Are First Female Ascents Irrelevant?

Debate is healthy and really there are valid points to both sides. One side of the debate argues that the inclusion of “female” as a qualifier for why an ascent may be significant has negative implications on women in that it deems women as inferior to men. This side argues for “first female ascents” to be eradicated and for all ascents to be the same. The other side of the debate argues that men and women are biologically different and that there is no reason to eradicate gender in sports. Female and Male climbers have the potential to achieve equally, but there is no reason to eliminate the celebration of female firsts in climbing in that women are historically the minority in climbing and reinforcement of progression is a powerful tool in encouraging female achievements. What is important to recognize is that as climbing fills a more macro level space, we consider the role that it can have on issues like gender politics and the need for women’s empowerment still at hand today.

While I recognize and fully engage with the fact that women and men are capable of climbing equal difficulty, it is important to still reiterate the first ascents done by women. In my opinion, the actual flagging of Female highlights this notion of empowerment. While yes, the name of a female achieving something could theoretically be a sign enough, the fact is that the world is not yet at that point to not still need extra reinforcement of female achievement.

I receive letters from young girls often thanking me for inspiring them. This is something that fuels my motivation. I want to serve as an example that anyone no matter what gender, size, or demographic you represent can pursue his or her dreams.

Following my initial blog I spoke with Lynn Hill about this topic. She read my blog and texted me,

“I agree that women should support women and that it’s important to have female role models. Back in the early days, women were left out of books such as, “The Vertical World of Yosemite” by Galen Rowell. In his intro to the 90’s, he didn’t put a single photo of a woman climber in the book because he said that there were no significant first ascents done by a women during the formative years of climbing in Yosemite. I felt that it was important to show what women WERE doing rather than ignore them because of what they weren’t doing!”

Additionally, As Lipovetsky states in his book on “Hypermodern Times,” “I can assure you that the age of equality does not lead to a confluence of genders to an androgynous erasure of the distinction between masculine and feminine roles.” While it is a romantic idea to say that we are at a point that “Female” does not need to be reinforced, the fact is that we are not. Women have been routinely underrepresented in sports, politics, and business throughout history. Despite our hyper modern world, we are still at a point that “female” achievements should be acknowledged and highlighted.

I am motivated to establish First Ascents. I have accomplished many First Female Ascents thus far in my career and I am proud of them and I will continue to flag the “Female” in the ascent to encourage the women out there who would otherwise be timid in the shadows of the boys to go out and try things despite only men having succeeded on them before.

Initial Post

As women progress and expand their climbing horizons we hope to shrink the achievement gap. The women who do this will be breaking ground with every climb. This should be recognized to empower and to urge on the efforts of women in our sport.

First female ascents are significant because they flag the progress of women’s achievements in climbing. The relevancy of labeling something as a “First Female Ascent” can be arbitrary, depending the difficulty, may be somewhat insignificant.

My hero is Lynn Hill for setting the precedent for men and women. Her achievements and highlighting that she is a woman narrow the gender gap.

I think that there is something to be said about women putting themselves out there and going after their dreams regardless of past ascentionists.

This encourages me to push myself as well.

Perhaps people who are not in favor of emphasizing “female firsts” find organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation and UN Women irrelevant as well.

Perhaps they are also against Title IX, thinking that all women should just buck up and try out for the men’s hockey team…, maybe cut Olympic competition in half by eliminated the women’s medals, …. and while we’re at it, scuttle the WNBA and women’s soccer as well?

Reinforcement of female achievements are necessary to encourage progression.

I am inspired by female leaders in a multitude of fields including but not exclusively sports, politics, human rights, and entertainment.

Passion is an important foundation for every individual to possess, though also significant is a fearless ability to pursue whatever that passion may be. It is important for women to recognize that the opinions of others are irrelevant to this task. Self confidence and drive surpass any oppositional negativity. I would love to see women join together in this effort to empower each other and to show the world that yes, She Can.


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