Today I read this Rock and Ice article on a video by Sierra Blair Coyle, and it sparked some thoughts on female climbers. Mainly that it is time for people to get over these types of conversations and focus on the fact that there are female climbers who are incredibly talented. How they look and dress should not be a factor, but rather how well they perform on the rock.
The example I’m about to tell you is not rock climbing related, but it fits and the focus will come back to climbing so bare with me. When I was younger, about middle school, I was awarded for being the best student in my math class. I was so excited because I struggled with math, I worked hard, and I really genuinely valued my education. When I first heard of this award, I was more honored and proud than ever before because I knew I really deserved it, or at least I thought I did. I told my parents with pride. They were so happy for me. Then my dad said he was happy because I was a female and good at math, so I would have any career I wanted if I stuck with it because girls weren’t known for being good at math. I love my dad, but what? He meant to give me a compliment, but I wanted to be good at it for being good at it, not because being a female and good at it was a miraculous feat. Then my teacher who had given me the award had a conversation with me that pretty much said I was the only likeable kid in my class and he hoped I would go far because I was nice. So am I even the best student because I am talented, or because I’m just such a nice girl?
Girls grow up with all sorts of mixed messages similar to this. I think boys actually do too even though it’s not as talked about. Really people just want to be recognized for what they did and how well they do it. It’s great that I’m a girl because I love being one and wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m glad people think I’m nice because Its good to treat others well. That doesn’t change the fact that I want you to think I’m good at things solely because I am and not because of all these other factors.
I love climbing and work hard on it and when people watch me climb, I want to think they are thinking about my technique, how far I’ve come, what an awesome move I just did, etc. I don’t want to think that they are missing all that because of the yoga pants I’m wearing or the simple fact that I’m a female that may or may not be attractive to them. I don’t know Sierra Blair Coyle, but I think she probably feels the same. She loves climbing, you can tell in her interviews. She is dedicated to her fans which we know by how often she is willing to answer questions and talk to them. She is living a life where she gets to do what makes her happy each day and she works at it.
It’s okay for people to think someone is attractive or not because they naturally do. If you think Adam Ondra is so gorgeous you’d faint if you met him, that is fine. If you think he’s not your thing, that’s fine too. It’s not going to change the fact that he climbs some of the hardest routes in the world and is an incredible climber. No one should say he isn’t great or is great only because of his looks or the fact that he has his shirt off in videos. If you think Sasha Digiulian is the cutest girl on the planet and hope you’ll catch her eye one day at a gym, that is fine. If you’d prefer a different look, that’s fine too. It doesn’t change the fact that she crushes at competitions. She is am amazing climber whether she’s cute or not. She is an amazing climber in a t-shirt or a sports bra.
Females and males should be able to wear what is comfortable and strive for their dreams. They should be able to focus on climbing and getting strong. There were all these comments about female climbing being all about bikinis and hot poses. I disagree. I think to myself how lucky I am to be in a sport with such amazing female role models. Look at Anna Stohr, she is a climbing machine! What amazingly unstoppable talent. She is so strong. Sasha is pushing her limits and working hard to make the highest female grade climbed closer to the highest male grade, all while going to college and getting a degree. She is talented and smart. Alex Puccio has the shoulders I’m striving for. She can accomplish anything in bouldering. Its always great to watch her completely eliminate competition by dominating on the comp routes. Meagan Martin is a strong climber, and a super friendly person. One minute talking to her and you feel like you’ve been friends forever. Watching her climb is inspiring. These are just a few of the bigger names. There are so many strong females crushing it in the climbing world, and I hope to find my place among them.
They are all beautiful but it doesn’t matter. Whether they were or weren’t, they are talented and great. They are all worth getting to know and watch climb. I think female climbers are awesome. Of course, male climbers are too. Let’s give these women and girls, the credit they deserve. Let’s give people the credit they deserve for the things they do. Let’s be impressed when Sierra Blair Coyle crushes a problem, whether she is in booty shorts or baggy capris, because she is talented. Let’s be impressed by how amazing Alex Honnold’s free solos are, whether he is shirtless or not, because he is talented.
If you want to criticize them and tell them their videos are bad, fine, but make it about their climbing not their wardrobe. People worry about the kind of role models these climbers are for kids. Honestly, I think pointing it out is what makes it bad role modeling. Kids see climbers climbing in what they wear and it’s their style, what they like and are comfortable in. Kids hear you talking about how she is only famous for how she looks and only sponsored for what she wears, kids will think to get sponsored and be famous they need to look like her because that’s what everyone is saying sells. Guys see shirtless climbers all the time and don’t think a thing. They are hot, they are sweaty, this is what guys do. Saying people climb harder with their shirts off or people like to watch men with their shirts off, this is what sells, and guys might do it because it is what sells and they want to. I don’t think it’s what the climbers look like, I think it how the world is talking about what they look like. Let’s make our comments based on the climbing instead. He has great footwork, she has amazing lock off strength, wow he can deadpoint crazy dynos, look at that massive heel hook she just did.