I’m stuck. Instead of flowing in lively meandering streams, exploring and experimenting before joining up in orderly rivers, my thoughts spill, disperse and evaporate.
On Tuesday, we got back from a family visit in England. On Sunday, I’m flying to San Francisco. The four in-between days were meant to be extremely productive, filled with catching up on emails, DIY and writing, but I’m finding it hard. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been to the US and, having not left Europe in over five years, the reisefieber is real. In case you didn’t know, this useful German word translates directly to “travel fever”, the usual mix of excitement and anxiety (currently for me, much more of the latter) experienced before an upcoming trip.
A few months ago, I was invited to take part in the panel at the annual Flash Foxy Climbing Festival in Bishop. Delighted, I agreed straight away. Founded in 2016 by Shelma Jun, the Flash Foxy event was the first of its kind at a time when the question of gender bias in climbing – and adventure sports in general – was still discussed in hushed tones. It is astounding to think how much has changed in just a few short years. I have also just realised that some of my most formative years have coincided with that time.
In the first days of March 2013 – nearly a decade ago to date – I wrote my first ever English-language blog post titled Why Push It is a Brilliant Piece of Filmmaking. It’s not much of a write up – it took me a few more years to find my voice – but I remember that Jen Randall’s short doc made a huge impression on me. First screened as part of the 2012 Brit Rock Tour, Push It follows six female climbers, including Randall herself, as they navigate the challenges of climbing and taking up space in a male-dominated environment. “My dad wants me to sit at home and watch TV,” proclaim the opening words of the trailer. By contrast, the trailer of the 2022 Brit Rock Tour ends with a shot of the prolific young American, Anna Hazelett. “The rock goddesses were on my side today,” she gasps, delirious after one of her recent E9 ascents.
A year after watching Push It for the first time, I was working on my Master’s thesis and had switched my subject from the media coverage of the Tōhoku tsunami of 2011 to climbing media. (Quite the change, and I couldn’t believe that my supervisor agreed to it.) My paper, Climbing Women and Niche Media: Beyond Alternative Femininities, turned out surprisingly well. Although it is terribly dated now, I am still quite pleased with it but, Inevitably, it caused a little hoo-ha. By quoting a study which quantified the number of magazine covers featuring women, I managed to upset one of the most prominent climbing outlets, and it wasn’t the last time. Over the years that followed, my writing – a barely audible, self-conscious voice of a recent graduate – was misquoted, pulled out of context and, without due attribution, torn down as bad feminism by journalists defending climbing media as “not sexist”. In my mid-twenties, it was a lot to take in. (Today, I laugh at the petty accusations that were thrown at me back then but I might still be a tiny bit bitter that my accusers remain to this day among the community’s most prominent figures.)
Across the ocean around the same time... read more now→