“Don’t cry, we will figure something out,” said the flannel-clad, bearded man at the brand-name outdoor retailer store I stood in.
I stared at him blankly just blinking. As I was registering that he was indeed talking to ME, I stuttered that I wasn’t feeling like I needed to cry…
Honestly, I felt way more like punching him in the face than crying. In fact, I felt like punching the whole outdoor industry in the face.
This was the fifth location I had been to trying to find my size in double mountaineering boots, and this time I was at the source! (Hello Boulder, CO!) No luck, and only condescending and degrading comments.
There are two main problems we need to solve:
1.) Most Outdoor retailers don't carry women’s sizing in mountaineering gear such as double or triple boots
2.) Outdoor companies themselves don’t even make women’s specific boots in this category. Ladies, we are SOL.
Spending $1,000 on boots that don’t even fit your feet right is a harsh reality.
...As most advice for finding the correct boot says: “The important thing to remember is the heel-lock. If the boot fits around your heel and ankle, and securely holds the rear of your foot in place without it sliding up for forward".. You’re good to go! The volume of men’s or even unisex boots makes this impossible for women with smaller heel cup size and typically a higher arch.
But YOU have no choice: buy the ill-fitting boots or don’t climb. Go see a boot-fitter, spend more money, and try to get them to keep your heel from sliding up. But don’t worry, we believe in you just as much as we believe in male mountaineers, right?
This struggle to find essential gear makes me wonder what’s wrong with being a woman in this industry?
If I can’t fit into the boots, can I fit into the role of 'Mountain Guide'? How accessible to women is this industry really, and is this accessibility an illusion of reality that the outdoor industry simply feeds?
And, If the outdoor gear industry believed in, or wanted to support female mountaineer endeavors, they would make a boot that actually fits... and really, let's be real, that's just for starters.
WHAT TO DO?
"Sheldon Kerr, an AMGA-certified ski guide, suggests that ingrained biases, sexism and lack of opportunity are self-perpetuating issues of an uneven gender balance."
But one way to fix that is through increasing mentorship.
“Women tend to lack mentorship because folks who are established in the industry tend to mentor people they see themselves in,” says Kerr of the male-dominated field. “So it’s not necessarily some sort of conscious discrimination; it’s unconscious bias. For that reason, we have smaller, fewer opportunities to be with the mentors we’d like to have.” https://amga.com/leading-charge-amga-women/
Look, sexism and biases in the outdoor industry do exist in so many varying ways, all I am asking for is that the outdoor gear industry do their part. Offer women gear that actually fits! That actually makes them feel good, feel worthy, feel empowered, feel like we can actually climb that goddamn mountain. Out of all the things that we have to fight for, in and out of this industry, ladies: this is one fight we shouldn't have to have.
*Fun Fact: 372 different women have summited Everest