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The Problem With Routesetting – B.I.G. Challenges Male Dominated Industry

The B.I.G. Initiative release the first film in their for part series, Not Just a Boys' Club. This film tackles the male dominated industry that is routesetting

The Bring in the Girls (B.I.G) Initiative opened its second video series this afternoon with the release of Not Just a Boys’ Club – Part 1. This film is the first of a four-part film series directed by Alexa Fay. The series aims to question and dismantle the prejudice of a white-male dominated climbing industry. This film dealt directly with the climbing industry’s lack of diversity in setting spaces.

B.I.G.’s four-minute production followed three routesetters through their histories with routesetting. It begins with Joe Rockhead’s Sachi Adachi. Adachi opened with a story describing exclusion. She described prejudice from male routesetters during her entrance to the industry. Upon making a mistake, Adachi faced a frigid quote from one of these setters:

See, this is why we can’t hire chicks.

These words concluded the opening scene and laid the foundation for the series and the film. Originally, the B.I.G Initiative was designed to support women through careers in routesetting. Their campaigns brought many into the workforce, but setting teams still tokenize women instead of incorporating their experiences.

The film laid the second plank of its foundation with a strong quote from Rasha Taha. “I think that diversity is kind of a buzzword at this point,” Taha said. “But it’s true that white men have been at the forefront of this sport for a very long time now.” She goes on to describe the incongruencies held between a gym’s climbing population and the folks on the setting teams themselves.

Bloc Shop apprentice routesetter Viviane Pham then drove a final foundational point in the base of this series. She referenced the way women are treated in climbing. “If women were valued in the climbing industry,” Pham noted, “then they wouldn’t be seen as assets, they would just be a given.” Pham goes on to describe the value of women in routesetting.

Viviane Pham – photo by Pierre Babin

These points are cohesively summed in the experience of Corinne Baril. This Bloc Shop routesetter, renowned for her recent sets at the Kanata North American Cup Series event and Canadian Boulder Nationals, spoke toward the barriers that persisted outside of her qualifications.

Adachi carried this point with a truth that many feel regarding job applications for setting teams. Primarily, setting decisions are made through nepotism or in a “black box.” Nobody knows when the gym is hiring, Adachi said. This statement provided a strong precursor to the video’s conclusion.

Pham said that change in the climbing industry will begin with questioning why the sport looks the way it does. Questioning why mainly white folks climb and why white men hold many of the industry jobs is essential the challenging those realities.

Simon Dufour shot and edited the film produced by The B.I.G. Initiative’s Sophie Claivaz-Loranger and Geneviève de la Plante. The sound recording was done by Thomas Sédillot and Giolio Trejo-Martinez. Naaq Hualt mixed the sound with photos shot by Ilya Sarossy and Pierre Babin. Subtitles provided by Pascale Trencioa and Laurie Bennet. Filming occurred at, and thanks to, Joe Rockhead’s, Bloc Shop, and The Hub.

This film was supported by The North Face and Mate Libre.

Rasha Taha sets under the lens – photo by Ilya Sarossy

Featured image of Sachi Adachi by Ilya Sarossy.


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