Bought and Sold
Oh Controversy! So GQ Magazine takes three climbers and some female models described as 'cute friends' by them, and 'wallpaper with tits' by me and does a photoshoot and article about them. Which is vacuous shit. Then Outdoors Research - among others- object to it on the grounds that its pretty sexist, and spoofed it with their own, where three decent climbers who are female go climbing with a few cute friends i.e. their male mates trying not to die laughing at the stupid poses they are pulling. Looking at the two articles its hard to tell them apart.
On the face of it, you might defend GQ on the grounds that they are in some way promoting climbing. Alongside the- vacuous shit - fashion shoot is a - vacuous shit - micro-video in which really shit hot climbers brag about what stuff they've done in list form. Then giggle as they explain you should get into climbing because it will 'get you a fit looking body, and will really shape you up quick'.
Then the models weigh in with their 'thoughts' and wang on in husky voices about being 'surrounded by nature' - presumably microbes in the hot tub. So if you've got your fit-looking body through rock climbing, presumably this will be attractive to these really hot women who just want to feel really small next to nature.
In the -super-mild and controversy-lite- debate about sexism in climbing fashion shoots, it is easy to object to the fact that GQ didn't use female climbers rather than models, and portray them as sexy hangers on.
My objections run deeper than that though, and here they are:
1. The prices of the fucking clothes. Normally I would try and write something funny about this, but instead I will simply quote:
'Custom Hat, $1400, by Nick Fouquet'
Fourteen hundred fucking bucks for a fucking custom hat, 'by' someone who's name is pronounced 'Fuck It'.
A quick check on the currency converter shows us that this equates to £1,134.14, post Brexit, and only £999.99 pre-brexit (using a rough mean value of $1.4 to £1 - I really did do the maths on this).
2. They've actually chosen talented climbers with serious achievements to get to prostitute themselves in front of the camera. There they are, wearing sweaters that cost four fucking grand, while saying they're just psyched to be there.
Now, because its GQ, I immediately think 'you fucking sell-outs', but I am not sure my objection stands up to rigorous analysis. A few climbers get sponsorship when they can hit a certain grade, and this is leveraged by the amount of media attention you can get, whether this be hits on Vimeo or GQ fashion shoots.
There is a whole sliding scale of sponsorship; from free or discounted gear, up to a fully paid-for expedition lifestyle.
At a low level, I feel its a pretty positive thing for the climber: sponsorship means some degree of acknowledgement of work and achievement. It might mean eventually being able to work less- which I am always in favour of; or get away climbing more- which I am in favour of if it is me, or jealous of if its not. It also adds climbing videos into the world as a vehicle for portraying talent: again, thumbs up.
But at higher levels, the amount of money create its own ripples and affects behaviour. Climbs have an exchange value, so people at the top need to rigorously question whether they are still following their authentic desire to climb the hardest line, or whether they are creating a commodity for consumption.
This directly conflicts with what I love about climbing, which is that it can provide an experience that can't be bought. Not always, loads of people can book a guide and get dragged up something: at its most extreme this might be Everest. But at its best, it is joyful and pointless and without a price tag. I cannot pay someone to make me do a cool move at the very limit of my ability, although in fairness I might have spent plenty on the training to get there.
In the GQ article, the message is subtle, but it is basically about discontent.
Men! Three climbers have done more than you, they wear better clothes than you, and they hang out with models prettier than any woman you have ever met (who are being paid to be there). What can you do? Train hard, achieve, and eventually get to the point where you may be able to fuck a model? Or buy some shit, like a fucking custom hat, or a sweater for four grand?