Climb Like A Girl

This is another guest post from Zonk. If you would like to write a guest post on any climbing related subject or share some pictures from a recent roadtrip, please contact me.

I was going to write a diatribe on the bad journalism that one often sees in climbing news. And I thought about writing another news post. I fear that the trend will be that my news posts will always be kind of late, which I guess is also an example of bad reporting. My excuse is that I am not the primary source of information anyway so it does not matter. However, those will have to wait. (That first one may never be written because it just makes my blood boil. An old geezer like myself should not stress the ticker too much.) Instead, I am going to tell a story, which starts with friends and climbing and somehow verged towards a brush with philosophy.

So I recently went to a rock climbing competition. I went more for the social aspect than anything because some of my friends were going. (Admittedly I am not very good. Otherwise maybe I would care about trying to place.) I had a calculus exam to study for, but when the prospect of this event arose, I could not resist hanging out. I swear that I did climb some problems too, although from the photographic evidence, it seems that the only thing I did was stand around. During the comp, I watched this girl TM flash a problem, which basically traverses across the wall through a dihedral. Moving between the two walls, she subtly adjusted balance, body position, and foot placement as she moved diagonally down through the dihedral. Talking to little A-chan (Yes, I know little and -chan are redundant, but she is that cute.), I told her to watch TM climb. I stated something like she climbs like a girl, not a guy. A-chan asked what I meant, and I responded that by “like a guy” I meant it was really powerful and feigned a big move with a guttural exclamation, for which she immediately understood the brutishness I was implying, while contrasting that with TM who danced up the wall.

I know these are overgeneralizations, and I think that many of the strong guy climbers do not get enough credit for their technique. But these are expressions meant to convey some idea. The phrase “like a girl” is often used in a derogatory manner, such as “throwing like a girl.” One can envision the limp arm motion and the dead duck of a fluttering ball that this invokes. In contrast, “to climb like a girl” is very much positive. And to prove to myself that it was not only I that ascribed these meanings,

The I Climb Like A Girl blog has this quotation (for which I could not find the source):
“To climb like a girl is to climb with finesse, technique, flexibility, creativity, and strength. It should appear like dancing and not look or sound like a one-armed pull up.”

And the Mill City Rock Gym cites:
“7. Climb like a girl
Use technique and finesse instead of trying to muscle up a route.”
by Jim Donini (as quoted in “Confessions of a Crack Addict” by Michael Ybarra, The Wall Street Journal; Dec 14, 2006)

In the course of this googling, I came across these links that I wanted to share. One of these is the AscenDance Project, which are walldancers literally. It is pretty cool that the principal Isabel is able to achieve “an integration of her passions for music and dance, with climbing.” For those who will be in the Bay Area, they have a pre-show from April 24-26, 2008. (They will also participate in the San Francisco International Arts Festival 2008.) If you read this and are in attendance, you should give us your impressions of the performance.

The March 2007 NY Times Play magazine had this audio slide show (produced by Justin Sablich and photos by Arno Rafael Minkkinen). Emily Harrington, Steph Davis, Lynn Hill, Beth Rodden, and Alex Puccio are featured and reflect briefly on their motivations for climbing. This seems to be an accompanying article, highlighting some of their accomplishments. Speaking of Alex, the Climbing Bum blog by Carlo Traversi has funnily chronicled the ongoing battle between Alex Puccio and Connor Griffith in Minesweeper. It sounds like after much projecting (you have to scroll down), Alex was able to best Connor’s time. Subsequently, Connor outdid her again.

I also found an article called “Climbing like a Girl: An Exemplary Adventure in Feminist Phenomenology” by Dianne Chisholm in the journal Hypatia vol. 23, no. 1 (Jan–Mar 2008). The word phenomenology scares me though so I just skimmed it briefly and put it away for later.

Posted In: From The Narc


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8 Responses to Climb Like A Girl

  1. Craig B March 13, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    I thought “Climbing like a Girl” meant when you belay for man doing something hard.

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  2. Lauren March 14, 2008 at 8:23 am #

    Thanks for posting. I’ve been climbing for about a year, but only seriously for a few months now, and what has attracted me to climbing–and gotten me pretty obsessed–is watching people climb like that. I’ve always said that really good climbers look like they’re dancing.Thanks again!

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  3. Sara March 17, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Cool — reading your post made me realize, in two-ish years of blogging about climbing I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about “climbing like a girl.”  Thanks for the idea!  See here… for the result.

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  4. zonk March 17, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    until now i had never heard that the meanings of to climb like a girl could be that one was either the camp cook or the all-day belayer.  that just seems so weird.  and kind of annoys me.  these are separate activities, not climbing.  climbing as an outdoor activity seems like it could be enjoyed with other outdoor enthusiasts, whether or not they climb.  eg, a group of friends go camping and some climb, while others don’t and just like to spend time at the campsite or go hiking or whatnot.  i mean i don’t like to do any of these activities.  i dislike both hiking (due to a bad knee and now a bad ankle too) and camping (unless my friend rs is there to make sure i don’t die).  maybe it is because i go outdoors rarely and am basically a gym rat that i have never heard the phrase used in this way.  i don’t know.  more likely i am just oblivious.  to me, climbing like a girl will mean what i wrote in my post, ie to climb well.

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  5. Sara March 17, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    I don’t disagree, Zonk… and I certainly didn’t mean to annoy…  I got into camping and playing outside as a result of climbing, so for me, climbing includes the whole package since when I think about climbing trips, it includes the car ride, the camping, the climbing, the good climbing days, and the not-so-good climbing days. When I think of climber girls, I definitely don’t think of Craig B’s image… in my circle, the girls pull hard, work hard, and we all take turns on belay. Some of the boys are up early, too, on the camping mornings… it’s just that more often than not, I’m the one making the coffee. I’m definitely not designated camp cook, though — now everybody fends for themselves for food, after the tofu curry gone wrong at J-tree during our winter 06 trip…

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  6. zonk March 17, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    no worries.  i am certainly not annoyed at you, sara.

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  7. You Know Who I 'Am' March 18, 2008 at 4:56 pm #

    Hah, nice Craig!As a full-fledged feminist, I’m always excited to see women achieving great successes; however, I’m a bit reluctant to jump on board simply for that fact that ‘climbing like a girl’ carries with it a number of connotations; the idea of climbing as if I were dancing just doesn’t work in my realm of rock scaling, to quote the narc.  I climb hard, sweat a lot and get as dirty as the next guy…or woman!

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