Women’s Equality in Climbing

“I’d rather hang out with men than women.”

“My experience with other women in the outdoors is that they’re hostile and competitive.”

“Guys are more relaxed and laid back.”

I’ve heard some iteration of these phrases at least a dozen times from women over the last several years. It’s actually something I would have said myself ten years ago. Growing up as a self-proclaimed tomboy, I didn’t feel uncomfortable in a group of just boys. To be completely honest, I was proud to be the only girl. I wasn’t one of “those girls” that can’t hang with the boys. I was stronger, braver and cooler—not prone to overreacting, complaining and cattiness, as women are often stereotyped.

Shelma sending a boulder problem.

But I was wrong.

I wasn’t better than those women I looked down on and I wasn’t as comfortable as I claimed. I unwittingly reinforced these stereotypes by opposing myself to them. By stating “I’m not catty, I’m cooler than that,” I was reinforcing the female stereotype that women are catty.

Shelma looking at a climbing route in a climbing gym.

And well, the quest to be the “cool girl” also has other costs. If you are trying to show that you are different, that means there is a constant pressure to prove your worth and that you belong. In addition, it fosters an unhealthy sense of competition amongst women. After all, if you’re an…

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