Saturday, February 22, 2020

Misogyny in the Rocks

Posted this up on Facebook today regarding this piece on Medium:

"Great essay, thoughtful and thorough. Route names in areas that have associations with native culture and traditions, especially spiritual ones, and most especially obnoxious names like the one under discussion, reek of old-school imperialism and colonialism, just under a modern adventure sport guise. The least that climbers can do is honor both the natural setting and native culture in creating and naming them. This goes triple for visiting climbers.
Here in the USA, the most egregious example I can think of are the numerous obscene names for boulder problems at Hueco Tanks, most of which have strong misogynistic contexts, and have no place in a sacred area for Native Americans, not to mention a place with its own natural beauty. Thanks to Fred Nicole for beginning to turn around that tendency with both his amazing FAs and their evocative names. I wonder if/how the new edition of the guidebook will handle this problematic legacy."

Jeff Achey at Wolverine Publishing was quick to follow up with this comment:
We all discussed it back and forth quite a bit, and none of us had exactly the same opinion on what to do... In the first edition of the Wolverine book, Matt and Dave retained all of those names. At this point they are part of the historical record, in a way, maybe best serving modern and future climbers as an example. Jason Kehl in particular was against "censorship," and I'm sympathetic to that point of view. Also, the sophomoric misogyny seems a bit pathetic at this point, with women boulderers absolutely crushing in Hueco. Females are so well established in the elite bouldering community there that sexist putdowns lose much of their punch. It makes the misogynist simply look like a fool. But still. It's an unfortunate, weird situation. We did put a note in the intro about obscene names, and did a bit of judicious new abbreviation, but maybe not enough. I'd love to hear more people's comments on this issue and how we guidebook scribes should deal with it! Fortunately most books we deal with don't have this problem in anywhere near the degree as Hueco!"

Thanks Jeff!

My view on this is that certain aspects of "climbing history" and their preservation are very open to debate, especially route names that later climbers find offensive, and that the "rights" of first ascensionists to preserve those names are basically non-existent. The whole FA culture that has developed in climbing (rooted in a quasi-colonialist worldview) itself is a topic for review in another and much lengthier post.

I remain amazed that TPWD has not moved to modify or eliminate its use of any of the route and area names from the 80s and 90s when such names were much more common. I guess we'll see how that works out.