When the dapper folks at GQ published a photo essay last month featuring the extreme sport and style of mountaineering, athletes in the climbing community noticed a BIG problem.
The essay featured photos of “three premier climbers”and “a couple [of] cute friends” on a climbing trip at Joshua Tree in California. Unfortunately, there was a glaring issue with the photo essay: the aforementioned “cute friends” were all women, while the stylish climbers were all men. The “cute” female friends merely watched the guys from a distance or were photographed topless while being sprayed by a hose.
None of the women represented in GQ’s climbing spread were featured showing off any athletic prowess.
While it makes sense that GQ ― a men’s lifestyle magazine ― would want to focus on male athletes, the Outdoor Women’s Alliance argues in an open letter that its decision to assign females to the role of “model” fails to accurately represent the true climbing community.
“Female climbers have been pushing the boundaries of the sport for decades... and our work is done both on the rock, and within the community,” Zofia Reych, female climber and anthropologist, wrote on the OWA website. “Yet you chose to ignore them, and instead...you chose to feature fashion models who not only have nothing to do with the sport, but within your piece are merely eye candy to accompany the men.”
When Outdoor Research, a Seattle-based climbing apparel company, saw GQ’s photo shoot, they knew they had a responsibility to show the magazine what the climbing community really looks like.
“Some of the members of our team thought the GQ shoot was actually a parody, as the shoot was in no way an accurate depiction of the climbing community,” Erika Canfield, director of marketing for Outdoor Research, told The Huffington Post. “It was so blatantly sexist in its portrayal of women.”
To prove their point, Outdoor Research published their own GQ-inspired photoshoot with images that contrasted the magazine’s. The parody series has a new set of “adorable friends” ― and it’s pretty awesome.
“It’s silly to think that any women climber would remain on the sidelines only to watch their male peers climb and not be on the rock themselves,” Canfield told HuffPost.
As female climbers muscle their way up towering boulders in Outdoor Research’s photo spread, the men are the ones who sit on the sidelines, watching adoringly and acting as props to the real stars of the show.
“There are always cute boys, just sitting around half naked watching us,” one of the climbers says in Outdoor Research’s own spread. “Usually, they’re just hanging out in the cars, keeping our beer cold...But sometimes, they even let us hose them down or splash around in a river and get super sexy. It’s pretty cool.”
Check out Outdoor Research’s full parody series in response to GQ’s below.
You can find GQ's full mountain climbing photo essay here and Outdoor Research's full response here.
Want to see how Outdoor Research recreated the GQ photoshoot? Watch their behind-the-scenes footage below.