Climbing community representative of world community?

I’m super curious on everyone’s take on the above title.

I read an Instagram caption this morning that was speaking about sexism and racism in climbing and mentioned that, in her opinion, the climbing community is a microcosm of the world community.

It got me thinking.

Not about the racism and sexism comment…that, I believe we can agree on, exist.

The part I don’t agree with is the climbing community being a representation of the greater national or international community. Hear me out, and I’d love to know other people’s opinions.

To define the climbing community, I’d like to be specific, i.e. folks who have committed to climbing as at least a semi permanent fixture in their lives. The individual who goes to the gym once might not yet be a representative sample for this discussion.

The parallel example I keep coming back to is calling NASCAR followers a representative sample of the greater population. I don’t think we can accurately state this.

To some extent, I believe many if not the majority of extracurricular activities (or careers, for that matter), self select certain personalities and belief structures.

So here would be a great sociology experiment. What if there were five questions created—with topics ranging from civil rights, women’s rights, public lands, personal responsibilities (diet, exercise, etc), etc.

If we were to look at major metropolitan areas and poll 50 climbing gym members (let’s say we’d use all the BKB locations) and then plop a pin down in some random part of that city and poll 50 people who were in the vicinity of that pin, I believe we’d find quite a difference in answers between the climbing gym members and the representative sample in that city.

Again, I’m just curious here about populations of people who partake in climbing and how/if they differ from the “world population”.

I don’t have the answers, but want to learn from the hive mind in this forum.

And ps my degree is in biology and not psychology or sociology, so I don’t really know how to get representative data on populations like this!

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I’ve considered this quite a bit, because I’m definitely guilty of, when confronted with the idea of thinking that the climbing community is somehow “better” than the general population, of jumping to the extreme opposite side and saying it isn’t.

An maybe it isn’t, but it certainly aligns more closely with my beliefs than, like you point out, the NASCAR community.

There are always exceptions of course, and we tend to over value those when they pop up. Ultimately, I agree with you that not every small community is representative of the greater world community, and I’m glad for that.

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I never said “better”. But different. We (the climbing community) may tend to prioritize different qualities than the general population.

Some of these prioritizations may lead to treating other humans with more kindness. So that could be classified as “better”.

I know, I just brought it in as an example because it’s a phrase I often hear when discussing racism/sexism in climbing, so it’s at front of mind. “The climbing community is better”.

I agree with you that we, as a small community, have inherent differences. I don’t know if they are better or not.

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I don’t have any lofty illusions that the “climbing community” is any better than the greater world community.

Care to elaborate or is it just a hunch?

Let’s be honest, there’s assholes everywhere. Wondering though if our belief systems as a self proclaimed group are different than the collective.

I.e. I might guess there’s a larger % of folks in the nascar community who are cool with the confederate flag, when compared to the rest of the country.

Not calling that better or worse, but acknowledging there’s a difference between the subset and the whole.

Climbing culture is definitely different than other cultures, and it helps shape the people who are often in contact with this culture. Hopefully for the better… But fundamentally, people are still people. And communities are VERY small. Therefore, I don’t think we can speak of 1 climbing community, and the diversity within climbing communities is probably just as big as the diversity between a climbing community and those of other sports.

It would be easier if you could point to some way in which the climbing community is different than the greater community. Statistically speaking I would say that it’s representative. If we take your confederate flag example then if we say that 100k people in the US population are ok with the flying of the flag then we could probably find 10 climbers that would represent that at .01 percent of the population.

The bad things seem to make a bigger impact than any small things that we may be “better” as climbers at then the greater population.

Until the first episode of “For the Love of Climbing” I might have thought we didn’t have any sexual predators in the climbing community.

Until I noticed tons of sprinters being driven to climbing areas for the weekend by single occupants, I would have thought we as “climbers” were more environmentaly conscious.

This is a fascinating discussion. At The Climbing Initiative, we are definitely thinking along these lines. We believe rock climbing is in fact some sort of representation for the world. We operate in a way that hopes to recognize and realize the impact rock climbing can have on an individual that will then ripple out into their communities, countries, and ultimately, the world.

I have to agree with @AmirNickname here in that people are people. Whether it’s Daniel Woods throwing out a casual N-word at a boulder, some guy hitting on a girl at the gym, or me saying “Biner” without thinking about the consequences, we have a microcosm of the real world and its troubles and triumphs.

I love the thought experiment and will be interested to follow the discussion.

I would say the climbing community is growing more representative of the world every day because the population of people who are part of the climbing community is ever expanding. As that subset of the larger population grows it moves closer to representing the characteristics of the larger population from which it is pulled. The ugly things I see in climbing are reflective (actually just extensions) of the ugly things I see in our population as a whole. This is true for any sampling of a population. If you think your sample is not reflective of the greater population it’s pulled from you most likely have some problem with your sampling technique (too small sample size, non random localized selection for this group, etc). I think when I started climbing circa 2010 the non random selection aspect was super prevalent. I started climbing as a college educated white dude being introduced to the sport by other college educated white dudes and most of the folks I met were, you guessed it, more of the same. As the number of people introduced to climbing increases the sampling becomes more random and less localized and the sample size is again ever increasing. The things I find unsavory in climbing are things I find unsavory in our society as a whole. If we think climbing is immune to that we are probably being a little willfully ignorant/overly optimistic/turning a blind eye to our own shortcomings.



One could say that the climbing community supports it’s members more than the greater world community. However, why do we attack each other on the forums and etc. Why do we let so many of our members succumb to their mental health problems.

Sorry for my pessimistic attitude. However I feel like if we feel like as a community we area some how “better” than others we have already fallen short. All we can do is admit that we all fall short and try to be better somehow

More evidence here that the climbing community is no better than the rest of the world:

One of my favourite philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, argued that meaning exists within a context. (Or atleast that’s the way I’ve come to understand it).

In this case, I don’t really know what it means for climbing to be representative of the world population. Does that mean that the same percentages of different types of people exist as in the world?

In that case, I’d definitely say no. For the most part to be a climber as you’ve defined it requires a moderate amount of privilege—at the very least access to leisure time.

Or is it from a diversity perspective? Then I’d also guess no. There are certainly not as many climbers who are black by percentage compared to the general population.

Or does it mean that there are as many different belief systems (not in the religious sense) in climbing as in the world? For example, roughly the same percentage of climbers are sexist, racist, transphobic, etc. In that case, I think the point is valuable from the perspective that climbers—as a broad community—are not better than the world community.

I’d say in most senses of the phrase ‘being representative of the world population’ I’d say it’s not true. But if it is a call in to point out that we have problems of access for people of colour, indigenous people, and people of the LGBTQ community, then I agree.