An open letter to GQ Style editors

There are many reasons behind climbing’s growing popularity. It can be an accessible leisure option or an extreme adventure in the wild—and it looks good on camera. Us climbers can be protective of our discipline, but it’s so good that we feel compelled to share it. That’s why seeing climbing in mainstream media outlets, which provide additional exposure, is always very exciting.

Unfortunately, your latest piece (“We Took Fall’s Crunchiest High Fashion Rock Climbing in Joshua Tree”) failed to do our sport justice, and we strongly feel this has to be brought to your attention.

Ask any climber what they love most about the discipline. Without fail, they will all mention one thing: the community.

As climbers, we form a tight-knit group, brought even closer by the internet. Despite differences between various versions of the sport, we all share similar values. Inclusivity and equality are among those most cherished.

Although, like most sports, climbing is rooted in a white male-dominated culture, the community has been hard at work to make everybody feel welcome.

You “took three premier climbers and a couple of cute friends weekend warrioring in the country’s grooviest high-desert town”? Good for you, GQ Style. But in doing so, you managed to offend us. It may be the done thing in the fashion world (I don’t know much about it), but in climbing, you simply can’t ignore the achievements of half of the population.

Female climbers have been pushing the boundaries of the sport for decades, if not centuries. We do our work both on the rock and within the community. Day in, day out, we strive to show that we belong in the gyms, on the cliffs, and in the media.

Outstanding individuals such as Lynn Hill, Beth Rodden, Steph Davis, Hazel Findlay, Sasha DiGiulian, Alex Puccio, Lucie Horozova, Shauna Coxsey, Ashima Shiraishi, Pamela Pack, and countless others have long been proving that women are capable of pushing the boundaries.

Yet you chose to ignore them. Instead of portraying capable, inspiring women, much in the way you portrayed men, you chose to feature fashion models who not only have nothing to do with the sport, but within your piece are merely eye candy to accompany the men.

It’s shameful and it’s embarrassing. But most of all, media coverage like that threatens to undo the work that the climbing community has achieved. We want the discipline to be a vehicle for the promotion of equality. And we want to show young girls who come to the sport that they can aspire to be strong, capable, and successful. They need to know that their bodies are more than decorative elements of a piece designed to highlight the achievements of men.

We were very happy to see some of the world’s best male climbers featured in a fashion shoot by a prominent, mainstream magazine. However, the obvious gender bias and sexism of the piece overshadowed the feelings of joy. The shoot and accompanying text are a testimony either to narrow horizons or low journalistic standards.

We call upon you to take the said piece down or issue an apology. We urge you to deliver a new piece, featuring top female climbers, representing them in a fair, non-sexualised way. Their achievements deserve to be celebrated in the same way as their male colleagues.


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