Sasha DiGiulian, Bullying, + The Battle for Equality in the Outdoors

Long story short – professional climber, Joe Kinder, has been verbally attacking fellow professional climber, Sasha DiGiulian, both online and offline for years. The most notable strikes took place on Joe’s secret Instagram account, which poked fun at female climbers’ physical appearance. Sasha bravely called out Joe’s tyrannizing in a public Instagram post, which prompted Black Diamond followed by La Sportiva to cut ties (read: sponsorships) with Joe. As of now, the public is unaware of what was said behind the scenes, but speculations can be made based on Sasha’s Instagram post regarding the incident. Joe issued a public apology, followed by another one, which Sasha’s manager has confirmed she accepted.

But please, don’t call this “drama” in the climbing industry; that demeans the severity of bullying.

 

Unsurprisingly, the people of the Internet have a lot of opinions about the situation – some think Sasha was overly sensitive. Some think Black Diamond and La Sportiva were too harsh. Some think this whole thing is dumb and we should get back to talking about the important stuff like first ascents, the bouldering World Cup, and hey, Everest season is gearin’ up.

And then there’s those who think this is a step in the right direction to climbing becoming more gender-inclusive. I’m apart of the latter.

While this is destructive to Joe’s career, it is constructive in terms of building a community that is more welcoming, accepting, and kind to everyone; not just white dudes.

Call me defensive, delicate, or a “snowflake,” but I don’t think making fun of people – especially their physical appearance – is witty or humorous. If joking about how someone looks is your only standup material, then the reality is you probably aren’t that funny.

Personally, I think Sasha feeling victimized by Joe’s comments is warranted. However, it doesn’t matter what I consider malicious or not; if someone is hurt by a remark directed at them, they are hurt by it. They don’t need to validate why and we shouldn’t question it.

For the record, Joe is almost 40 years old, which is roughly 25 years too old to be making the same cruel quips you heard in the halls of middle school. Additionally, he comes from the most privileged demographic in our society: caucasian males. For him to think it’s ok to mock women – FYI, we already have it hard as it is, we don’t need our colleagues giving us shit too – without any repercussions, signifies “privilege” in action.

That’s not to say Joe is a bad guy; many climbers have vouched for his kindness in the wake of call-out. People make mistakes. People say and do stupid shit without thoroughly considering the repercussions. However, being a middle-aged public figure, he should have a better grasp on what constitutes bullying.

After all, there is not a fine line separating joking and bullying. That line is the Great Wall of China – enormous, massive, viewable from outer space, and pretty hard to miss unless you’re closing your eyes. The math is simple: if it hurts someone emotionally or physically, it’s not a joke; it’s bullying. If someone tells you to stop, it’s bullying (note: Sasha contacted Joe regarding the “jokes” on various occasions). If it’s something you would only post on a SECRET Instagram account because you don’t want everyone to see it, then it’s probably bullying.

Joe’s public apology deserves respect, but at the end of the day saying sorry is easy… Proving you’re sorry requires a bit more effort. I look forward to seeing how Joe takes action and uses this incident to shape the climbing community into a safe space for everyone.

Arguably the most valuable outcome is how Joe’s sponsors, Black Diamond and La Sportiva, handled the situation. Emphasis on arguably, as many members of the peanut gallery contend that the companies were too severe in severing their sponsorships.

As a professional climber, your sponsors are your employers. If you were to circulate flyers about your coworker, Lisa, looking like a troll and then point and laugh at her until she cried, you would probably get fired too – or we would hope so. Bullying is not and should not be tolerated in the workplace, even if your “office” is the crag. Joe was getting paid to be a public figure and that entails being held to a higher standard; if you can’t handle that heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Black Diamond and La Sportiva’s decision to drop Joe and not let him off with a slap of the wrist sends a glaring, and important, message to professional athletes: we will not tolerate bullying. It also demonstrates an unwavering support for women and gender-equality in the outdoor industry. This is monumental and tremendously meaningful in male-dominated industry.

Women can say they’re fed up, but unfortunately money talks and when we have a big-name corporation advocating for us, that speaks volumes.

 

Though the situation isn’t positive, the aftermath is productive; the consequences show the continued improvement of equality and the destruction of biases within the industry. While bullying and sexism still exists in climbing, and all sports, it is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Victims are speaking up and corporations are taking note…

We are witnessing the beginnings of a new era.

 

 

[[Note: Yes, I know this all occurred several weeks ago… I wrote this post when it happened and am now just getting around to posting it.]]
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