Lessons Learned

I am in the middle of a wilderness first responder course. It’s been awesome. The human body is absolutely fascinating. All of the structures, systems and interactions sustaining you at this very moment are incredibly complex and intricate.

Today I learned about how to respond in the event of a cut, a burn and even an evisceration – definitely got a little queasy during that part.

Today, we also talked about leadership as informed by NOLS 4-7-1 model. We talked about the importance of each of the seven aspects of a strong leader. Communication being one of those 7 traits.

… and then we talked about women in leadership. We were told that the qualities of leadership are not gendered traits. We were told that a leader isn’t necessarily a “broad-chested drill sergeant-type.” However, we have implicit biases (we were encouraged to discover our own implicit biases using this tool designed by Harvard.) These biases can be overcome, but the instructor told us that we’re conditioned to expect certain traits of leaders. Y’know, like how society thinks your gender might effect your judgement and leadership in an emergency situation.

I should specify, a male instructor told us that women might experience push-back in leadership roles. Which got my gears turning because I know this to be true.

He warned us of the possibility of coming off “bitchy” or “bossy” in leadership environments and to be careful of our tone and the way that we approach leadership. Generally, he addressed leading with confidence without being overbearing. (He also mansplained how he gets it because his wife is an emergency responder.) However, the instructor failed to address men in the same way. Hmm.

What happened next is laughably ironic:

He did not open the topic to discussion. Women in the classroom were not invited to discuss the topic – despite healthy conversation throughout the entirety of the morning lecture.

A woman with guiding experience in the back of the classroom raised her hand to address the other women and said: do not be afraid of the push-back. It will happen. You do not need the approval of the one or two guys who will resist your leadership. If you have control over a situation, proceed.

To which the instructor then said that cohesion is important — and I’ll admit, at this point, I was frustrated. I’d raised my hand to contribute to the discussion to simply say that we should move away from gendered words like “bitchy” and “bossy” because they’re seldom – if ever – applied to men. If we want to reverse some of society’s conditioning, we must knowingly utilize vocabulary that can be applied to any obtuse, overbearing leader regardless of their gender.

I was told that we were going to move on and that the topic was closed for discussion. My question or comment was denied. Another male student raised his hand. His question was answered.

At that very moment, I became a feminist and advocate of women in outdoor leadership. Call me what you want, deny me how you will. I will rise. I will speak. I will overcome.

Dear Internet: Please just keep climbing

I am a woman. I climb. I climb with girls. I climb with guys. I don’t care what kind of equipment you’re working with. In the world of outdoor climbing, I experience very little gender discrimination.

Dear online climbing community,

Hi. I’m a woman. I climb. And you know what? I’ve experienced some gender-based assumptions about my partner being my boyfriend, needing beta at the gym because I’m a cute little female that couldn’t possibly flash your project… Hell, I’ve even written some pro-lady content myself. I love seeing women crush!

But here’s the deal: I’m a grown ass woman and I can tell any hater off. You can too (guy or girl or however you identify.)

Rather than getting into these quibbly bullshit arguments on the internet, I think that people need to just stand up for themselves in the moment and focus on climbing.

I have a college education, I understand gender-based discrimination (have you even read “Half the Sky,” bro?), but frankly most of the stuff I read people whining about on the internet falls within the realm of first world problems.

I will absolutely acknowledge that it’s significantly more difficult to find girls that are into alpine trad climbing… And that’s where a gender-based issue might reside, but I also acknowledge that I don’t know the entire climbing community and there are lots of trad crushing ladies that I’ve yet to meet.

In my short couple years of climbing, I’ve met a lot of different partners and a lot of different climbers. While my experience is entirely my own and not representative of women everywhere, I’d just like to say:

I am a woman. I climb. I climb with girls. I climb with guys. I don’t care what kind of equipment you’re working with. In the world of outdoor climbing, I experience very little gender discrimination. I just climb with whoever I can, whenever I can. Keep it simple. Climb on.