Climbing High or Falling Flat? Representations of Female Rock Climbers in Climbing Magazine (1991-2004)




Vodden-McKay, Sarah
Schell, Lea Ann

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Texas State University, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies


Rock climbing and mountaineering have historically been viewed as "male only endeavor" which are too strenuous and too dangerous to be undertaken by women. However, since the 1970s, more women have joined the climbing community and have pushed the limits of difficulty once thought to be unattainable. Although still a minority, women do engage in this athletic endeavor yet receive little or no attention in the media for their successes. Climbing magazine is the longest running and most widely circulated publication in the United States that is dedicated solely to reporting on rock climbing and mountaineering. The purpose of this study was to analyze the way in which female rock climbers are represented in Climbing magazine by investigating the publication"Ÿs feature articles and photographs over a 14-year time period, 1991-2004. Results suggest that the few images and descriptors of female climbers in Climbing work to "normalize" the female climbers as "real" women by emphasizing their heterosexuality and domesticity, highlighting their feminine physique, and infantilizing them as a means to disempower.



climbing, rock climbing, females


Vodden-McKay, S., Schell, L. A. (2010). Climbing high or falling flat? Representations of female rock climbers in Climbing magazine (1991-2004). <i>Journal of Research on Women and Gender, 1</i>(1), pp. 136-151.


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