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Rock Climbing Lets Women Lord Over Less Adept Males


 

by Jennifer Meleana Hee

December 17, 2003

I'm not here to tell you the story of boy meets girl, girl kicks boy's butt at rock climbing and boy immediately invests $100 in climbing shoes to prove he, too, can shimmy up a wall as well as any girl.

While that's a heartwarming story I know quite intimately, I'm here instead to inspire local aunties to literally rise above the boys, so that one day we can all come together and tell that same story, straight out of "Chicken Soup for the Vindictive Woman's Soul."

My climbing buddy (male) and I once took 10 aspiring climbers to a Mokuleia site. Here are the end-of-the-day statistics: All four girls willing to climb finished our hardest climb of the day. How many of the boys accomplished the same feat on their first try? Four out of seven. A few weekends earlier, I had taken two other first-time girls, and both were able to power up the same route. I argued it was our "Inner Anger" that enabled us to kick hairy man butt. Is Inner Anger really enough to help us overcome the guys' obvious physical advantages? Regardless of why we rock the party when presented with a challenge that is the package deal -- emotional, physical and mental -- here are some points to consider in becoming a female climber.

Perks of being a female climber

The Heckle: When your climbing sisters are clinging desperately to the rock face, you probably want to help them through their panic attack by using your encouraging, nice voice -- you know, the one you use when you're trying to explain to a guy why you like to read books without pictures in them. That voice. When the boys are up, however, you can have immense fun being the belayer from hell. Sarcasm works well:

Male Climber: "Where do I go next?"

Mean Female Belayer: "Up."

Male Climber: "What do I do now?"

MFB: "You climb."

So does belittling:

Male Climber: (In panicky voice) "Let me down!"

MFB: "You're only one foot off the ground. How about using the well-established 'Step Down' technique? It involves stepping down. Why don't you try it?"

We look cuter: Two words: Patagonia and Prana. Think hippie chick meets J.Lo meets Nike Goddess. Sure, you can climb comfortably in surf shorts and that old T&C tank you got for your 14th birthday, but why not spend ridiculous amounts of money on clothes specifically marketed for climbing? I do and I'm not ashamed.

We're accustomed to the pinch: As you're lacing up your climbing shoes (also tremendously cute), you might start having foot-binding flashbacks from our collective female unconscious. We must use this to our advantage. Besides, too many of us still squeeze our feet into 4-inch stilettos, now that the '80s stripper/rocker look is back.

Climbing shoes are roomy moccasins in comparison, trust me. The boys, on the other hand, really take footwear whining to a whole new level. If I hear my boyfriend say, "Are you sure they're supposed to be this tight? I mean they're really tight," one more time, I'll just use my nice voice and remind him why he bought climbing shoes to begin with. (See intro.)

The challenges we must overcome

"But I just had these done!": I've witnessed this sad sight too many times. Girls who long to climb, and make it up the dreaded hike to the climbing site, quickly realize they cannot climb due to their manicured nails. My advice: Peel off those nails and say proudly, "Baby, I can rake a fork up your back if that's how you like it, but these nails are comin' off!"

Harness up: On males, the oh-so-snug harness might make you want to gouge your eyes out when you see your friends in all their well-supported glory. Try to maintain eye contact.

The man-back: The likelihood that you'll develop a man-back from recreational climbing is slim. Besides, my man-back forced past boyfriends to confront their homophobia every time they hugged me. I liked that.

"I'm not strong enough": See boys. See muscles. See boys still suck. See me smile.

Extreme crochet: OK, this one took me a while. The figure-eight knot is key in your not-dying whilst climbing. Although nowadays it is ridiculously simple for me to tie the required knots, for quite a few climbing trips, I just didn't get it. I blame Girl Scouts.

Trust and men: An oxymoron at best. You don't trust any male enough to put your entire life in his hands. Honestly, what if he becomes distracted by the hypnotic sashaying of your harness-enhanced curves as you gracefully scale the side of the mountain? Put female intuition aside and trust that you won't be any good to them dead.

Damn skinny Asians: You take off your harness and hand it to the guy who's climbing next. Wouldn't you know, it's too big for him. Before you throw yourself off the cliff, remind yourself that the diminutive size of Asian men is not something they feel too good about, either. (See No. 2.)

Funny noises: You don't want anyone to hear that high-pitched whimper you make whenever you're terrified. You know it makes you sound like a Chihuahua in heat. There's no need to be ashamed, just wait until you hear the frustrated grunts coming from the boys as they fail at the same move over and over. (Think angry tortoise with a case of Tourette's.)

The majority of the climbers I see scaling the cliffs near Camp Erdman are some combination of the following: 1) white 2) male and 3) nonlocal (University of Hawaii students or military). I can't believe I had to learn about what my own island has to offer from a Kentuckian. Next time I'm up at the site, listening to the glider planes zigzag above our heads, mixed with the soothing screams of skydivers; gazing down at the gorgeous coastline, watching helplessly as my car is broken into, I'll hope that there are girls out there, from Waimanalo to Waipahu, pulling off their nails, getting ready to kick some hairy man butt.


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