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blueshrimp


Apr 15, 2009, 11:07 AM
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Women and Leading, why so daunting?
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Hey girls, so I have been observing around and have noticed that it seems that we women seem to be a bit more hesistant to lead climbs or to start leading (i.e. we don't seem to start leading climbs until after we're very confident we can do it or "are ready", etc), at least more than the men seem to be.

Any theories/ideas why that may be? Do you think it is biological (evolutionary risk aversion, or summit), cultural (women are encouraged to lead less), circumstantial (we usually hang out with better climbers who lead the routes and we are to lazy to lead them once the rope is set)?

I think it is a combination of circumstantial as well as maybe some biological. Like, I feel rather seasonal in terms of boldness: sometimes I feel I can lead anything, other times I chicken out on a simple 5.9. Not sure what controls this: maybe the weather, like I'm more willing to lead on sunny weather than on cold cloudy weather. Haven't noticed it links to anything else. So it is either weather-related or completely random in my case.

Any thoughts/anecdotal evidence to share?


tigerlilly


Apr 15, 2009, 11:39 AM
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I think a big part of it is evolutionary. The guy cavemen were out taking the risks to feed the tribe and the girl cavewomen were busy trying to make sure the species survived. Statistically, men are more likely to be risk-takers than women. But Outside Magazine had an interesting article that showed that, even within a gender, there is variety that seems to have a biological basis. They did MRI scans of peoples' brains while they played a game which involved risk taking. One guy, who is way out there on the end of the risk-taking spectrum, did not show any activity in the area of the brain where fear is centered when a balloon popped during the game, whereas most other people did show activity there. Instead, his pleasure center lit up. The guy gets off on fear!

I, personally, was born a chicken, though I want to be one of the fearless people. Climbing is a stretch for me. I also found my anxiety level varies with my hormonal cycle. I've turned into a total headcase in the middle of a climb at the wrong time of the month. Just knowing what causes it does help me keep control, but it gets to be a challenge some days.

Kathy


clausti


Apr 15, 2009, 12:08 PM
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can't speak to trends for the genders, but me personally:

when i'm generally feeling productive and happy, when my emotional relationships are in a good, secure place, and when i have chosen (rather than feeling obligated) to go climbing, i climb better and bolder.

for this reason, sometimes i climb best when i skip "training" entirely, and just rush out for the weekends. i feel like it's a reward rather than duty.

i guess what i'm trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that my a priori emotional state affects my climbing directly to a high degree. it SEEMS that many guys have the ability to separate the two.


clausti


Apr 15, 2009, 12:11 PM
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tigerlilly wrote:
I think a big part of it is evolutionary. The guy cavemen were out taking the risks to feed the tribe and the girl cavewomen were busy trying to make sure the species survived.

there is a growing body of evidence that the majority of the calories in hunter gatherer societies was on the gathering, rather than on the hunting side.


Partner happiegrrrl


Apr 15, 2009, 12:20 PM
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hahah - That actually backs up her point in a way. The guy cavemen(and I refer to cartoon cavemen here, not anything based on reality), chasing after sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, wasting hours, days - maybe even WEEKS - on these high-risk hunting jaunts, coming home empty..... While the cavewomen went about the more sure method, gathering the seeds, roots, and plants that sustained the tribe.

The cavemen spraying HOW BIG that sucka was, and how the crapped their loincloths and such. And the cavewomen just getting it done.....


clausti


Apr 15, 2009, 12:27 PM
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happiegrrrl wrote:
hahah - That actually backs up her point in a way. The guy cavemen(and I refer to cartoon cavemen here, not anything based on reality), chasing after sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, wasting hours, days - maybe even WEEKS - on these high-risk hunting jaunts, coming home empty..... While the cavewomen went about the more sure method, gathering the seeds, roots, and plants that sustained the tribe.

The cavemen spraying HOW BIG that sucka was, and how the crapped their loincloths and such. And the cavewomen just getting it done.....

i mean, fair enough. but as far as feeding the tribe goes, let's give credit where credit is due.


tigerlilly


Apr 15, 2009, 12:33 PM
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LOL! Hilarious mental picture, Terrie!

I'm not surprised early humans got more calories from gathering than hunting, since it's easier to get food that doesn't fight back or run away. However, was it always the women who did the gathering?

Kathy


clausti


Apr 15, 2009, 1:02 PM
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tigerlilly wrote:
LOL! Hilarious mental picture, Terrie!

I'm not surprised early humans got more calories from gathering than hunting, since it's easier to get food that doesn't fight back or run away. However, was it always the women who did the gathering?

Kathy

generally speaking, yes.


lena_chita
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Apr 15, 2009, 1:21 PM
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I don't personally feel that leading is "so daunting", but yes, my lead-head can be clear or fuzzy, depending on a number of factors, and as a result I may be climbing bolder, or chickening out on easy stuff.

Clausti has touched on a number of variables. I would add that in addition to the things she mentioned, my climbing is somewhat affected by who I am climbing with.

I don't think weather has a direct effect, but overall, I am a happier person on a bright sunny day, so feeling good overall contributes to good lead-head.

It is all inter-connected though. I might be starting the weekend feeling the weight of all the things that are difficult in my life, and thinking that I won't be climbing too well, but then for some reason I DO climb better than I expected, and that starts a positive cycle of feeling better and climbing better...


Evolutionary aspect... yeah, yeah, cavemen, and then modern society, upbringing, and all that.

It is much easier for women to hang back and let the guys be "the strong ones". No question about it. Some guys prefer it that way, and so do a lot of women, as far as I can see...


Guys face more pressure to be leaders. They may be apprehensive and unsure about it, but unwilling to lose face in front of their buddies. And their buddies are more likely to push them into testing their limits by joking about they "manliness" if they don't.



LOL, I just remembered an episode from last weekend. Some guy was hang-dogging the hell out of sport 5.10a/b, whining and whimpering that he couldn't reach the next jug, or couldn't clip from the jug he was on, etc. etc. Eventually he he gave up and asked to be lowered, so a girl (Stronger climber in his group of 3, who had already climbed this route once) could go back up and clean the draws.

Clausti and I were watching from the sidelines (e.i. climbing a route next to them), having done his route for a warm-up.

As he was being lowered, he kicked his feet in frustration and said something like:"Gee, why do I have to be such a pussy!"

To which clausti quickly quipped: hey, for the record, all the pussies around here HAVE climbed that route already. Wink

It summarizes the attitudes in a nutshell, you know?

A girl who is frustrated about not being able to climb something won't use a gender epithet to describe her weakness. But a guy would, b/c he is not being strong, e.i. acting " like a girl".


(This post was edited by lena_chita on Apr 15, 2009, 1:22 PM)


wonderwoman


Apr 15, 2009, 1:37 PM
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I think that guys feel leading just as daunting as we do... Maybe they just don't allow themselves to show it as much.


upintheair


Apr 15, 2009, 1:54 PM
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lena_chita wrote:
IAs he was being lowered, he kicked his feet in frustration and said something like:"Gee, why do I have to be such a pussy!"

To which clausti quickly quipped: hey, for the record, all the pussies around here HAVE climbed that route already. Wink

LOL!

A few people have mentioned the mental aspect, but for me the physical has a huge affect on my lead head. If I'm exhausted from climbing too hard the previous day, cold/stiff from climbing in bad weather, or injured/just recuperating from injury, I'm pretty timid, to the point of shaking my way up very easy leads.

Among the people I climb with, I know both men and women who don't like to lead, but most are women. Maybe there is something evolutionary there. If you're the primary caretaker for children, your death pretty much guarantees theirs, especially if they're still breastfeeding. Makes sense to be more protective of your body under those conditions.


Partner macherry


Apr 15, 2009, 1:55 PM
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wonderwoman wrote:
I think that guys feel leading just as daunting as we do... Maybe they just don't allow themselves to show it as much.

yeah, it just get discussed more in the ladies room


clausti


Apr 15, 2009, 1:58 PM
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lena_chita wrote:
I don't think weather has a direct effect, but overall, I am a happier person on a bright sunny day, so feeling good overall contributes to good lead-head.

i forgot to add that i climb like, 6 letter grades harder when it's warm enough (sunny and above 60 or cloudy in the mid 70s). seriously, i carry a fleece to the crag until the high starts getting into the 80s.


wonderwoman


Apr 15, 2009, 2:04 PM
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clausti wrote:
lena_chita wrote:
I don't think weather has a direct effect, but overall, I am a happier person on a bright sunny day, so feeling good overall contributes to good lead-head.

i forgot to add that i climb like, 6 letter grades harder when it's warm enough (sunny and above 60 or cloudy in the mid 70s). seriously, i carry a fleece to the crag until the high starts getting into the 80s.

Me too! Bummer that I live in the North East, huh?

I designate myself as 'belay slave' in 40 degree weather. The rock feels like razor blades on my fingers until I just can't feel or move them anymore.


smallclimber


Apr 15, 2009, 7:45 PM
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My husband and I pretty much climb the same grade but he tends to lead most trad routes, my gear placements and route finding are always a bit suspect no matter how hard I try, I tend to just go for it and then he gets worried I am not putting enough gear in. However he gets a bit freaked out on sport routes whereas I will willingly push a bit harder on these and hence I lead most sport - and really enjoy doing it.
A practical reason for less women leading trad is weight of gear in comparison to our weight. I weigh 90lb - so the full trad rack plus rope drag is pretty considerable for me, whereas for my 180lb hubby its not so bad.
In general I agree that where couples are climbing together you mostly see the guy leading, especially on trad.

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d0nk3yk0n9


Apr 16, 2009, 1:35 PM
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I'm a guy, but I thought I'd just chime in here and say that some of us men do find leading to be rather daunting. At least I do. Then again, despite my absolute confidence in my belayers and in the rope system, I seem to have an irrational mental block when it comes to roped climbing. As soon as I'm on a rope, I tighten up, my technique deteriorates, and I overgrip everything and pump out more quickly.

I think that this phenomenon has to do with a comfort zone issue. Some people (both men and women) are more comfortable with leading, while others prefer top rope. I think that the perception of women as less comfortable with leading has to do more with the fact that men are less likely to admit such fears. I know that I'm less comfortable leading and have communicated this to my partners because I'm okay with telling them that. I also know people who I can tell aren't comfortable with it but would never admit it to anyone. Some of these people are men, and some are women. Finally, some of the best climbers I've seen on lead are women and they seem perfectly comfortable with it.


iamthewallress


Apr 16, 2009, 3:47 PM
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Leading is not a necessity for women as often as it is for men.

When the situation dictates that women have to lead if they wanted to climb at all, and they do want to climb, they tend to lead.

So if you enjoy TRs and have them at the ready often enough without much social pressure telling you that you'd be more womanly if you were on the pointy end, why not just go with what is comfy and available?


petsfed


Apr 16, 2009, 5:19 PM
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I met my current girlfriend while she was in a belay class that I was teaching. Basically all of her climbing experience has been with me. Initially, she was very skittish about climbing routes based on her understanding of grades, and even more skittish about placing gear and leading.

However, she sensed an imbalance since I was leading everything, and she felt like she wasn't pulling her weight. I didn't really mind. It meant that I always got to lead the money pitches. Given her rapidly expanding ability, its not like climbing with her is really holding me back.

This feeling of imbalance was magnified when I put her on a few routes that were out of her self-defined comfort zone without telling her. She cruised them, then asked what they went at, two or three number grades beyond what she thought herself capable of.

We spent most of our downtime that weekend discussing what went into a good partnership, and the biggest thing, to me, was similarity of motivation levels, and the ability to enjoy pursuing the goals of the other, even if the goals were not of similar level.

I feel like her motivation for wanting to lead is not born from a desire to lead, per se, but rather out of a desire to be a better partner. Honestly, I don't think I'm entirely comfortable with that. That said, its not as if I'm hell-bent on pushing her into leading either. I think d0nk3yk0n9 is pretty close to the mark. Its not like climbing won't happen if she doesn't lead.


tradchick


Apr 17, 2009, 5:40 AM
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Good question and for me it's a mix of things.

I consider myself a risk taker because my favorite sports are rock and ice climbing, scuba diving, alpine skiing and road cycling/racing. Also have done a little skydiving.

I do struggle with leading, particularly rock. I freeze up leading 5.6 trad but can follow 10+ trad without falling off. Part of it is not trusting my placements, part just not wanting to take that first leader fall.

For sure the weather impacts how well I climb whether leading or following. On a long multipitch, if it's cloudy and the wind is blowing, it can be spooky.

I also think some of my fear is due to my age. I started climbing 3 years ago when I was 48. I'm more careful now then when I was younger. I did some crazy sh** when I was in my twenties and never even considered that I might get hurt or worse.

My fiance has been climbing both rock and ice for 30 years. I know he finds leading daunting and will express that to me. Not sure if he's so vocal about that with the guys.


acacongua


Apr 17, 2009, 7:05 AM
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I have no problem leading, although it took experience to build up to that. I lead overhanging sport though and the chances of an accident are not as high.

I do know that when I was BC (Yasmin and Yaz), my "go for it" attitude diminished. I was always fatigued and SCARED. I proved 3 times that BC affected me not only in climbing but in running (I couldn't push myself). I attributed to one or both factors: Yas has a diuretic effect and BC has been proven to inhibit testosterone (which affects mental and physical energy, as well as muscle growth).

I wish there were more studies on BC and athletics.


(This post was edited by acacongua on Apr 17, 2009, 7:06 AM)


tigerlilly


Apr 17, 2009, 9:53 AM
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tradchick wrote:
I also think some of my fear is due to my age. I started climbing 3 years ago when I was 48. I'm more careful now then when I was younger. I did some crazy sh** when I was in my twenties and never even considered that I might get hurt or worse.

Yes, this is true for me as well. I used to fall and bounce (most of the time). Now I fall and go crunch. I'm tired of broken bones and not as bold as I used to be. I know I'm more conservative than I used to be on my mtbike. It's probably best for me that I didn't discover climbing when I was young and reckless.

Kathy


tavs


Apr 17, 2009, 11:56 AM
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acacongua wrote:
I have no problem leading, although it took experience to build up to that. I lead overhanging sport though and the chances of an accident are not as high.

I do know that when I was BC (Yasmin and Yaz), my "go for it" attitude diminished. I was always fatigued and SCARED. I proved 3 times that BC affected me not only in climbing but in running (I couldn't push myself). I attributed to one or both factors: Yas has a diuretic effect and BC has been proven to inhibit testosterone (which affects mental and physical energy, as well as muscle growth).

I wish there were more studies on BC and athletics.

Oy. Not excited to hear this, though of course I know every woman is different. I just got a prescription for BC for the first time (I'm 30). My doc is starting me on a very low dose pill, so we'll see. These are exactly the kinds of things I don't want to deal with. I've got a half marathon race tomorrow and then I'll be filling the scrip and starting next week. Interested to see if I experience athletic-related side effects.


(This post was edited by tavs on Apr 17, 2009, 11:57 AM)


ladyscarlett


Apr 17, 2009, 5:25 PM
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wow, interesting to see this topic just when I've been stressing about trad leading for an upcoming trip.

My buddies say my anxiety comes from a lack of lead head, and that I need to "just go for it!" Fair play since I do over think quite a lot. Inexperience - only two trad leads and maybe a handful of sport, also looms large in my brain. I am definitely a big wimp though...I'm hoping climbing will help, and keep me challenging myself.

Something that keeps me anxious is that I fixate on the possibility that I won't know the skills or have the strength I lack until I need them on the side of the rock...pitches about the ground, hanging from a loose finger, unstable feet and no gear, run out from a marginal piece...of course!

Evolutionary speaking, I figured as a female's "success" in maintaining a tribe community depended on long term planning for day to day functionality over the seasons, women have developed an inclination towards a 'prepare for the worst in advance' mentality whereas male behaviors leaned more towards acquire skills, pick target, go for the target, and deal with the problems as they come. Combine that with a female proclivity towards multi-tasking (from the tribe times) and you have a gender inclined to think about all the daunting possibilities while going along their merry way.

That being said, no scientific basis for this. It's just my brain wandering so that the scared scared little girl doesn't have the chance to scream and make my body run away...

thanks for the discussion!

cheers

ls


lhwang


Apr 18, 2009, 10:07 AM
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There was actually a decent thread on this a while ago (search for leading and the female perspective if it doesn't work).
http://www.rockclimbing.com/...ing=leading;#1201984

I don't buy the whole evolutionary/gender differences in leading explanation. I was kind of hoping that clausti would talk about there being more variability within a gender than between genders.

I do have a lot of problems with leading (actually, it's the falling that I have issues with!). I'd say in my case it's personal experience rather than biological, cultural or circumstantial... I started leading within a few months of learning to climb. I hurt myself in a fall on a supposedly safe climb and ever since have had a hard time leading. I still make myself do it (ice, trad, sport, multipitch), mainly because I guess I like the challenge in some sick twisted way, and because there aren't a whole lot of toproping areas around here and I hate the idea of being on dependent on someone else to climb.

A few things that really helped me... reading the Rock Warrior's Way multiple times. And just getting out there and leading as much as possible. Ironically I'm in an area where the easier climbs always have the ugliest falls... you know, some chossy loose gully with lots of ledges. It's sometimes better just to jump on something harder but cleaner.


clee03m


Apr 27, 2009, 12:47 PM
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lhwang wrote:
I don't buy the whole evolutionary/gender differences in leading explanation.

Me neither. I was climbing with two guys for a week, and I observed that we all were different in our leading styles. One guy was fearless and would forgo protection on easier (for him) terraine, offer to lead R rated routes, and fall without blinking an eye. The other guy, despite being a very strong climber (11's trad and have seen him lead a few 12's sport), would choose to hang on gear or bolt than to fall. In fact, I have never seen him take a lead fall. I would say I was right in the middle. While I prefer to hang or down climb and do so if I have a choice, I have fallen both on bolt and gear. I see it as a necessary evil that goes along with pushing myself on lead especially if I am trying for a clean ascent. So at least in our little group, gender (or even leading abilities) did not play into leading styles. Even with my other partners, I have not observed gender differences much. That being said, I have seen more girls who exclusively belay... Seen being the operative word, since I don't play with climbers like that much Tongue

Urr, I mean other than my husband, but he is, like, the best belayer ever!

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