Last week in Monterrey, one of the Mexican climbing meccas, there was a long and intense discussion started by the controversial naming of a new multi-pitch route in La Huasteca. Developers bolted and opened a beautiful and mythical 250-meter line on an open face of limestone at Guitarritas Canyon. The route itself seems great: I believe it may have the potential to become a classic and one of the best on the continent. The problem is that the developers decided to name it “Tinder Pussy.” I’m pretty sure some of you cringed when you read that name: it is because it is intrinsically offensive and misogynist in nature.
So, with good reason, it immediately sparked a large debate within the local climbing community: people were rallying, trying to get the first ascentionists to change the name.
This is a topic with many sides and implications, and I will try my best to explain them in an organized manner. I will attempt to show with this real and recent case the importance of communication and respect for others and their traditions, as well as the underlying problems hidden behind the different stances taken within a discussion.
Whether you’re a climber or not, at some point you’ve probably wondered who installs the safety gear on the mountain walls allowing climbers to scale them safely. The answer is: almost no one. Everybody wants to climb new routes, but no very few people want to bolt them because of the immense amount of experience, work, time, and money involved. It can also be a dangerous task, as developers take on big risks working on unexplored “virgin” rock. For this reason, when someone takes the initiative of investing all those resources, it is greatly appreciated by the community and there are several traditions within the bolting culture in order to encourage people to continue developing.
Besides the satisfaction of leaving a legacy that will last for lifetimes and will be enjoyed by adventurous souls, three of the biggest perks of route development are:
— You get the honor of being the first to climb it.
— You get your name immortalized as the first ascentionist.
— You get to name your route however the hell you want. It often is something related to experiences lived during the process, an inside joke between the people involved, a memento for someone, etc. So it can be, and usually is, something meaningful to the developer—especially on multi-pitch routes—and many times it ends up being something the general public wouldn’t understand since they don’t know the context.
Since route developers generally create climbs out of passion and love for the sport, investing so much without getting anything in return while everyone else is just worried about climbing, the general climbing community is at least expected, at a bare minimum, to respect these three points as a show of appreciation for the developers’ hard work.
So, after reading the importance of route naming, you can probably now understand that when the community rallied against the developers, asking them to change the name, it meant breaking one of the oldest traditions in climbing: to the developers, it was a display of ungratefulness, and they interpreted is as a direct offense and disrespectful.
But what is more offensive?
Having explained why naming is so important, now I will try to explain why the naming at hand is so offensive. As you will see, there is more to it than meets the eye.
Without having any context about the local culture and the social crisis currently going on in Mexico, the first issue you probably see with the name is that it is sexual—it has “pussy” in the name. While that alone might sound inappropriate to some, that is not the only—or even the primary—reason why the community got offended. There are many names like that already at Mexican crags, some of the most notorious examples in Monterrey are: “Culo de negra,” “Culo de merlín,” “La panocha poderosa” and “Lágrimas de mi chorizo.”
The first three directly translate to “Black woman’s asshole,” “Merlíns asshole” and “The powerful pussy,” while the fourth obscurely references cum. So yeah, while naming routes sexist and racist names is not acceptable, it is a common practice in Mexico. The problem is that, beyond the literal translations, “Tinder pussy” is a sexist slur used to objectivize, degrade and refer to women as sluts or objects of easy sex. While this alone is offensive enough, it was only accentuated by the strong misogynistic culture in Mexico which basically exploded last week.
Misogyny in Mexico
This is something that has been going on for ages. Eleven women are murdered every day in Mexico. There were 17,000 cases of rape in 2019. These are just two among many other scary and painful statistics. There is even a specific criminal offense in Mexico, the “feminicide,” used to categorize the murder of women for misogynistic reasons.
Women live in constant fear of something as normal as walking in the street, because there is real danger. And things such as piropear (complimenting, usually in an obscene and sexual manner, women on the street), or naming a route in a derogatory manner “as a joke” without realizing that it (and more importantly, the very case of finding it funny) is a direct attack on women, pave the way to normalization of these and higher levels of aggression against women.
On top of that, this past week there were two particularly gruesome cases that finally made the country unite and take a broader stance against women against violence. I won’t give any details on these cases out of respect for all those involved, but they illustrated so many of the problems in Mexico that make those kinds of situations a reality. Finally, as unbelievable as it may sound, the Mexican president publicly declared that he does not care about the issue of violence against women, and asked people to focus on the ridiculous airplane raffle he is holding in order to get rid of the presidential airplane.
So, with all of this going on in Mexico, the “Tinder pussy” name was very badly received. It represents everything that the country is revolting against.
The Huichol Culture
The second reason why the name was so badly received is because, besides its aggression toward women, it disrespected the mountain—a mountain with a high spiritual meaning. The Guitarritas Canyon, where the Ombligo del mundo (World’s navel) wall is, is one of the most important ceremonial grounds of the Huichol culture. The Huicholes are a pre-Hispanic people living in several states in Mexico, and one of their sacred rituals is a pilgrimage from all over the country into the Guitarritas Canyon to perform ceremonies. In their culture Guitarritas is considered the center of the universe, the cradle of life. Naming a route “Tinder pussy” in such a spiritual location would be like calling the Virgin Mary a slut or a whore.
Now, the last thing I want to talk about is the discussion itself, the different stances people were taking, and the implication behind each. You now know why different parties found the entire situation offensive, but in trying to classify people, I identified the following main attitudes.
The Traditionalists: those who were in favor of keeping the name simply because that is the tradition of route development.
The Opposition: those who were against changing the name simply because they didn’t like the fact that the request was made in the first place.
The Un-offended: those who insisted that the name wasn’t offensive at all, that people were just overreacting.
The Grateful: those who were either in favor of keeping the name, or without a clear stance on it, for other reasons. This group simply shifted the focus to thanking the developers, ignoring the name as part of the appreciation for the hard work.
Those offended by the name: mostly women, who are directly attacked and objectified by this kind of practice, as well as some men with a certain “voice” in the community, speaking on their behalf.
The route setters justified the name by pointing to tradition and by arguing the name was not offensive, claiming they even asked many female friends and not a single one found the name offensive. However, they finally agreed to rename the route because the American Alpine Club requested they do so if they wanted the route to be published in the American Alpine Journal.
The main point I want to highlight about the developers’ stance is that they were comparing the name to the route names I mentioned earlier (“Culo de negra,” “Culo de merlín,” “La panocha poderosa,” and “Lágrimas de mi chorizo”). The big implication here is that whilst they recognize the sexual nature of the name, they are either unable or unwilling to differentiate between simply having a sexual connotation, and having an objectifying offensive nature targeting someone in a demeaning manner.
The other attitude I want to highlight is that of “the grateful.” I find it particularly worrisome because this, combined with doing things simply out of tradition, is why many faults in society perpetuate. Those who allow such behavior and turn a blind eye, simply because it comes with a benefit for them, thereby condone that behavior. Route developers will probably be discouraged from bolting more routes if their contributions are received critically—and people want to continue having new routes. This is one of the worst problems in our country: we will allow bad things to happen simply because they have always been like that (because of tradition or cultural inertia), or because we could lose the benefits we derive from those things if we call out the culprits.
In this case the benefit is a route, but in many cases that benefit can be a job, it can be a friendship, it can be social image, it can be a powerful connection, it can be the feeling of belonging; it can be many things, and for many years most have been allowing it, especially those who are not directly affected by the bad behavior in question. But we need to stop: otherwise things remain bad. A tradition is simply the way things have been done in the past, but it is not necessarily good. We should always be open to reconsider traditions if they are involve some bad trait from the past.
Besides the particular attitudes taken by each of these groups, another big issue with the discussion was that people started to insult each other, either directly or with irony and sarcasm, instead of trying to understand each other and reach a civilized resolution.
In the end it doesn’t even matter
Thankfully, at the end, the developers accepted the request and even let the local climbers decide a new name for the route themselves. They are still discussing it, but among the proposed names was one which I particularly liked: “Kiekari,” a Huichol word that means “from, of and for all the community,” which I believe fits nicely given the outcome of this situation.
My goal with this piece was to shine some light onto one example where something as apparently simple as naming a route traced up a piece of rock can have so many implications, impact so many people, and perpetuate good and bad behaviors. This time it was a name, but these kind of things happen all the time and all over the place: things that we do affect people we do not consider, in ways of which we are unaware. But in the end it can all be done right if we are open to listening, communicating and engaging with others in a civilized and respectful manner.
A version of this article originally appeared on medium.com.