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ARTICLE: Encouraging Women in University Mountaineering Clubs

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 UKC Articles 16 Mar 2017
Kitty Selkirk in the Alps, 3 kbFrancesca Baldacchino, Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club Safety Secretary and Chris Acheson, EUMC President have penned a piece highlighting the importance that they place on encouraging female members of the club to join, participate and push themselves in an environment which has traditionally suffered from gender stereotyped roles.

In our time at university, the club has always strived to encourage people of all genders and backgrounds to take up climbing and explore the UK. In doing so, the EUMC gives people a sense of self confidence and adventure beyond their university degree, which they can also take away with them after graduation.

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In reply to UKC Articles:

Even as a male student in a club with a lot of strong female members and role models, this is pretty thought-provoking stuff! Reminds us that we can always do more to improve our sport! Great article
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In reply to UKC Articles: Attitudes are certainly changing, albeit slowly.

FWIW the most impressive climbing I've seen in the last year or two has been a female team in Huntman Leap last Summer. After a super steady lead of Fitzcarraldo (E5 6a) a 20metre lead fall from the grassy top out was shrugged off with utterly impressive nonchalance. They then followed us up Witch Hunt (E4 6b) coping equally calmly with the rapidly encroaching tide.

I'm also quite resigned to now getting burnt off at the wall by a local thirteen year-old girl as well as by the usual suspects; the regular posse of twenty something male boulderers.

That said, not all female climbers who are pushing themselves are entirely happy with everything that comes with their ascents being in the public eye or being held up as role models. For every climber like Sierra Blair-Coyle there are those who are the exact opposite - regularly on the first ascents of the gnarliest routes but who view chasing publicity and photo shoots as an absolute anathema.

There is perhaps a fine line between having female role models who break down gender stereotypes and the pressure of publicity, commercialism and social media actually resulting in the maintenance of unrealistic expectations. Do the staged photos/videos of highly glamorous and toned female climbers on Instagram and YouTube help or hinder grassroots female participation? Or is it completely irrelevant?

I'd be interested to hear what female think on that issue.
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 Michael Gordon 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:
Female participation is rarely a problem in uni clubs and that seems to be reflected here. The other issues (macho posturing etc) are definitely more recognisable. As for whether the guys or girls climb harder though, surely this question could be answered fairly easily (by those in the club)? And either way, the best climbers will naturally be respected, regardless of gender.
Post edited at 07:23
 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

An interesting example of student angst?

We climbed at The Roaches last weekend and noticed the presence of a fairly large university group. There was a good mix of genders and the women seemed to be more than capable of holding their own in the mixed company.

The notion that women need special encouragement seems rather patronising.
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 pebbles 17 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

I dont think so, for several reasons. Where theres a good gender balance its fine, but some groups can have a very laddish group dynamic thats quite offputting to women getting involved - you only have to look at how some ukc threads develop to see this. And then its also useful for women to climb at least some of the time with other women, to develop a climbing style that works effectively for them - women - and also smaller men - tend to find different ways to climb things than taller blokes. Plus I think there are often different confidence issues . I think these come from the ways men and women are socialised rather than anything inherant, but that doesnt mean they arent there. So it seems to me that new women climbers tend to underestimate their own ability whereas new men climbers tend to overestimate it. Neither is neccesarily better than the other - I'v seen inexperienced blokes get into some quite dangerous situations through overconfidence - but they are different. Womens climbing is growing but maybe thats been helped by efforts like the edinburgh university club and womens clubs at walls. Maybe the same thing needs to happen for winter climbing where women are still very much in the minority!
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Helen Bach 17 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

> We climbed at The Roaches last weekend and noticed the presence of a fairly large university group. There was a good mix of genders and the women seemed to be more than capable of holding their own in the mixed company.

Wondered how long before some middle aged male would appear in order to rubbish the article. Didn't take long did it?

> The notion that women need special encouragement seems rather patronising.

Not as much as women being told how to think by some men.
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Helen Bach 17 Mar 2017
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

> I'd be interested to hear what female think on that issue.

I imagine any opinion expressed that backs up the experiences noted in the article (I have certainly encountered such attitudes) will be quickly rubbished by some male, in a fairly patronising way (Oh look - someone just has, lower down in the thread). So why bother?
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In reply to timjones:

> The notion that women need special encouragement seems rather patronising.

Isn't that kind of the point of the article? There were several examples listed of women being patronised by other climbers.

 Simon Caldwell 17 Mar 2017
I imagine that any male questioning the premise will be told patronisingly that they're being patronising...

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 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Helen Bach:

> Wondered how long before some middle aged male would appear in order to rubbish the article. Didn't take long did it?

The observation was that there appears to be little shortage of strong and bold female climbers out there which leas to the question do women need any special encouragement?


> Not as much as women being told how to think by some men.

Or by other women
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 subtle 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Helen Bach:

Do you want some fish with that?
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 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Isn't that kind of the point of the article? There were several examples listed of women being patronised by other climbers.

Some people will patronise anyone regardless of gender

It is just a lack of manners, maybe it would be better to teach people to be civil?
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In reply to timjones:

> Some people will patronise anyone regardless of gender It is just a lack of manners, maybe it would be better to teach people to be civil?

Certainly, but personally I think it's hard to deny that this kind of behaviour is heavily gender biased. That's not to say that being a condescending asshat is the exclusive domain of men.
 pebbles 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Helen Bach:

its ok Helen, its all just been mansplained to us.
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 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Certainly, but personally I think it's hard to deny that this kind of behaviour is heavily gender biased. That's not to say that being a condescending asshat is the exclusive domain of men.

I guess that each individuals experience will depend on who they spend their time with.

I have a very low tolerance level when it comes to asshats
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 annep11 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

As a recent female graduate of the EUMC, I'd like to note that the views of the authors do not reflect the experience of all members. I started in the club as a beginner and had quite a different (and more positive) experience than the one outlined here.
In reply to annep11:
I don't think it shows EUMC in a negative light, you don't need to worry about that!

Shoot me down if you wish but I honestly think males occasionally say things like the examples given; 'you can second now if you want', etc because they genuinely are concerned the female may stop climbing if they have a bad experience. I know I'm like that with my girlfriend, she is new to the sport however. I'm not saying it's right to think that females may give up after a negative (read: 'scary' if you like) experience anymore than a male would but it's instinctive to show concern. Maybe this is where the paradigm needs to shift?

That said, I climb with many females who I wouldn't ever even consider saying things like that to, just get on with it as I would with any of my male partners.

I'm not convinced a girls only bouldering session is going to solve the problem though. Though it's still a cool idea in itself, it's just avoiding the problem rather than facing it head on. If I were in the position of the authors I would be seriously considering how to help alter everyone's mindsets to be 'equality aware' (for lack of a better way of putting it!).

I personally would probably start with organising a meeting with all the females in the club, and asking what they all think needs to be changed in order to feel less patronised and more equal, yet still encouraged amongst their climbing peers. Then as a whole club make a set of objectives to focus on throughout the year.
Post edited at 12:52
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 Offwidth 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good stuff. I look forward to a day when we will be just climbers when climbing.
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 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Good stuff. I look forward to a day when we will be just climbers when climbing.

We are all just climbers, if you're climbing with people who think otherwise then I suggest that you ought to find some different friends!
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 jonnie3430 17 Mar 2017
In reply to The Green Giant:

> I personally would probably start with organising a meeting with all the females in the club, and asking what they all think needs to be changed in order to feel less patronised and more equal, yet still encouraged amongst their climbing peers. Then as a whole club make a set of objectives to focus on throughout the year.

If they choose to do this, I would suggest a similar session with the male climbers to ask them how they feel about gender equality and what they think is needed. Awareness needs to come from both sides, as does buy in, leaving one side out and then giving them objectives isn't the way to do it.

 Offwidth 17 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

Alternately, I might simply wish the healthy approach to gender in climbing I experience in my group of friends might become more universal.
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 Michael Gordon 17 Mar 2017
In reply to The Green Giant:

> Then as a whole club make a set of objectives to focus on throughout the year.

Like what?
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 Greasy Prusiks 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Helen Bach:

Hi Helen,

I'd be really interested to hear your (and other women's response) to a question I've got that's related to this thread.

In your experience do you think the comments like those in the article come from a small minority of people who regularly make "sexist" comments or from a larger percentage of people but less regularly per individual? If you read this and rather wouldn't comment then a like for "small minority, regularly" and dislike for "larger percentage, less often" would be appreciated.

Cheers.
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 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Which leaves the question of where you do experience the problem?
 Offwidth 17 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

Crags, walls, not as bad as it was when I started in the 80's but its still there.
 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

So how do you tell the difference between a man making a decision based on the individual and a making a decision based on gender

Based on my own judgemwnt of the individual I might encourage person A to crank harder and person B to second a few routes.

If person B was a woman and you overheard me would you judge me as sexist, just plain wrong or maybe even correct?
 Noelle 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

My experience has been that Uni clubs are generally great at the gender and ethnic minority inclusivity stuff. Maybe because it's a new sport to lots of students, so there's a spirit of 'we're all in this together' type thing? From my expereince, its outside this environment that you get more imbalance.

Women-only training sessions are not only good for technique, but help some women take the lead more often. Its too easy sometimes to let the guys get first go on a problem, or for them to 'test the water' by leading an unknown route. I'm certainly guilty of this. Its also another way for some individuals (including some, but not all, ethnic minority climbers) to feel more at ease, or be happier with their children getting into the sport.

I'm lucky to be able to climb every week with a collection of really strong women. Not every woman has that opportunity. For some people, it makes no difference, but personally its been a brilliant confidence boost.

 timjones 17 Mar 2017
In reply to Noelle:

> My experience has been that Uni clubs are generally great at the gender and ethnic minority inclusivity stuff. Maybe because it's a new sport to lots of students, so there's a spirit of 'we're all in this together' type thing? From my expereince, its outside this environment that you get more imbalance.Women-only training sessions are not only good for technique, but help some women take the lead more often. Its too easy sometimes to let the guys get first go on a problem, or for them to 'test the water' by leading an unknown route. I'm certainly guilty of this. Its also another way for some individuals (including some, but not all, ethnic minority climbers) to feel more at ease, or be happier with their children getting into the sport.

The wife remarked the other day that if there was one thing that she could thank her mother for it was the absolute belief that she can do anything that she wants to. She was possibly lucky to have a miother with that attitude back in the '70s but I know that it is much more common now.

Living in a rural farming community strong, confident women have always seemed very much the "norm" to me.

I suspect that we will soon reach the point where the majority of women have this confidence that has been instilled in them by one or both parents.


I'm not sure how much we can do to radically alter the outlook of people of either gender that lack breal self belief.

> I'm lucky to be able to climb every week with a collection of really strong women. Not every woman has that opportunity. For some people, it makes no difference, but personally its been a brilliant confidence boost.

I'm sad have to confess that I have little experience of climbing with really strong women, it may be something to do with being a weak punter

In reply to Michael Gordon:
Well if I knew the definitive answer to that, I would solve sexism with a few quick, viral videos.

Like many other people here I have grown up in a world that is, in some cases, naturally sexist. Meaning that I am occasionally instinctively protective/act differently towards some woman in our sport. I'm sure this can come across as patronising, when in reality all I would like them to do is enjoy it just as much as I do. In fact I'm actually protective of anyone who I think may reconsidering going out climbing again - male or female.

It is only when people get together and discuss situations, that people begin to educate themselves and those around them. That's where meetings with both sexes independently (quite right jonnie3430), where examples of sexism but also good examples of equality and support from both sexes are laid out. Then a meeting with the entire club membership, to talk about the examples (anonymously) and how they can be prevented or repeated and amplified in the future. With these desires a set of objectives can be determined.

Bearing in mind, I don't think it is right to act exactly the same around men than it is woman. They're different sexes and have different dynamics. Really what I think is being debated here is the fine line between supportive and condescending. And we're all trying to find the balance of it - that's another reason why clear objectives would help because it puts the expectations down in black and white.
Post edited at 15:17
 Offwidth 17 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

I've been climbing for 30 years in and around mixed groups and can usually tell the difference by watching reactions alongside what is said. Sometimes sexism I've seen in climbing is overtly stupid, more often its sad lower level stuff, also commonly stuff that is lazy and probably without any concerning intent and sometimes its a knowing joke (and might look bad from the outside but is in fact the opposite). Yes its possible I might have the wrong category on occasions but the many women I've climbed with usually seemed to think the same as I did and spotted the same problems.
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In reply to UKC Articles:

I think its also important to remember that some people (many of whom will be women) simply do not want to push themselves. My wife enjoys climbing but has no desire to lead. She likes the fact that she gets to enjoy impressive landscapes and views that she wouldn't get if I didn't 'take her climbing'.
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 FreshSlate 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:
I wonder if my former uni club would benefit from segregated climbing days? From a free market point of view if it is offered and there is sufficient demand then why not?

I do however hope that one day we can just put all this to bed and just be climbers. Does this type of thing usually work as a stepping stone? Or is it going to exacerbate the differences and the otherness of the genders?
Post edited at 17:44
 Offwidth 18 Mar 2017
In reply to FreshSlate:
Its helped most of those I know who have been, in terms of improvement in a supporting environment, and its the problem men that are the issue in terms of difference, so I don't see how it can exasperate anything. Having more women around who climb well seems to me part of the solution.
Post edited at 09:50
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In reply to UKC Articles:

That this has resulted in a thread that seems to have mainly men as contributors is interesting to me. And there's a lot of talk about how men can support and encourage women. And a reference to women being able to hold their own in mixed company. Imagine how it would read if we swapped this around so that these were references to male climbers? A lot of posts here seem to be well intentioned and I'm not knocking that, but maybe all this talk also supports the basic premise of the article.

I guess we might see similar patterns if discussing male nursery nurses (or fathers!). So, my point isn't that men are all prejudiced/patronising to women but that the way we all talk about issues like this sometimes reinforces the notions of sex differences that underpin the inequalities.
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 Offwidth 18 Mar 2017
In reply to cathsullivan:

Thats maybe the sad state of UKC Cath...modern climbing is way more welcoming than these forums.
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In reply to Offwidth:

I think the fact that it's mainly men having this conversation is probably a UKC thing.

But I believe talk that simplistically assumes lage scale, innate gender differences is rife in many contexts and with the current popularity of explaining human behaviour with reference to 'the brain', it is getting more common. Many of the people doing this wouldn't tolerate it if it were done about differences between people of different ethnicities (rightly so) but it's fair game when talking about men and women. And women are often just as bad as men for this kind of thing (although I have been told off by other feminists in the past for invoking the idea of false consciousness, I'm largely unrepentant on that point) .

Those of us who try and point out that it might be unsubstantiated and dangerous get quickly shouted down as crazed lunatics (although the evidence is in our favour). I once got involved in a very long and heated internet argument about sex differences on another forum. When I eventually noted that much of what was being argued would be viewed by those arguing it as dangerous nonsense if it were being said about people of other ethnicities, it was like lighting the blue touch paper. The very idea that these people who were openly and admittedly sexist were the same as racists made them apoplectic. And to be fair they were already quite angry simply because somebody was asking them to provide evidence for their claims (and providing them, calmly, with evidence against and, gasp, logical arguments). They simply could not see that it's the same thing and were hugely offended. It's a waste of time arguing with them, sadly - although I do occasionally find myself getting drawn in because I feel guilty for not challenging it.
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In reply to cathsullivan:

> That this has resulted in a thread that seems to have mainly men as contributors is interesting to me.

Isn't that to be expected? The article seems to be challenging men to question their possible gender biases, unconscious or otherwise, and they are doing just that.
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In reply to Robert Durran:

> Isn't that to be expected? The article seems to be challenging men to question their possible gender biases, unconscious or otherwise, and they are doing just that.

Yes, that's a good point. But are they being challenged or rehearsed (assuming they even need challenging)? I'm not against that, by any means, and I actually think that women should be doing it too. It does seem to often be the way whenever questions about gender/sexism come up on here though, and I find myself wondering about it.
 Offwidth 18 Mar 2017
In reply to cathsullivan:

Whatever way you look at it you can't do much if women are as grossly under-represented as they are here. So please keep trying. I'm not getting at the site as they are clearly trying to do things about it. On the other channel gender balance seems even worse. When people deny my argument that there is a gender problem somewhere, the numbers are always a giveaway.
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 TheFasting 18 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

In my club we never had to encourage women to join. Rather one time I tried to get guys to join me in the board because it was me and 4 other women. Don't know why we accidentally succeeded with that so well, but maybe it was because we never tried? I never cared what gender the people on the trips had. However, we didn't do much hard technical climbing.

Source: Was the president of the student alpine club in Oslo for a bit more than 4 years
 alicia 18 Mar 2017
In reply to cathsullivan:

>The very idea that these people who were openly and admittedly sexist were the same as racists made them apoplectic. And to be fair they were already quite angry simply because somebody was asking them to provide evidence for their claims (and providing them, calmly, with evidence against and, gasp, logical arguments). They simply could not see that it's the same thing and were hugely offended. It's a waste of time arguing with them, sadly - although I do occasionally find myself getting drawn in because I feel guilty for not challenging it.

I once complained to a wise friend about this phenomenon of getting angry in response to sexism being pointed out. Her response was simply that "People hate being called out on their shit."

I do think that it's possible that even when the immediate reaction is rage, the person might think about the issue a bit more calmly for some time afterwards and potentially change their mind as a result (when they aren't faced with having to admit to anyone else that they were wrong). So you speaking up may still be worthwhile. That's what I tell myself to stay sane anyway...!
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 alicia 18 Mar 2017
In reply to Noelle:

> My experience has been that Uni clubs are generally great at the gender and ethnic minority inclusivity stuff. Maybe because it's a new sport to lots of students, so there's a spirit of 'we're all in this together' type thing? From my expereince, its outside this environment that you get more imbalance.

This was my experience too--I never felt even a hint of sexism in my uni club. The only sexism I've seen in climbing has been after uni.
In reply to alicia:

> >... I do think that it's possible that even when the immediate reaction is rage, the person might think about the issue a bit more calmly for some time afterwards and potentially change their mind as a result (when they aren't faced with having to admit to anyone else that they were wrong). So you speaking up may still be worthwhile. That's what I tell myself to stay sane anyway...!

I hope you're right and I guess there's a good chance. I think on the internet it is especially hard for us to back down because our previous words are there in print for everyone to see. Sometimes I think it makes use more entrenched and inflexible than we might be face to face. And, yes, you never know what goes through people's heads afterwards.
 hedgepig 18 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

In the CUMC in 1974 there were 3 women, which even for the gender ratios in the university as a whole was pretty bad. I may have been the only one of the 3 with my own rope. I had not encountered this sort of all-male (substantially public school) environment before, so it was an interesting curiosity, but I pretty soon left the club and climbed with a group of friends. If a club environment is unwelcoming, people leave the club, and the effect is reinforced. I'm quite glad to see a university club facing the problem head-on, and by doing so they probably annul the problem. I hadn't encountered an all-female environment either, though I later found that climbing on a 2-girl rope let me go ahead and lead if my partner failed on a route, whereas I'd tend to let a bloke just abandon the climb rather than go and try the thing he had failed on. I hope I've crept ahead of my dinosaur attitudes by now, but social conditioning is a powerful force.
In reply to hedgepig:

> ... though I later found that climbing on a 2-girl rope let me go ahead and lead if my partner failed on a route, whereas I'd tend to let a bloke just abandon the climb rather than go and try the thing he had failed on. I hope I've crept ahead of my dinosaur attitudes by now, but social conditioning is a powerful force.

It is, and often these things aren't operating consciously. I recall an instance where I was waiting at the bottom of a route (with a mutual friend of ours hedgepig) watching a bloke struggle on the bottom of it, which was very wet and slimey. Having watced him slither, gibber and back off, I assumed that it wasn't really doable and that we should exercise sound mountaineering judgement and run away. My friend fixed me with one of her looks when I suggested that I wouldn't be able to do it and politely but firmly reminded me that him not being able to do it wasn't evidence that I couldn't do it. So, feeling obliged/motivated, I had a go ... and did it easily. Even if I had't done it, I would have been glad that I actually had a go. Obviously, I don't really know for sure that the gender of the climber who had failed influenced my confidence, but it occurred to me later that it may well have done so implicitly. The fact that I wasn't consciously thinking "if a bloke can't do it, I can't do it" doesn't mean that wasn't partly what was going on.
 Offwidth 19 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

"Living in a rural farming community strong, confident women have always seemed very much the "norm" to me. I suspect that we will soon reach the point where the majority of women have this confidence that has been instilled in them by one or both parents."

Lovely words but remind me again how many women farmers there are right now compared to men, despite significant improvements in the last deacde? So much for norms...maybe they needed to be stronger and more confident than men to meet equal levels of success like being selected by their parents to run things, or maybe being in such a minority for so long they need to be bloody tough (like women climbers had to be when I started in the 80s).
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 timjones 19 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> "Living in a rural farming community strong, confident women have always seemed very much the "norm" to me. I suspect that we will soon reach the point where the majority of women have this confidence that has been instilled in them by one or both parents."Lovely words but remind me again how many women farmers there are right now compared to men, despite significant improvements in the last deacde? So much for norms...maybe they needed to be stronger and more confident than men to meet equal levels of success like being selected by their parents to run things, or maybe being in such a minority for so long they need to be bloody tough (like women climbers had to be when I started in the 80s).

Are you missing the fact that a great many farm businesses are husband and wife partnerships?

I wonder whether your own prejudice is leading you to assume that the man in the partnership is the "farmer"?
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 Michael Gordon 19 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

Again it's a nice thought but it would be interesting to see some statistics (who owns the land or rents if it is rented). I have my suspicions and I don't think this is prejudice so much as just a sense of what is most likely the norm.
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 Offwidth 19 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

I was brought up on farms. The husband and wife partnerships make the stats these days.
 timjones 19 Mar 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I can't think of a single farm in my generation around here that was left to a son in preference to a daughter.

Where there are multiple children the norm is very much to leave them in equal shares and for whoever wants to farm to have to buy their siblings out.

 timjones 19 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> I was brought up on farms. The husband and wife partnerships make the stats these days.

They might publish stats but I fill the census out and given the questions that they ask I'll be beggared if I know how they can claim to accurately produce those stats.
 spidermonkey09 20 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Interesting article and I think a good forum discussion with lots of men talking about their own preconceptions. Hope it carries on.

I've been reading a lot about this issue recently ever since the furore over the piece that appeared on Evening Sends a few months ago provocatively, and wrongly IMO titled 'when feminism goes too far.' There were a lot of issues with this piece,not least the shonky referencing which suggested some substandard research, but the fact remains that it was an important piece because it highlighted the view of a good chunk of the female climbing community, namely that in their experience they haven't encountered sexism in climbing. A lot of women, however have, and that suggests that there is certainly a problem. The scale of the debate but suggests that it's not a universal problem and so we shouldn't dismiss anyone's experience based on 'thats not what I felt.'

I wanted to ask what people thought about these two passages. Both written about women trying hard problems/routes, but with different suggestions about how to respond as a man in that situation. In this piece:

'If the guys fall off, this is usually met with comments such as “You mad bastard! That was badass!” or “It’s about time you fell off: now you know where your limits lie”, and even better “You wouldn’t have fallen off if you’d just cranked a little bit harder”. For the girls, it’s a different story: “Are you okay? That fall looked really scary”, “You don’t need to try it again if you’re not comfortable with it” or “If you like you could stick to seconding until you get your confidence back”.

In this piece by Shelma Jun:“

I’ve got you, Shelma,” my friend Mel said. “You can bail or try the crux, whatever you want to do, I’ve got you.” Her words of encouragement were soothing; I fully believed that she was there supporting me and my decision, whatever it might be. Rewind to a year earlier: same problem, male spotters. "Just stand on your leg and reach up,” one said. "You’ll be fine, just do the move,” said another.

I felt pressure not to appear weak, as if I were whining by confessing my fears of making that crux move so high off the ground. Unconsciously, I acted totally differently. Even in my own head, I told myself I needed to “man up.”


In similar situations, I can say with 100% confidence that I have encouraged both male and female climbers the same way, basically by telling them to go for it. This has always seemed to me to be the way to go because if I was to change my attitude because it was a woman climbing, I'd be in the wrong. I was really interested to read this piece by Shelma Jun because it really challenged that view. But this UKC piece suggests I might have been right before. Obviously, the truth is that every person, male or female, is different and each route/problem is different so having 'rules' on how to respond are counter productive. But in a pinch, I'm always going to tell people to go for it because it's how I always am!

So the question is, what's the best rule of thumb to suggest to make climbers? Because here we have two strands of the female climbing community with diametrically opposed views on how to react in this situation. Maybe we can't even have a rule of thumb? I'm not sure. Interested to hear what people, especially female users, think.
 Michael Gordon 20 Mar 2017
In reply to spidermonkey09:
“I’ve got you, Shelma,” my friend Mel said. “You can bail or try the crux, whatever you want to do, I’ve got you.” Her words of encouragement were soothing; I fully believed that she was there supporting me and my decision, whatever it might be.

Rewind to a year earlier: same problem, male spotters. "Just stand on your leg and reach up,” one said. "You’ll be fine, just do the move,” said another.I felt pressure not to appear weak, as if I were whining by confessing my fears of making that crux move so high off the ground. Unconsciously, I acted totally differently. Even in my own head, I told myself I needed to “man up.”


I don't think there can be a rule of thumb as different people will respond differently (regardless of gender). To my mind the first approach may be soothing but (assuming good protection) it makes backing off too easy an option to take. The second approach of 'man up' does have its uses in the right situations, like it seems even the one above when the climber's mind hardens as they decide they should just go for it.
Post edited at 07:22
mysterion 20 Mar 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

It's the same old story, women expecting men 'to just know'
9
 Lucy Wallace 20 Mar 2017
In reply to spidermonkey09:

I don't think there is a right answer, but your question gets to the nub of the dilemma of female only spaces and why they work for some but not all. It's impossible to generalise about any group of people. Female climbers are complex human beings. I do think that we should be looking for ways of being supportive without making assumptions of "weakness". Yes, this requires a high degree of emotional intelligence but this is an approach that would benefit all climbers regardless of gender.

I've been lurking on this thread so far as it seemed to be going the way of all the others on gender, with lots of men arguing about whether sexism exists. Your question is a good one!
In reply to spidermonkey09:

> :“I’ve got you, Shelma,” my friend Mel said. “You can bail or try the crux, whatever you want to do, I’ve got you.” Her words of encouragement were soothing; I fully believed that she was there supporting me and my decision, whatever it might be. Rewind to a year earlier: same problem, male spotters. "Just stand on your leg and reach up,” one said. "You’ll be fine, just do the move,” said another.

As a male who has climbed with women pretty consistently for a long time (fellow students, club members, partners, wife, daughter) I'm sure I still have things to learn about how I should behave. I'm just not sure what I should learn from this.

Anyway, it's usually me that needs the encouragement.

 John2 20 Mar 2017
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Do you think your manner of encouraging female partners should be any different from your manner of encouraging male ones?
In reply to John2:

> Do you think your manner of encouraging female partners should be any different from your manner of encouraging male ones?

I think it's much more dependent on the situation than the sex of the climber. Are they basically in good shape but need a bit of encouragement or are they struggling? Are they obviously missing a key hold? Are they feeling a bit under-motivated are do they actually feel unsafe? From experience, do they want me to say anything at all?
 stubbed 20 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Having more women around who climb is definitely part of the solution.
I believe that when taking new climbers out, the women are more likely to start leading, or challenge herself, if another woman is showing her what to do. Same with skiing and mountain biking. Or road cycling even. With a man teaching, there is a tendency for the woman to stay in their usual 'being looked after' role.
2
 Michael Gordon 20 Mar 2017
In reply to Dave Garnett:

I agree about the importance of the whole situation. Maybe the first example above was a sport route (it wasn't clear), but if trad it surely depends as much on this as on the climber. I was assuming something at least well protected; if a bold route then giving encouragement seems much more problematic and any push to 'go for it' really has to come from within.
 spidermonkey09 20 Mar 2017
In reply to Snoweider:

Thanks. I think you've articulated the dilemma perfectly. Changing the approach for each person and the route/problem they're trying is obviously the way forward in an ideal world but sometimes in a bouldering scenario you don't know people; you all just happen to be underneath the same boulder! In that situation I'd be tempted to stick with all out encouragement as a) that's my default setting and b) I would feel uncomfortable changing that approach based solely on gender when I don't know the climber.

As Dave Garnett said, always learning with these things because there is no right answer. As in any field, there are some pieces and people writing on gender issues in climbing who fail to take this into account. It's this that frustrates me occasionally because I am genuinely trying to understand the issue!
 BarrySW19 04 Apr 2017
In reply to timjones:

> So how do you tell the difference between a man making a decision based on the individual and a making a decision based on gender

Like this you mean? https://xkcd.com/385/

 Gone 04 Apr 2017

Interesting discussion. I am, as a data point, a woman who climbs occasionally now, but never joined my university mountaineering club back in the 90s. It was something I fancied doing, as I love the mountains, but I wasn't confident, because I was rubbish at school PE and organised sports, and being humiliated for being a bit uncoordinated was too fresh in my memory. I eagerly read the blurb for the university mountaineering club, which was keen on expressing its illustrious history and the number of first ascents in the Alps and Greater Ranges by its former members, and then I read a trip report telling me how the novice members, mostly male, had been doing all these terrifying sounding climbs.. "Severe.." "Extreme..." Even the most inept, reading between the lines, had been successfully dragged up something described as "Very Difficult". Did they not even have an option called "Easy" for people like me who would never be the best at it but wanted to experience moving over rock at their own comfort level?

It was only once I left university I drummed up enough confidence to visit a climbing wall, where eventually I bumped into a couple of similarly awkward and bumbly blokes who I'd been at university with and hadn't been put off by the descriptors, in the same way that men will still apply for a job if they don't meet all the prerequisites, but a woman won't. (Of course, the risk is that the testosterone addled will take undue risks due to peer pressure - not all sexism disadvantages women, so I am glad that these guys were still in one piece). It didn't take me long to learn the history of climbing grades and proudly onsight the odd Stanage VDiff without claiming that it is, in the grand scheme of things, very difficult, and I'm not saying we should rename things for the purpose of accessibility. But I do regret not having the confidence to join the club and have fun while young and strong, and I hope that that club these days puts out a different message, so that other women won't fall into the trap, who knows?
In reply to Gone:

Nicely put! Words are important
 Michael Gordon 05 Apr 2017
In reply to Gone:

The trouble is a mountaineering club would (should in my opinion) usually want to attract good and keen climbers and saying the above sounds a lot better than "we like to get out in the hills, walking, climbing, running, skiing, swimming, eating cake. All that is needed is a sense of fun" which is as likely to be off-putting to some. Certainly how a uni club advertises itself does help influence who joins it. I guess there is no reason to expect someone to necessarily know climbing grades before they start but talking about v-diffs in a casual way is hard to avoid at times!
 ClayClay 05 Apr 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well I treat women exactly as I treat my bloke friends (humour, harshness, banter etc). The problem is that none of them ever want to have sex with me.

I suppose, this is the reason most blokes treat women with kid gloves and you commonly get the “You don’t need to try it again if you’re not comfortable with it” (to quote the author). The article was spot on, all of the comments are accurate depictions of life. Men will never treat women the same as men until we get to a point where women start to respect men (i.e. end up in bed with them) who don't feel the need to water everything down with a dose of "tell her what she wants to hear".


8
 Angry Bird 12 Apr 2017
"The best climber is the one having the most fun," is a well known quote. Yet whilst there is a fixation on difficulty and danger, climbing will always put some people off, and statistically, more of these people will be women.

 Michael Gordon 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Angry Bird:

Statistically I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case even without a 'fixation' on difficulty and danger. Like more men are into football; this is also the case for outdoor activities involving undeniably a degree of risk.
In reply to ClayClay:
> Well I treat women exactly as I treat my bloke friends (humour, harshness, banter etc). The problem is that none of them ever want to have sex with me.

Maybe the problem is neither is sure which is your preference.
Post edited at 18:24

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