We believe that Arc’teryx can be a force for positive change. We create this change not only by improving the practices in our core operations, but by supporting projects and partners that align with our values.
Today, Tuesday March 8th, 50% of all Arc’teryx sales Australia-wide will be donated in support of Women Uprising, a female-focussed rock climbing community based in Naarm / Melbourne.
Arc’teryx has been working with Jo from Women Uprising for a while now, for those who are new to this space, tell us about you!
Hello! I’m Jo Lee (she/her) and I’m the founder of Women Uprising and the Affinity Initiative. I’m a climbing guide, fluent in four languages, and an advocate for intersectional feminism in the climbing industry.
Women Uprising was born as a result of conversations with many women who shared that they were introduced to climbing by their cis-gendered male partners and male friends, but wanted the opportunity to learn and grow their skills from skilled women. Since our founding in 2018, we have been committed to empowering women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make their own decisions in the outdoors.
Women’s specific workshops are crucial to how we learn - a space where we don’t have to worry about being judged, for ‘not learning fast enough’ or being ‘strong enough’, and to see that there are other women who are committed to growing without competition. From guided day trips, trad climbing workshops, retreats and climbing festivals - our work is led by what the community wants and needs.
How has Women Uprising impacted the community since it was founded mid-2018?
Building community is the reason we exist. Recently we’ve led two history-making events that empowered women climbers from across the country to chase their climbing goals and to have the tough conversations that matter. In 2020/2021, we reached out to 1737 individual women and gender non-conforming climbers in a global pandemic through engaging digital social events, competitions, and workshops that united diverse climbers. We positively impacted climbers’ mental health during the Naarm (Melbourne) lockdowns, which was one of the longest in the world, through zoom social events, workouts and social media compts to keep everyone's skills top-notch from home.
Our work has opened doors for the industry to reassess its 'business as usual’ approach and has created new opportunities for women and gender-diverse climbers to gain industry support and recognition.
Why are spaces made for women and gender nonconforming folks so important?
We know that climbing is still a very male-dominated sport, despite the best efforts of other women-led groups across the country. Some of the criticism Women Uprising and other women-led groups get are along the lines of “There are women in my climbing group, so climbing can’t be male-dominated”. What this misses is the disparity of women working in the industry at all levels compared to men, women getting the same level of representation in the media as men and the opportunity for women in the community to learn skills from people who have the same lived experiences.
There’s something incredibly empowering about attending courses, workshops, events, and spaces that are made with your lived experiences as a centerpiece, rather than an afterthought.
Climbing indoors seems to lend itself to an easier transition into sport climbing and bouldering. Yet, when we dive deeper and we look at the representation of women-of-colour, queer and adaptive folks in the outdoors, the numbers are even more limited.
I ask why a lot, and there are plenty of reasons for it. From negative experiences like getting mansplained in climbing spaces (indoors and outdoors), exclusionary jargon, offensive and bigoted route names that have historically targeted diverse communities, a lack of access to expensive gear, minimal access to gear that fits different body types, to the portrayal of only thin, tall, super fit, white cis-gendered women in the media, these are all experiences I’ve heard from women in our community.
Mentorship has proven to make a significant impact on the people who enter and remain in these spaces given the challenges all women face and has given rise to successful women in the climbing industry. However, what communities like ours need to see is more mentorship that is representative of intersectional experiences, to create spaces and opportunities that embrace the differences between individuals with diverse identities.
By only offering opportunities to a select few individuals it means that many talented women at the community level aren’t able to access those benefits or opportunities. We’re helping shift this narrative by creating spaces led by our community, to ensure as many women as possible can benefit. We know that if feminism isn’t intersectional, if it doesn’t center and uplift diverse voices in the community, if it only focuses on individual recognition, then it really isn’t feminism at all.
We know that it’s not about having a seat at the table, because the table has been built to benefit a select few. What we’re doing is building a new table with the community, to champion their needs and to design spaces, events, mentorship and learning opportunities with them at the forefront.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
To us, International Women’s Day holds no meaning if it doesn’t uplift marginalized communities, where our freedom and recognition is built on the labor of Bla(c)k, First Nations women, women-of-colour (WOC) and trans women-of-colour.
We see International Women’s day as a chance to center the voices of diverse women who break down barriers, uplift others and bring so much value to the climbing community every day.
For me personally, as the only WOC climbing guide with intersectional identities (woman, person-of-colour and immigrant) in Australia means often needing to put up with spaces that normalize silence in the face of injustice and harm. It is exhausting to navigate barriers that are systematically designed to keep people-of-colour from the outdoors, let alone to make a living within the climbing industry in the same way white women do.
Breaking barriers and biases take a lot of work, ruffles a lot of feathers and relies on a huge community of changemakers across different levels within the industry to uphold the changes we need to see in the spaces and businesses they run. We are so grateful for the people who have believed in us unequivocally over the years and, who did not hesitate to speak up for us in a room full of opportunities.
We’ve seen huge changes in the industry over the last four years and we’re looking forward to seeing many more as we continue our work to put women center stage and lead our initiatives with diversity at our core.
How can people help to make the outdoors more accessible to marginalised communities?
All recreation takes place on stolen land. This has to be constantly remembered, acknowledged and reparations paid as our role as settlers on Country. Research the history of where you’re climbing and make sure you’re not anywhere you shouldn’t be.
- Support people-of-colour in the outdoors, ask your POC friend out for a hike, a climb or a surf.
- Recognise and challenge your internal bias. Remember that there’s no ‘right way’ to adventure or experience nature. People of different ethnicities celebrate and enjoy being in the outdoors differently, and that could look like playing music, being ‘too loud’, bringing traditional food, or hanging out in a bigger group than you’re used to.
Be aware that everyone’s comfort zone is different. People-of-colour, queer, trans, non-binary folks, and folks with adaptive abilities may have other emotional, cultural, and social barriers to overcome just by taking up space ‘adventuring’. The burdens of carrying this identity do not disappear and form a core part of our experience in the outdoors. Often these burdens disrupt what should aid a retreat into nature so be welcoming, share your space and support others.
- If you have the time and resources, fund initiatives, groups and programs led by diverse people. Creating change comes at a huge cost both financially and emotionally. Share your resources with those doing the work to challenge the status quo and give them the agency to self-determine our own opportunities.
Here are some useful links for further reading and support:
Pay The Rent
Wuurn of Kanak
Decolonise Sex Work
Forcibly Displaced People Network