Improving The Dialogue Between Men and Women Climbers
The other day, I had a conversation with my girlfriend about Yoga pants on our way to a climb. It went something like this (this is a paraphrase, not anyone’s exact words).
Me: I just think that yoga pants are designed to be attractive to men. And not just yoga pants, but like, everything a woman grows up seeing in magazines or on TV, make up, etc. Every female newscaster you see, every girl on the cover of a magazine, they are all sexualized and made up to look like some notion of what women think guys think is attractive.
Her: You’re wrong. Yoga pants are just comfortable – that’s why girls wear them, and that’s why they’re made the way they are. And stop staring at other girls’ butts.
Me: Stop staring? Stop putting them in front of my face! I find it distracting and obnoxious that I can’t do a single pose in yoga without seeing some girl’s tightly packaged ass right in front of my face!
Our talk actually got quite heated, as I’m sure many of you have experienced before in your own lives. It happens all the time, people end up fighting when what they really should do is be listening.
Now before you judge me – and certainly before you judge my girlfriend – imagine for a moment giving us both the benefit of the doubt. Imagine that my girlfriend and I are both just normal people. I’m not a misogynist pig. She’s not a foaming at the mouth feminazi. Imagine assuming that we’re both mild, tending towards progressive, and attempting to be openminded people.
If you can do that, you’re winning. Because that’s what we are. And my guess is that in spite of appearances on internet forums and comment threads, is that most of us are.
What if the problem is not the positions in the argument, but the method? What I mean is, forget Side A and Side B. Stop trying to poke little holes in the arguments. When we do this, we fight. We intentionally misunderstand.
The point of discussion should be to learn, not to disprove. The way we talk online is broken, and it’s getting us nowhere.
As far as climbing goes, this seems to manifest any time there are discussions about Women Climbing. Whether it’s FFAs, or tasteless advertising, or choice of clothing. It seems like whatever the subject, it always somehow ends up in men on one side, and women on the other.
This has got to change. It’s gotten to the point that I feel like Women’s Climbing is a topic that a man can’t touch with a ten foot pole. But hell, neither can a woman. No matter what opinion any writer brings to the table, it always seems to fizzle out into the same tired name-calling, trolling, and maybe worst of all – logician’s pedantry. People don’t try to understand one another – they try not to.
I think the vast majority of us are actually all on the same side. We just don’t know how to show it in discussion. We may have differing opinions on what does or doesn’t help women’s climbing move forwards, but I think two things are true: 1.) Most people agree that there is some inequity between men and women in the climbing community, media, industry, etc; otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about it. 2.) Most people want to narrow the gap. Obviously there are outliers; but don’t discount the silent majority who abstains from weighing in due to the inherent vitriol of the forum! If you use your experience in real life as the metric instead of your experience online, I think most people will agree that the climbing community is typically openminded, and supportive of gender equality.
My advice is for all of us to do our best to foster these discussions, rather than thwart them. To open the debate, rather than close it. To practice inclusivity instead of exclusivity. We can all spend less time telling, and more time asking (myself included). Less time critiquing, and more time listening. There’s almost always a kernel of truth in almost anyone’s opinion, because opinions come from life experiences. What if most people just aren’t idiotmoronassholes? What if most people are just like you – thoughtful, caring, and feeling attacked?
If Women Climbing improves, we all improve. The whole sport improves. The larger communities that climbers feed into improve. Look, I’m not pretending like what actually matters in this world is climbing. I know it seems a little overlydramatic to harp on Women’s Climbing instead of just gender issues far more broadly. But you have to start somewhere. And why not here?
If we can’t even touch Women’s Climbing with a 10 foot pole, how can we ever hope to talk about any big, scary issue – like race, religion, sexual identification, immigration, and war – on a national level. We can’t just continue as a country to hide from tough issues because every time we touch them people get angry and shout mean things at one another. What’s much better is to use tough issues to teach ourselves how to discourse peacefully about even tougher ones.
It’s time to play nice, be soft, and listen. We all have a lot to learn.