I wanted to write a blog to give a bit of background on the CAC Calendar. I know there has been some criticism out there, as expected, and I wanted to use this opportunity to share my side of the story.  Shauna’s blog gives some insight into how the idea was born and developed – here I wanted to discuss some issues that came up for me.

I will start by saying that I think it is important that sports people in the media are responsible and conscious of how they are represented: for their own personal liability but also for the image it puts forward for the sport as a whole.

So, based on what I just said, was the CAC calendar risky or downright irresponsible?

That was a decision I had to make when I was contemplating whether or not to be a part of it. I would like to, for the sake of being honest and forthright, share with you my thought process around this and give some insight into how I, personally (and I can only really speak for myself), came to the decision to support the calendar and take part.

For me there are some core issues:

Female representation in the media is a complex issue. I would be the first to argue that I don’t want to encourage women in sport being recognized and valued for their looks/ sex appeal over their ability and achievements.  And certainly not exploited. Understandably, just the connotations of a calendar made me nervous about this. Was there a way to do this well or was it always going to be a trade off in morality?

Another part of my brain argues that sports women may be feminine and sexy by nature – are they required to hide this/shy away from it in order to be taken seriously? Does the fault lie with the woman in the image portrayed or with the person viewing that image and what they decide to think about it? Is this an issue that we as women have to control from our end or is it an issue in society at large? When we see a sexy image of David Beckham, do we change what we think of his achievements or is the picture just a separate event? Can we separate these things when it comes to women, or are we just not there yet? I guess it comes down to the age-old question of whether supporting women’s rights and shaving one’s legs are mutually exclusive. Can we be sexy/feel positive about sex and still be feminists?

A point that is worth mentioning is the value something like this has in appreciating a healthy/athletic female physique as opposed to an unhealthy version. Women (as with men) are in the media regardless, and I would much rather see women with six packs than a woman so skinny she looks close to passing out. More specific to climbing, it also demonstrates that in a sport that requires a good set of arm muscles, it is still possible to embrace one’s femininity (if one should choose to do so).

Shauna tried to gauge it well from the beginning: the pictures are meant to be fun and lighthearted. Perhaps that is easier to see when you know all the women involved. The idea was that we would show another side of the climbers that are usually seen only in a climbing context. These women are people, not just climbers; some are into music and art, some prefer a good book; some paint their nails, some don’t; some love the camera, some shy away; some are full of jokes, some serious. There is so much more to these women than the calendar shows, of course, but even the calendar shows more personality than we normally get to see. We picked a fancy dress theme and went with it. I urge you to look past whether there is skin on show or not –see the glint in Angie’s eye, laugh with me and Jule, appreciate Anna’s six pack, admire Meagan’s confident flare and by all means be wowed by Akiyo’s beauty.

So, back to my question at the beginning, I think this calendar was risky. But I hope it does not come across irresponsible – that is the last thing anyone involved would want and we have worked hard to try to do it right.  What tipped the balance for me? Firstly, it was the brainchild of two women, photographed by a woman and managed by a woman so I felt safe that it would be handled carefully. Secondly, it was for a charity and one that I care a lot about. If this calendar was for profit, I may not have done it because it wouldn’t have been worth the aforementioned risk of misinterpretation and controversy. Raising money for cancer research, in my opinion, made it worth taking that risk and hoping that people would see it in the way it was meant. And thirdly, we had a lot of fun making it!

When I was deciding what to do, I thought a lot about what my mother would say. She was an intellectual woman, very aware of gender issues and would have been a good person to consult. Sadly she died of cancer when I was seventeen so I can’t ask her, but if I could I think she would agree that we took a risk, a risk that was managed well and that produced something expressive, fun and lighthearted.  I hope that fewer great people are lost to cancer in the future and if we can help that a little bit then brilliant. I look forward to a men’s calendar in 2015!

1377205_443160459138784_1717239992_n