Equality in climbing | Women to conquer the mountain: the challenge of building spaces free of paternalism

04/24/2023 at 06:51


Climbing is a very masculinized sport, but the women’s movement claims its space of safety and freedom

The world of climbing it is “super masculinized”: not only because men are in the majority; also because women who dare with the wall and the rock are exposed to paternalism, condescension and even to be sexualized by their male partners. Inequality also climbs the mountain, but the climbers fight for it to be a space of safety, freedom and free from prejudices and stereotypes.

After living some unpleasant experiences, some female climbers got together to investigate whether these experiences of inequality were isolated cases or common sexist practices among other women who also climbed. And they discovered that there were many who had been the object of the contempt, mistrust and paternalism from other climbers.

Based on this finding, they decided to launch Girls on the Wall, a feminist association that promotes the practice of sports and mountain activities among women, which seeks to build safe climbing environments in which they can feel free to mark their steps. without pressure, to continue or stop, even to fail in your attempts. Without frustration, without fear of not being up to the task: it’s all about sport.

“The wall is as much mine as anyone’s”

“We were looking for safe spaces to climb. The training experience is very boy focused, very directed to his physiognomy. We encountered condescending attitudes, paternalism, uncomfortable situations,” explains María, one of the promoters of the climbers’ association, to EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, from the Prensa Ibérica group.

That’s why, girls on the wall It was proposed to create non-mixed climbing groups for women, so that they feel comfortable with climbing, without pressure, without comments that underestimate them, without unsolicited advice, no mansplaining. A “safe space” that they feel is their own, where they enjoy themselves and do not have to think that they have not been able to make a block, where they do not get frustrated.

“It doesn’t matter the experience, if you are able to overcome a difficult degree or not. The wall is as much mine as anyone’s“, defends the climbing expert. “A place that I see as my space, where I feel free to do what I want without anyone telling me ‘do this like this’, ‘put your foot here’, ‘do this easier. Without paternalism, where I don’t feel like an impostor, where there are no sexualized behaviors. I just want to be one more partner who is by your side climbing,” she adds.

Some of the comments that are heard are “you will not be ableit’s too much for you”; “you didn’t make it because you didn’t try hard enough”; “you’re getting into a very hard path” .

There are also cases of sexualization, of men who take advantage of and instrumentalize the escalation to try to flirt, says María. She recounts the case of María Francisca, who noticed that men invited her on trips to be intimate with her and, when she refused, they stopped inviting her to participate.

Women to conquer the mountain: the challenge of building spaces free of paternalism. | IMAGE PROVIDED BY GIRLS ON THE WALL

Off-hand comments can undermine confidence and self-esteem of the climbers. But the impostor syndrome is also present in them, thinking that they will not be able to. Likewise, there is a greater perception of the risk and greater fear. In fact, the association gives fear management courses.

The association has just conducted a survey of over two hundred female climbers, and unfortunately it is not surprising that one of its results is that women do not consider the climbing wall a safe environment to go to train alone.

In some workshops that the association is giving in a climbing wall in the southern district of Madrid, they have seen how the boys manage to run over the apprentices when they cross: “They could fall, for the girl it is a problem that they do that. When you tell them that they have a lot of walls to climb, they reply that they come every day. As if this wasn’t our place too“, complaint.

discover your limits

It is still rare to see women climbing together in a climbing wall, laments María. Also see exclusively female chordates (teams of two or three climbers tied to the same rope).

The expert points out that climbing is a fantastic activity that allows you to disconnect from the routine, from day to day: “These are moments in which you are focused solely on what you do with your body, where you move your foot, how you turn your hip… . It is like an active meditation“.

In addition, he continues, it is a “very social activity” that is “very cool” because it requires the collaboration of the others, who have to carry and insure.

If you climb in the mountains, the natural environment “fills a lot” and contributes to self-confidence. “You’re in the middle of a tucked-in wall and it’s really cool. It has a lot of self-knowledgeto test yourself, to discover your limits, how far you can go”.

Without discrimination, without a doubt, always further.