Spanning the Gender Gap

Built for Climbing
By Abby Watkins

My female partners are my greatest role models, and I enjoy taking that role for other women when I can. When I am teaching climbing, I perceive the impact I have on the women in my classes. When women see a man do something, they think, "Oh, he can do that." When they see me do the same exact thing, I can see them thinking, "Perhaps I can do that." It gives me great pleasure to unlock people's belief in themselves.

When I teach technique, I base the class on fundamentals of the body and gravity. When I show women how to put their bodies in a position where they are taking advantage of gravity, I see the lightbulb go on above their heads. They realize that climbing is a sport for which they are perfectly built.

Climbing with Vera and teaching climbing skills have helped me realize many of the advantages that women have in climbing. Their center of gravity is low, which gives them great balance on the vertical. Women can quite comfortably stand on micro-edges in complete balance, and thus can take much of the weight off of their arms. Their strength-to-weight ratio is usually very good, because they are smaller and lighter, in general, than men. Women have good hip flexibility, which again allows them to use their low center of gravity to greater advantage. And they are mentally tough and persistent. I have found that most women won't give up until they succeed.

Of course, these are generalizations. Climbing relies on kinesthesia and physics just like any other activity we engage in. Everyone's body is different, and the differences are sometimes more pronounced within the sexes than between them. I look at the multitude of body types in climbing today—all are successful. I believe that the important thing is to learn to use what you have. Any body can be the perfect body for climbing.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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