Growing up as an only child with a young teen mom, I always felt as though there was some form of unspoken rivalry between myself and other women. As if no matter what I did, another woman was gonna come along and do it better, or think of me as her competition. I found it hard to create bonds, or not see women as rivals, and this resulted in me having little to no female friends growing up.
I know I'm not alone in this thought process. Many women in the climbing community have expressed issues of cliques; or feeling uneasy around other women because of those 'bitchy' types, who are stand-off-ish and seem to be out to make themselves better than others.
I feel the problem stems deeper, as I look back over my climbing years, yes there were women there, but the menfolk overpowered them. It set the precedent early on that 'men were in charge' and us ladies were learning from them. Those 'bitchy' types of women developed from trying to set themselves apart from the men, wanting to be seen as an equal. Women are not trying to stand divided from each other, they are trying to outshine men and avoid unsolicited beta spraying or being man-splained something.
Women shouldn't rely on men in order to achieve something great. In order to throw away this old way of thinking that men are in charge, and reinforce how women are capable of leading, it is important for women to teach women. This sets the example for the next generation, changing the narrative, and empowering us.
Without a doubt there are things to be learned from men, but more importantly, women. I've always said, new climbers should watch women climb and pay attention to their technique. Frequently women climb more through body awareness and precision, while many times men start climbing through pure strength alone.
Somewhere it is deeply rooted in our beings that everything is a competition between women. In the past, it was a competition to acquire a man, for belonging in the workforce, and even keeping up appearances. Who has the better looking family, better looking house, who made the best casserole or ambrosia salad for the barbecue... As women in society have moved past these previous rivalries, they have evolved into more modern contentions. One commonality unfortunately remains, keeping women divided. Society has perpetuated this thought process; that women have no interest in getting along or working together.
However this is far from the truth. A woman alone has power, collectively we have impact. Because the truth is, women are a force to be reckoned with, and men know it, they fear it. In the past it was easier to stifle a woman and 'keep her in her place'. This is not the case any longer.
The stereotypes of women not supporting each other need to come to an end. It is not a competition anymore ladies. We don't need to prove ourselves to each other, we need to prove ourselves to ourselves. The only person you should be competing against is yourself from yesterday.
When I started climbing, I always found it hard to connect with women because I saw them as competition or the 'enemy,' so-to-speak. It was hard to watch fellow women climb who were stronger, because I was amazed, but also instantly jealous. I let jealousy rear its ugly head, I wanted to be better than them; so I climbed with the boys instead. Rather than dealing with the conflict at the age of 18, I ran away from it. Later I learned to combat this issue by making friends with more females, and throwing competition to the wayside. I realized I needed more female companions in order to progress my climbing. I needed these healthy relationships with women to heal past traumas. But what I really needed was this strong sisterhood in a male dominated community. Don't get me wrong, I love climbing with my guys, but there is something so fulfilling and rewarding about being out with the ladies, it is unmatched.
In climbing, it is imperative that women support each other. There is too much male testosterone and douchebaggery going around. We sisters need to stick together and show these men who’s boss. Women need to feel included and part of the community, and not shut down because it's 'for the boys'. It is important to lift each other up and support each other. In this sport we need to prove we are more than worthy, we belong. We can be glamorous, and covered in dirt at the same time. Climbing is for everyone.
Celebrating another woman's triumphs or success will never take away from your shine or glory. If anything, it will add to it and create more light. It's human to feel competitive at times; it's normal to feel jealousy, but we have to reel in those negative emotions and not let them dictate our relationships with one another. We must tear down the previous notions and stereotypes, that it's a competition between women, for the greater good of future generations. We must teach these generations of growing women to work together, not fight one another. This is my call to action, celebrate your fellow sistas, don't tear them down. We must silence the negative self-talk and self-doubt and cheer on our sisters. There is unity in solidarity.