Climbing Infographic: Gender in the Climbing Media

This post came about because I had the impression that the climbing media is male-dominated. Because I’ve spent four years in training to be a professional nerd, I went out and collected some data to figure out whether or not this perception was true.

Women have been climbing harder than ever recently. While I was working on this post, Girls Like Giants posted a thoughtful rumination on race, gender, and class in climbing, focusing on the video about Obe and Ashima in the 2011 Reel Rock Tour. It sparked an interesting discussion when it got posted by the Climbing Narc.

The data were collected from the online editions of Rock&Ice, nos. 201-194, representing 8 issues of climbing magazine content. I picked Rock&Ice because they make digital editions available online, which meant that I didn’t have to page through paper copies. I counted the number of images featuring women in advertisements, photos in articles, and on covers of the magazine.

For the video data, I went through 8 months of back posts of ‘Video Fridays’ from the Climbing Narc. At least five ‘top videos’ from the last week are posted each Friday. I counted a video as ‘both’ if it featured at least one woman, and as female or male if it featured only females or only males.

Some disclaimers: 

  1. I did this because I was curious, not because I have an agenda. I wanted to see if the data supported my perception of disparity.
  2. (Spoiler) It did.
  3. The disparity wasn’t as big as I thought it would be.
  4. I don’t have anything against the editors of Rock and Ice. They produce a fantastic magazine, and I don’t suspect them of a sexist bias.
  5. Ditto for the Climbing Narc, who entertains bored climbers in offices the world over.
  6. I’m not perfect. I did all of this counting by hand, and I only did it once. It’s possible that there are some inaccuracies in the data, though I hope that there aren’t.

Click through for full size.

I thought the data was interesting. I hope you do too. Have an opinion? Sound off in the comments.

A special thanks to Nik, Kate, and Chris, who helped me with feedback during my bumblings in the world of graphic design.

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3 thoughts on “Climbing Infographic: Gender in the Climbing Media

  1. This is cool. Thanks for spending the time to look at it. However, wouldn’t the question/discussion of “representation of female climbers in the media” make sense only when it is juxtaposed to data about actual participation in the sport?

    • Hey Juniper–yeah, it would! I poked around for said participation data and had a bit of trouble finding it. I didn’t want to delay the post any longer, so I went ahead and posted without participation data. I’m guessing that the breakdown of the Outdoor Recreation Participation Survey would have it, but it’s not in the topline data that they publish.

      My personal experience suggests ~60% men in the gym, maybe ~70% or higher outdoors, depending on location, style of climbing, etc.

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