The Importance of Being an Advocate

The day after the presidential election, on November 5, I felt like all of my thoughts were lost in a cloud. My mind felt like it was stuck in a maze and I couldn’t concentrate. I could not understand how Donald Trump, who I thought of as a villain, could win. There was some hole in my gut where my confidence in humanity should be.

What upset me as much was the fact that 37 percent of millennials voted for Trump. I’m a part of that group, and I’m shocked. How could this have happened?

When I openly endorsed the Democratic Party this last election I received numerous comments like, “crawl under a rock,” “stay out of politics,” and “focus on climbing, sweetie.” I felt like these comments were particular jabs at my awareness of the world beyond rock climbing and evidence of the misogyny that exists in our country. Receiving remarks that imply that my sole purpose in life is to scale cliffs. It’s not.

Performing at an elite level as a professional athlete is my job. Though, as athletes, part of our job is also to serve as ambassadors for our sport—to encourage people to test their limits, and to understand the value in what we do. Athletes and celebrities have a civil responsibility to share our privileges with people who don’t have the opportunities we do. And today, it’s easier than ever.

I have an accumulative amount of over half a million people following me on my social media accounts. When I realized that people who I’d never met were paying attention to my life and curious about what I had to say, I knew that I could use this platform to affect change beyond my niche sport. There’s nothing wrong with just showing photos of people dangling from cliffs around the world, but I also feel a responsibility to integrate a level of social consciousness and awareness to causes that I believe in. Social media can be a catalyst for sharing ideas and shaping opinions. Taking a stand against climate change, gender gaps, and discrimination is not political; it’s logical and fair.

Travel, sports, and entertainment provide a lens into all kinds of journeys and experiences, and the vast horizons and mountain landscapes that I get to enjoy enable me to see how insignificantly small we are as individuals. Together, though, we have a huge impact—for better and for worse. Earlier this year I wore a tank top while climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, where I’d normally have to wear a down jacket. I see firsthand the diminishing snow coverage that is a testament to the change we see on an annual basis. Global warming is real.

It’s crucial we as athletes use the mediums at our disposal to stand up for causes that we believe in. While the election may be over, the causes that we need to advocate for are just as relevant as ever. These include women’s rights, equality and anti-discrimination, and taking preventative actions to climate change.

Now more than ever it’s important that we use our voices to be global ambassadors for what we believe in. For me, that means working towards creating equal gender opportunities in sports programs nationally and changing the discrepancies in language that we associate between female and male athletes as a board member of the Women’s Sports Foundation. I also serve as a Global Ambassador for Right to Play and Up2Us, which promote sports as transformative vessels in the lives of children around the world.

I believe in the power that sport has in changing the world and connecting communities. I have worked with UN Women and been recognized by publications and Congress for advocacy outside of climbing ( Achieving gender equality in pay, opportunity, coverage, and respect is something that I feel very strongly about. Additionally, I am proud to serve as an advocate with organizations like the American Alpine Club and the Access Fund. Taking measures to slow climate change, practicing outdoor ethics, and working towards conservation directly affect our natural playgrounds.

Instead of simply acknowledging that there are problems in our world, we all need to find the responsibility to take an active stance against them. Social media will never single handedly solve any issues, but raising awareness is a big step forward. If you have an informed opinion about something, stand up for it and contribute to making our global community more harmonious. We all have the power to work together and cultivate a greater outcome, whether we support our president elect or not. I refuse to be a passive bystander.

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