Dude Bros At The Crag: How (not) to talk to lady climbers

Selective Dude Bro Obliviousness/səˈlektiv do͞od brō əˈblivēəs nes noun The phenomenon by which some members of the male sex fail to acknowledge the presence and/or voices of women within typically male-dominated contexts, limiting themselves to direct interaction with other men.

IMG_1651 Elaine being a crusher at Castle Rock in Tennessee. She know's what's up.

Most guys at the crag are totally chill. They can exchange small talk, directions, and beta with anyone, regardless of that person's chromosomal makeup or gender identity. But sometimes — dare I say often? — a girl meets a capital-DB Dude Bro who just doesn't get it.

Tell me if you’ve experienced any of the following:

1. Dude Bro At The Crag does not make eye contact with you. He might greet you and introduce himself, and you might even shake hands, but he does not look you in the eye or directly at your person.

2. Dude Bro does not address you directly. If you are in a group conversation and you say something, he responds to your male climbing partner:

Dude Bro, to group: This problem is so cool.

You: It really is, but these crimps are tearing my skin up. I don't think I have many burns left.

Dude Bro, to Male Climbing Partner: Yeah man, they are pretty brutal. I can show you some smoother stuff when you're ready to move on.

3. Dude Bro does not accept your independent opinions/thoughts/statements of fact. He must confirm whatever you have said by running it past your male climbing partner before accepting it as valid:

Dude Bro: What kind of rock is at [crag]? I've never been there.

You: Sandstone.

Dude Bro, to Male Climbing Partner: Is it sandstone?

Male Climbing Partner: Yeah, it's sandstone.

You, inwardly: Sigh.

I have. And after questioning climbers on Reddit, over Facebook, and in person, I found that a lot of other ladies have, too. A few women say they’ve been blessedly spared, but the Internet was quick to affirm that my frustrations are not unique.

So. What’s the deal? What causes SDBO? And how do we deal with it?

The majority consensus in /r/climbergirls is that Dude Bro, in most situations, is concerned about coming off as a threat (i.e., potential romantic usurper) to Lady Climber’s Climber Boyfriend. Five professed males contributed this opinion, and many upvotes were had.

Well, that sucks. The implicit assumption is that 1. Lady Climber’s relationship to Climber Boyfriend matters more than Lady Climber as a person 2. Climber Boyfriend must be hella insecure and 3. It doesn’t matter how Lady Climber feels about being disrespected, as long as Climber Boyfriend’s potentially fragile ego remains intact.

And that’s a disservice to us all!

But wait. It gets more complicated.

Several ladies attested that SDBO affects them when they climb with any guy. “I've even had guys respond to my introductions by giving me a once-over, then turning to male-climbing-partner, shaking his hand, and introducing themselves,” one Redditor says. Sigh.

Others pointed to the cult of strength. “Having dated both a serious climber and a novice, I can say with certainty that other guys are always sizing your guy up,” says one friend. “They’re way less threatened and generally nicer if your guy is new to climbing… But while dating a more serious climber, I was almost invisible to all men.”

My question is, what do we do about it? I hit my SDBO breaking point at the Holy Boulders last month. At the Buttermilks I was able to roll my eyes and laugh off the slights, but eight crags later I was ready to burst. I still didn’t speak up, opting to stew in my frustration like a cranky potato in a forgotten crockpot. I didn’t want to seem overly sensitive or, well, bitchy. But why complain after the fact if I’m not gonna speak in the moment?

So. Let’s all expect a little more from each other.

Dudes? Think about what you’re saying, why you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to. And don’t be afraid to help a girl out! Most guys I’ve climbed with are totally respectful, but sometimes the doofuses need a helping hand.

And ladies? Let’s embrace our lycra-clad sistren and do what we can to amplify each other’s voices. Don’t get down on other chicks, and remember that two bitches are louder than one.

No one should have to earn respect. Whether you climb V2 or V12, and regardless of your sex or experience level, you deserve it — and so does everybody else.


This is not a climbing-specific phenomenon. SDBO is a silly name I’ve given to one symptom of a widespread problem. To read more about how microaggressions affect women and minorities, check out this Tumblr.