Tonight from 11-12, I will be talking with Mike Brooks on KVCU, 1190 AM in Boulder. I hope to discuss a number of topics including the Flagstaff tours project as well as the role that digital media is playing in climbing. There is little doubt that traditional print media is evolving to respond to the challenge that more flexible, immediate, and cost-free formats present but there is also the challenge that those qualities present to new media itself.
As an indication of one possible trend, and not a particularly encouraging one, Dead Point Magazine, a recently launched and free publication that operates both in print and online, posted a picture on Facebook which consists of a young woman in a bikin (with the DPM logo in a prominent location) pasted over a picture of a boulder problem with the text "challenge" "It's OK to Look." I responded saying it was cheesy and that it made DPM look "not so good," a polite way of saying sexist and pandering to the lowest category of "reader." Later I received a message which I hope the editors at DPM will not mind my sharing:
"Thanks for the input about the photo. Imagery like it was a debate for over a year. Climbing is becoming more and more image based and we feel the market will follow the lead of surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, motocross and all the other extreme sports. As much as we may hate the evolution, it is happening, and the effectiveness of an add like this for generating traffic is undeniable. DPM has taken several risks along the way. We have pulled back in some respects and pushed on through others. Ultimately we will find a medium that we hope we all can live with. On a personal level, I agree about the ad being "cheeeezeee". I tend to respond best to rad photos of climbers in remote areas putting their ass on the line, but I'm not Dead Point's audience. Anyway, for what it's worth, we appreciate the feedback.
On the one hand I am amused by Matt's use of the phrase "ass on the line" as clearly someone already had that angle covered (barely to be sure) and I am relieved to know that DPM would rather show pictures of climbing instead of young ladies' posteriors. However the thought that climbing is going the direction of kiteboarding (kiteboarding!!!???) and focusing on simplistic sexualized images of women to move product is depressing to say the least. I have always assumed at some point that climbing was a bit more, well, mature and reflective. Certainly as the father of a girl, I have a vested interest in a culture that sees women as equal particpators in all aspects of life and not as sexual objects.
In this vein, DPM and John Sherman have truly jumped the shark in his "blog". Not really a blog, more of column really but whatever. In the latest installment, Sherman asks the following question:
"how is it some cad nicknamed "The Verm" can solo 40 feet of 5.9 and hours later be rocking his van's leaf springs with a smoking hot gal but you solo Half Dome's Northwest Face and come back to an empty van? "
Sherman proposes it's the van that the ladies love. We see a picture of a faceless woman with no shirt and a strategically placed scarf standing in said van . Sherman notes the van is for sale, and I think he is serious here; maybe once you get past 50, the nomadic life begins to get a little weary. He lists, in true Smoove B/Hugh Hefner fashion, the features that women apparently find irresistable. Now setting aside the ick factors of buying that van, which are too many to describe, what is the point here? An aging Lothario captures the audience, hopefully, by posting a picture of an adolescent fantasy (classy, keeping those chewed on strawberries in the photo and the Eiger Sanction on the TV). Kinda sad really.
Not to pick on DPM or Sherman but can't we do better not just by women but by ourselves?