Setting up bettybeta.com has been a really interesting journey into female psychology. My gut feeling, and, our initial feedback, has been that the information and the service provided by Bettybeta is really appreciated and much needed in the climbing community. We are, however, coming across an interesting issue in that very few of our users are submitting content. When I suggest that people can upload their videos in order to help others find climbs and beta, the answer is invariably, ‘but I don’t take videos’, ‘I don’t have any good videos’, ‘I haven’t climbed anything hard enough’, or something along those lines. There seem to be so many psychological issues barring girls from taking and sharing videos that I thought I might write an article about it, and see if we can come up with some ideas about how to change this and get some more content to share.When I first approached the team at Bleau.info about Bettybeta, to ask if they had any reservations about a girl-specific site, they were concerted that, if there was a need for such a site, Bleau.info somehow fell short of the needs of the female climbing community. They had been aware for some time of the low female representation on their site, despite being very keen to promote women’s climbing in the area. For some reason, it seems that the number of women posting their videos is not representative of the number of women achieving in the forest. I am obviously hoping that we can create an environment where women are comfortable to share their beta, so it seems we need to have look at the barriers that lead to this discrepancy and help to break them down.I have asked some friends ‘why don’t girls post videos?’, and the response has been interesting, both from men and women.- because girls don’t feel good enough
- fear of judgement
- fear of inappropriate feedback
- better perspective on life - less need for external recognition
- women worry about what they look like in videos
- demographic statistics and proportional representation
- bouts of insecurity
- lack of self validity
- women are more inclined to downplay their achievements
- supporting and videoing their friends instead of videoing themselves.
- there is no barrier for women, just more incentive for men.I am sure there are many more, and I would love to have your feedback. If you can suggest any other reasons, it would be great to see if we can address them. I’m going to ignore the suggestions of ‘Laziness’ and ‘Bouts of insecurity’ because I think that everyone suffers from these, regardless of gender. I also agree that there are less women out there, so the demographics are definitely against equal numbers of videos across the genders, but even with this in mind I still don’t think that we achieve proportional representation. If women do in fact have a better perspective on life, and don’t need to take videos because they don’t need to prove anything to anyone, I can’t find fault in that, and wish it was actually the case. I think there is definitely some truth in the fact that there is more incentive for men to post videos. Evolutionarily men compete. They competed with peers for status within the community, and they competed with other communities for resources. Status was important to ensure their genes were passed on. It may be genetics or prehistoric social conditioning that made it desirable for a man to prove his worth. Women, on the other hand were one of the things men competed for, and were inherently worthy. They were also appreciated for being submissive and supportive, so they became demure to appeal to men. This social conditioning may lead to the fact that men are more likely to take videos to boast their status than women. Women, being more modest, may need to find reasons other than status to post our videos.Fear may indeed be a factor. I am not sure whether it is genetics or culture that make women more compliant, but generally women have a greater need for group security, fostering close friendships and community bonds. They want to fit in, to be part of the team, and be recognised as part of the tribe. In fact, evolutionarily there would have been a disadvantage to alienating peers, as the women needed to be surrounded by support networks for bringing up the children. As a result women fear saying and doing things that set them apart, or alert people to negative attributes of behaviour. If videoing is felt to be narcisistic, maybe women feel open to being criticised for it. Serena Williams' recent advert for Nike highlights how women are often called crazy if they show passion in sport, but other peoples attitudes should not stop them from pursuing their passion.Another reason for women to fear feedback has been highlighted recently by Natalie Berry in her article on UKC about ‘Climbers against D*ck Picks’(1). Natalie has found that there is an alarming amount of sexual harassment in social media. It seems that female athletes are somehow subject to lurid and inappropriate comments by posting about their performance. I am hoping that creating a female community that is supportive and like-minded we will be able to remove some of the reasons for women to fear posting about their achievements.Perhaps it is simply that women do not recognise their achievements; they don’t feel good enough. This could be from societal conditioning from birth saying that they are not good enough, but I can’t actually imagine that this is so much worse for women than men. Everyone is exposed to the same parental influence and education. Maybe if women see climbing as a male dominated arena, they feel that they are not strong enough to compete on the same playing field, and that somehow their ascent is less valid. This is an interesting point, because in my mind a female ascent of a boulder problem is often more valid than a male ascent of the same problem. Maybe this is reverse-sexism, but the woman climber has showed equal strength, and often greater skill to overcome reach issues, and represents a minority in the grade. Women, however, are less likely than men to overestimate their performance. This was shown by Bench et al in a scientific paper on performance in maths tests (2). They found that men would overestimate how well they had performed in a set of maths questions, whereas women would down-play their achievements. Interestingly, this was not the case after feedback. When women reported a more positive previous experience with maths, they were more likely to estimate a higher result. Maybe if women were encouraged to feel more positively about their performance they would be more inclined to share it.I think it is also true that society judges a woman's appearance more harshly than a man's. In turn women worry more about what they look like. If the sites to which they share their videos are dominated by strong, fit, slim individuals they are more likely to worry 'does my butt look big in this' video. Maybe what they are wearing on a cold day doesn't make them look good, or maybe on a hot day they fear they are wearing too little. This has been a personal barrier for me, as on a few hot days I have climbed in nothing but my underwear, and there is no way I would post those videos to any social media! The one thing that seems to keep cropping up is the word ‘modest’. Modesty is seen as a positive character trait, and is encouraged in girls. Even when I was at school there was such a thing as deportment classes and finishing schools, teaching young ladies how to be demure and socially acceptable. The need to be modest cannot have disappeared entirely in a single generation. According to Olivia Goldhill (3), who has a BA from Harvard, and an MA from London, “Modesty is clearly a gendered notion, the word means both self-effacing and sexually chaste, both of which are applied to women more than men. These concepts are used to keep women in their patriarchy-ordained roles, compromising their progress in the male-dominated realms of professional achievement, and locked into a passive role when it comes to sexual desire”. While I’m not quite sure whether sexual desire has anything to do with climbing, I think the principle of society keeping women modest has been true for millenia. Moira Weigel (4), a postdoctorial scholar at Harvard university, studying gender, media and social theory notes that the very word “virtue’ originates from Latin, ‘vir’ meaning ‘man’. She says that the idea of virtue being a male attribute is so deeply baked into society that it has always been accepted that men belong in public society, and women belong in the household.” she says. “The classical idea of virtue is about winning honor among other men in public and women do not belong to and are not a part of that”. Maybe there is an underlying truth in this with regard to videoing. Men take videos to win honour amongst other men, while women are uncomfortable doing so from a deeply ingrained social norm.An interesting study on Womens’ Bragging Rights (5), carried out by Jessie L Smith et al, studied how easily women promoted themselves in rated essays. They start from the assumption that American gender norms expect that women should be modest. Using qualitatively graded essays, they asked women to write one essay about a friend, and one about themselves, knowing that the one about a friend was going to be an easier essay. They hypothesised that allowing the women to attribute their stress at self promotion to an external source would help with their ability to write with less inhibition. To test this they sat 78 participants in a room with a black box at the front. They told half of the participants that the box was a ‘subliminal noise generator’ that would induce stress, despite them hearing nothing. The other half had no idea what the box was for. In fact, there is no such thing as a ‘subliminal noise generator’, and the box did nothing, but the women who could externalise their reason for feeling anxious wrote much better self-promotion essays that the other half of the group. This study illustrates that women are not comfortable boasting about their own performance, but this discomfort can be diverted if it can be channeled elsewhere. I wonder whether just acknowledging this discomfort and accepting it as normal would be enough to help the participants write better essays. So how can we use all this psychoanalysis to help Bettybeta? I think we can firstly take on board that there is a gender difference in desire to post videos. If we women accept that it’s normal for it to feel a little uncomfortable, maybe we can appreciate ourselves for feeling that way, but do it anyway, re-assuring our inner modest mouse that it’s actually ok. Hopefully it will also help to say we are doing it for the community, doing it to help others. This will give us an external reason for posting videos, rather than pure self-promotion. The main thing, though, is that we develop a supportive community, where people can share without fear of judgement or inappropriate feedback. We need to let everyone know that there will always be stronger and weaker climbers that ourselves, and that every video is valid, no matter what your friends or partners are doing, appreciate your own achievements and enjoy sharing it with others.
ReferencesClimbers against D*ck Picks - Athletes and Social Media Abuse, UKC, 2019 Nalalie Berry (2) Gender Gaps in Overestimation of Maths Performance, Shane Bench, Heather Lench, Jeffrey Liew et al 2015 Springer(3) Modesty isn’t a virtue it’s a tool to keep women in their place, Quartz, 2017 Olivia Goldhill(4) Labour of Love: The Invention of Dating, Moira Weigel 2016 Farrar, Straus, Giroux(5) Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self Promotion. Montana State University Library, 2014, Jessi L Smith, Meghan Huntoon