surely, even in the humanities, this isn't thought to be acceptable?
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Ben1983)
> >
> Are you saying that there is some kind of problem with the "veneration" of achievement (of high grades) in climbing? How else would you like it to work? What do you mean by "questionable"?

I'm saying that there is a problem with concentrating solely on the topic of physical 'ability' in order to denote climbing achievement. It is questionable because it (known as 'sport') emerged in the nineteenth century as a form of physical culture designed for the purpose of restoring a particular form of masculinity. So it is, unsurprisingly, inherently gender-biased. As you rightly point out, however, climbing is much, much more than sport, and my original post was intended to reflect precisely this - climbing is about much more than ability, and other aspects are gendered as well.

>
>
> [...]
>
> No, I'm saying that the passionate female climbers tend to be the ones climbing in female-female pairs, not the ones out with their boyfriend or with a club. They're different personality types, the ones who are out to climb specific routes at their limit, versus the ones who are out climbing because it's a good day out (or, as I quite often see, because that's how they get to spend some time with their partner).

Presumably these 'passionate female climbers', then, never go out with their boyfriend or with a club (or, since this is apparently not a possibility, simply with a man)? Surely, it is more likely that what you are seeing are just women (who may well be different in a whole variety of ways), climbing in different circumstances?
>
> [...]
>
> Well in trad (which is all I know really) leading is just the same as climbing harder and pushing yourself. As I say, more men than women approach climbing in this way, for a whole load of reasons arising from the interaction of underlying human nature and the social environment which stems from those differences.

Well, no it isn't. When I climb, say, an HS, it is not pushing myself, and nor do guides push themselves, normally when they lead clients. Of course, some people prefer to lead or to second. But there is also, I would argue a relational component, since men and women behave differently depending on the gender of the other people around them - I think that most of the women you have seen climbing with other women probably also, sometimes, climb with men.

Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Ah, if we are talking about statistical trends, then you are quite right, but you appeared to imply that this was not a statistical trend, but something 'natural' - therefore essentially lacking to all women - hence my point. Perhaps I misunderstood. Apologies
ads.ukclimbing.com
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]

>
> [...]
>
> Presumably these 'passionate female climbers', then, never go out with their boyfriend or with a club (or, since this is apparently not a possibility, simply with a man)?

Right, let's sort one thing out. Terms like "never" and "not a possibility" have no place in a discussion of trends. I can think of many single examples that don't follow the trends I'm describing. Can I assume that you know what a bell curve is, and what the relevance is to this discussion?

> Surely, it is more likely that what you are seeing are just women (who may well be different in a whole variety of ways), climbing in different circumstances?

People who climb (most often) in clubs are a different bunch of people to those who climb (most often) with random partners from UKC, and different people to those (most often) with their romantic partner. Yes, people do more than one of these things, but not randomly. People have habits. When I see them at the crag (if I go climbing enough times) then I am likely to see them in the habitual behaviour, rather than when they're doing something unusual for them.

What I'm saying is that of all the women I know who go out climbing to do specific routes at their limit, especially on adventurous crags where everything is in the E-grades, most of them climb with other women. Two female climbers ticking their way through the classic E-grade routes at Gogarth is not an uncommon sight. When it's a man and a woman, it's more common to see the bloke leading and the woman seconding. Clubs seem to go to crags where there are loads of easy routes, not to these kind of crags. These are trends I have observed over 10+ years of climbing several times per week.

>
> I think that most of the women you have seen climbing with other women probably also, sometimes, climb with men.

Yes, I'm sure they do sometimes climb with men. I'm just saying that when I see women climbing hard routes in an equal 'your lead/my lead' partnership, it is more often with another woman.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> Ah, if we are talking about statistical trends, then you are quite right, but you appeared to imply that this was not a statistical trend, but something 'natural' - therefore essentially lacking to all women - hence my point. Perhaps I misunderstood. Apologies

Yes, you misunderstand fundamentally what something 'natural' means. It has nothing to do with absolutes. Absolutes tend to apply to things whose behaviour is described by the laws of classical physics (the motion of planets, say), and pretty much nothing else. Everything in the human world is a matter of statistical trends, not absolutes. When I talk about something being 'natural' I'm talking about a statistical trend that has an explanantion in human nature.
Ben1983 - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Ok, but human nature as you define it is, as we have already discussed, not distinct from human culture. Presumably then, what you mean by 'natural' also means socially conditioned - this explains the confusion, because normally when people say 'natural' they are referring to human characteristics that are somehow distinct from culture. You might see, then, that I found your use of this term slightly confusing - as I said, many apologies for any head injuries incurred.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> Ok, but human nature as you define it is, as we have already discussed, not distinct from human culture. Presumably then, what you mean by 'natural' also means socially conditioned - this explains the confusion, because normally when people say 'natural' they are referring to human characteristics that are somehow distinct from culture. You might see, then, that I found your use of this term slightly confusing - as I said, many apologies for any head injuries incurred.

Haha. Perhaps most people's understanding of what 'culture' and 'nature' are about is around 50 years out of date. I can believe that.
John_Hat - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Jon, just a small point. I'm kind of getting the idea that you are getting a bit angry-over-your-keyboard here.

Neither Ben nor I are idiots, neither are you. The debate is enjoyable. Can you take a deep breath and chill a bit.

For example, saying "can I assume you know what a bell curve is?" to someone who is clearly both intelligent and articulate, is a bit, well, silly really.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)

> For example, saying "can I assume you know what a bell curve is?" to someone who is clearly both intelligent and articulate, is a bit, well, silly really.

That's perfectly fair, yes. There are a couple of things that tend to get that type of reaction out of me, one of them is right-wingers who talk about the "politics of envy" (I could actually be driven to murder by that) and the other is social scientists who think everything is a social construct and use single examples to attempt to disprove a statistical trend. I will try to see through the all-consuming red mists that descend when these things happen, which they do on a daily basis when I spend time procrastinating on UKC rather than getting on with the dreary stuff I should be doing. The kettle is on, and after the cup of tea, I will be much more pleasant.
girlymonkey - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went up north with my husband's family to do his father's last munro with him. (An Teallach - nice one to save for last!) While there, various family friends came too, and I had never met them, so many introductions. One of the guys was chatting to me and asked 'So do you get dragged out climbing with Tom, or do you just sit at home and worry about him?'!! I didn't quite know how to react to this, and eventually told him that I sometimes climb with Tom but actually I often climb with many other people. In climbing circles, I have never experienced the expectation that I am 'dragged along' climbing, and infact afterwards he pointed out that I am often the one dragging him out.
The youth club that I coach at the local wall is very female dominated, maybe the male dominated thing is a generational difference?
Michael Gordon - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> I'm saying that there is a problem with concentrating solely on the topic of physical 'ability' in order to denote climbing achievement. It is questionable because it (known as 'sport') emerged in the nineteenth century as a form of physical culture designed for the purpose of restoring a particular form of masculinity. So it is, unsurprisingly, inherently gender-biased.
>

I'm still struggling to understand this. Climbing ability tends to be understood in terms of climbing achievement, i.e. the ability to get up routes. How else would you measure it?

I also fail to see how sport is inherently biased against women? Yes most competitive sports events originally only featured men but that is really no longer the case. You could say the practice of sport has been historically biased against women but does what someone achieved in the past really make much difference to how quickly you can run the 100m? Surely you can either manage it in a certain time or you can't. And I think it's fair to say that if women were prevented from participating in climbing a long time ago, this has absolutely no bearing on what modern day standards are.
janenott - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
oh interesting thread and some amusing comments too!

well only just getting into climbing and find very mixed responses in terms of being a novice female climber....!

Some men and women are quite complimentary and encouraging and say how they esteem to be like some experienced female climbers as they observe them to be quite skillful...I find comments like this really encouraging.
Interestingly at times some men (& women) I think have a perception that some women can't climb....

Even more interesting only one woman has not wanted me to belay her (as i was a novice and I can understand that yet didn't mind a guy with no experience belaying them) yet guys with 30+ years of experience have been ok with me belaying....

Interesting topic thou and i think it depends on the individual......

I do agree that sports is still dominated by men on the whole, despite trying to change....these things take time.
JClimb - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo: Climbing, especially trad, is obviously dominated numerically by males, however, women to tend to climb with better technique from an earlier point in there climbing careers.
Climbing is not my primary sport, but it is my main hobby sport - I do it purely for enjoyment rather than competition. Earlier this year I posted on here, looking for partners for trad climbing, I purposefully included my name so that anyone reading, would know I was female - I expected being a novice female, to put people off as they would expect you not to progress so much, or to try as hard. I had several responses and have climbed with several different people since (all men), I have enjoyed every single time. I have also climbed with groups of people, if the jokes do become sexist, I am more than happy to give as good as I get and any attitudes I have experienced that are less than encouraging, I have felt were more to do with me not climbing the grades of those people (E4 upwards), rather than because I was female - though I could of course be wrong. Indoors, I climb with males and females, I enjoy all of the above.
KiwiPrincess - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
Why would you think that taking part in a male dominated sport would deminish your femininity?

I can keep up with the Guys In the mountains or at the crags but i am still me.. I don't have to act the role of the majority at all.

Thinking of stereo types you could have based this on:
Muscle development
I think athleticism and strength are beautiful and love my climbing body (as do men)
I no longer have long painted nails
But I also have a job which would make them inappropriate at this stage of my life regardless of if I climb.

I think my relationships with some of my partners are very different to if I was male but my being a female is part of the many things I am or have experienced that have built the person I am.

I think your perception of feminine has clouded this.
I think that a girl who is a tomboy, wears Tomboy clothing, Goes hard on the dirt bike , Drinks beer with the lads etc, still sees herself as the woman she wants to be, and is what she finds beautiful in her taste.
hazeysunshine - on 20 Oct 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I find "woman up!" works well - for both women and men
hazeysunshine - on 20 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

Just a few belated thoughts...

I lose no femininity by climbing. I am stronger, healthier, more active, watch less telly than if I didn't climb, none of which make me less feminine. Although when I was doing a lot of weight training in the past I confess I stopped wearing strappy vest tops because I looked too muscley. (If only that were true now ... ;-(

One thing that has changed over the 30 years since I first started climbing are the 'social spaces' - locations where climbers meet.

In the 80s as a woman I found a huge hurdle to joining a club/ getting to know climbers/ learning to climb, was having to walk into an unfamiliar pub on your own and introduce yourself to a bunch of strangers. A lot of pubs were/are not the most comfortable of places for a woman on her own. I'm quite a confident person, but it took me a while to get up the courage to join the local club in the new town I'd moved to.*

Now the main places where climbers are introduced to climbing, or meet up with other climbers, are far more neutral, such as climbing walls, or internet forums, which are less intimidating for women. This I'm sure is a contributing factor to the increase in numbers of women and girls participating in climbing.

*Once I did, however, I was made very welcome, in spite of (because of?) being the only woman in the club when I joined.
cayteye - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
> I am a student at Aberystwyth University studying Geography and am undertaking dissertation research for my final year. My topic of interest looks into how women, in particular, integrate into the climbing society which was once, and maybe still is, deemed a masculine dominated environment. I aim to understand how women are challenging the idea of climbing as a masculine dominated sport, how the preconceptions of femininity and expectations of the female gender are changing and how men are reacting in response to these alterations of discourse.
> I am mostly interest in this post about getting your thoughts on how femininity is seen and conducted in the climbing scene. For example do you, as female, feel as though you need to make up for a loss of femininity (through partaking in the sport) by extenuating other feminine characteristics.
> Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.
> Any feed back you could give would be helpful. I don't mean to offend or patronise anyone through my wording.

I have an article on a very similar topic coming out in Climber magazine soon- its about women and mountaineering - but maybe some food for thought for you.
I've been talking a lot about this recently whilst on a climbing holiday and I will quote a pro climber i was with when he got involved in a discussion me and another lady we engaged in about women and climbing and how *generally* it is a case of boyfriend leads and girlfriend will top rope the route. This is *very generally speaking* and also my recent experience. I then said that its obviously different for girls who have climbed from a young age and are used to taking the lead, training etc etc and as experienced and as strong as a guy, but pro climber responded thus: " F- off,dont put ( for example Caroline Ciavaldini ) on a pedestal, they have exactly the same decision making process as you..."
So,i dont know if i'm making excuses for myself or not or if this helps at all, but its a topic im interested in anyway.

We also had a discussion about climbing photography and how a female editor refused to put a photo of a women climbing and showing her cleavage on the front cover.... the photographer says its not that the women climbing mind and men obvs climb topless, its just now there is no way he'd submit a photo with cleavage. So discussion there about its ok to put pix of men half naked but women? ok or not?

I actually think men tend to expect women to have the SAME attitude to climbing as them and if you're not in the mood for 'aving it.... you're a winge bag..... if you say your a bit nervous etc of doing a redpoint, there is little sympathy unless you show "psyche"...so conclusion being- yeah attitudes have changed- we are expected to be like guys. Good thing or bad thing? - i dunno.... but i certainly pulled my finger out and had a go a clipping up some hard routes.....

annetweddell - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben1983:
I'd say that you are bang on the money when you say that there is a natural assumption that the man in a mixed team is seen as the leader, or stronger partner. When I started climbing in the early 70's I was lucky to fall in with the North London Climbing Club who met at the Sobell Wall. There were a handful of very talented women climbers in the club at the time and we all, as you did then, climbed everything: rock, snow, ice etc., and climbed with each other frequently. I think this made us push ourselves more, take responsibility, set our own goals and gave us no excuse to fail.
Yep, I can remember several laughs we had when a male team would see us (a female team) head off up some climb & assume that if we could do it, it must be easy and attempt to follow.
However I do remember that we had the respect of our male colleagues in the NLMC and their encouragement. We were invited as equals on several exciting trips and allowed to push boundaries, for which I am forever grateful.
You see, perhaps it's all down to what is expected of us women. If our vision is limited, so will our experience be. We are beginning to see more positive role models and who wouldn't be impressed by watching Lyn Hill climb? I think size & strength etc. are largely irrelevant unless you are constantly climbing with someone who is larger, stronger & more powerful than you and you can't work out how to climb better than they do.
Was the original thread about femininity? Someone else mentioned it, but to reiterate; the clothes nowadays are fantastic! My favourite crag outfit this year has been bright yellow pants, nice little vest top, bright green stretchy top & a bright green primaloft jacket. Oh, you've seen me! xx
angie - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:
Hi
I came back to climbing 2 years ago after a 25 year break and have found that although very male dominated they are all very accepting of me as a climber and respect my ability to climb infact they all encouraged me to go and pass my SPA which i did .I can't knock out the highest sport grades on the climbing wall or outdoors but I can lead a higher Trad grade than most of them . They range in age from 20 to 65 and encourage newcomers whether male or female . I never really thought about challeging the masculine dominated sport I just wanted to climb as as the case with the guys and the few other women.
I do remember climbing from the 80s and have found it far easier to fit in the climbing scene than I did then but maybe because I have more confidence in myself than I did then - Im not sure
There is no need to try to look more feminine though I do take care of my apearance anyway .
angie - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to cayteye:
Its true - I just get on and climb and lead exactly like the guys and they treat me like one of them . In fact a lot of them second me on Trad. All the guys I climb with treat me like a climber - ie just like them
Timmd on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
>
> Are you overusing oeuvre?

I think vocabulary can be like peacock feathers to some..?

Maybe, maybe not. (:-))
Julian Wedd on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

Tight fitting lycra at the climbing wall? Yes please.

Sorry, couldn't help it.

Women, in my view, tend to climb with more grace and finesse than their male counterparts who use upper body strength more so. Female climbers do not alter the atmosphere in my opinion. The fact that women, with usually less strength, can often climb tougher routes than some men has lent me to think that the boys can learn lots from the girls in terms of technique.
pebbles - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to Julian Wedd:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
>
> Women, in my view, tend to climb with more grace and finesse than their male counterparts

hmm. and then there are those of us who also climb like thugs, with all the finesse of a pianist in boxing gloves

andrewmcleod - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Julian Wedd:
> (In reply to Hazzo)
>
> Tight fitting lycra at the climbing wall? Yes please.

Having done some climbing in leggings (80's climbing fancy dress) I look forward to the day that it becomes acceptable once more - so comfy! :)

But I suspect that isn't what you wanted? :P
avictimoftheDrpsycho - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:
> (In reply to Julian Wedd)

> But I suspect that isn't what you wanted? :P

More like this perhaps?

http://www.freeloljokes.com/products/790funniest%20crazy%20cool%20pictures%20of%20span.jpg
sensibleken - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Hazzo:

>Also from a male perspective do you notice a change in atmosphere when women are around.

No, not at all. I really don't see climbing as male dominated. In fact I see it as one of the most egalitarian of sports. At the gym or outside i see mixed groups paying no regard to gender at all. The only time it come into play is at competition time and even then I think its odd.

Im in Ireland so maybe it is different but as far as I see its a mostly level playing field

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