Sexism in Climbing Grades?

Interesting article written over at Moja Gear about what the author calls “dude grades”.

I started thinking about dude grades after spending time with an exceptional climber who I’ll call “Dana.” I began to notice how little grades seemed to matter to her. I’m not saying she doesn’t care about grades, because she does. They are every bit as important to her as they are to most climbers. Yet for Dana, grades often don’t capture her experience of climbing, and this is the sense in which they don’t have meaning.

There are V10s she can do, and V5s that continue to be projects after years of effort. I’d never seen such a broad range in someone’s abilities, consistently being shut down on climbs rated far below her limit. Dana is five feet tall, and this physiological fact has a profound impact on her relationship with climbing grades. The V10s she can do have enough holds for her to make the reaches or figure out idiosyncratic Dana-beta, and those V5s that she struggles on, they have long, body-specific movement.

Dana is short, but she is not a physiological anomaly. She is representative of a large group of climbers shorter than, say, 5’5”, most of whom are women. So I ask, what would climbing grades look like if they were determined by women?

I think I understand the authors point of view but can’t say that I quite agree. It seems like he is saying that dude grades only apply to those routes where men have some sort of advantage over women. [1] Yet if he is talking about all climbing areas except his own developed spots it doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Grades are supposed to be based on a consensus within the climbing community, but this is more of an ideal than a fact.

Yep. A consensus on something as subjective as the grade of a climb will never be 100%…so why allude to something that will never happen?

Even this author says that in his guide book he gives boulder problems colors indicating ranges from V6-V8 instead of a hard and fast rating. This is understandable and commendable but he’s still using the V rating as a reference. Why doesn’t he go back to the super old school boulder ratings of B0 or B1 that covered a much larger range of easy to difficult? I’ll tell you why. Grades are only for reference…they don’t define a climb. I don’t think the Stone Masters were sexist when they assigned Valhalla a 5.11a rating and most climbers today would say that Valhalla is pretty stout for an 11a…but who cares. Back then 11a was crazy hard and the Stone Masters were pushing the limits of what people thought was possible for free climbing.

This last point I definitely don’t agree with.

We aren’t helpless bystanders in all this. Every time we use the grading systems we’re implicity supporting dude grades and the sexist rating sytems that create them.

That’s just silly. I’m not sure if this was written as click bait type of article but it does raise some interesting points. In some ways though I think his points actually diminish some of the insanely strong female climbers out there - like Alex Puccio. Would she want to change the rating of some of the V13s or V14s she’s done? I bet not.

Dude Grades: A Look at Sexism in Climbing Grades

  1. perhaps dynos or or upper body dominant routes?  ↩