Bullying in Outdoor Sports: Reactions & Responsibilities (Ep.71)

In the past several days, there has been another reported instance of bullying in the outdoor sports world, and the loud, swift, and aggressive reactions to this have made it extremely clear that many of us still have a lot to learn and think through.

Last week, professional climber, Sasha Digiulian, announced on social media that she has been the ongoing target of tasteless jokes by fellow climber, Joe Kinder. Sascha stated that she had reached out to Joe in private about this to try to resolve the matter, but had received no reply. So, finally, she went public.

You can read below — and you should read these if you haven’t already — Sascha’s statement, Joe’s apology, and the responses by Black Diamond and La Sportiva about why they’ve terminated their sponsorships of Joe.

But the reason why we are talking about all this now is because of the firestorm of responses online and on social media to these events.

So in this conversation, I’m joined by Blister’s climbing editor, Dave Alie, to discuss why it’s wrong to assume that this is simply some little, isolated issue in the climbing world; whether Black Diamond and Sportiva were justified in their responses; and why it is that our own responses of criticism — or support — are so often unfair, tasteless, or unjust in their own right.

TOPICS & TIMES:

  • What happened, and why are we discussing it? (0:18)
  • Did Black Diamond and La Sportiva do the right thing? (16:25)
  • What appropriate & inappropriate responses look like — from all of us (18:57)

Sasha’s Statement:

As a community we need to uphold ourselves to higher standards than permitting defamatory, assaulting behavior. I use my social media platforms to share a window into my life- both professionally and personally, yet I also believe that this channel is a platform to have a voice and stand for what I believe in. This includes spreading more love and taking a stance against bullying. I am hurt and broken hearted to say that I am a victim of a bully and it has crossed the line. I write from the hospital, where I sit praying for the health of my family. I have received many messages about the ridicule that someone has made about me and my career. I have tried reaching out maturely, with no response. I find it incredibly sad that he has chosen this road. Perhaps because I am an independent female who has made a career out of my chosen path that irritates him? The second photo in this slide is one example of a reference he has made to me and Edu going to the Verdon, which I had to cancel due to my Grandma’s health. At the root of a lot of evil is insecurity. There is a line at which enough is enough, and I do not find it okay that a man can act like such a child, nor target women in such a vulgar way as he has done. I have chosen to write about this because while joking banter can be light and entertaining, this is not “light” content. This is malicious and ongoing. Behavior like this has dire consequences on the victim, including eating disorders, the perpetuation of gender inequality, and a misrepresentation of the pillars that I am proud that our community stands for. – Update I’ve been in touch with Joe and he’s taking steps to fix his problems. He deleted the meme account and has apologized in both my and his social accounts. Personally I’m accepting his apology and would encourage all of you to do the same. This includes his sponsors who I know are aware of the situation and I’m sure he’s feeling the heat from that angle. Ultimately I want our community to be better, to respect people of all strengths, shapes and sizes for who they are. As athletes, lets use our platforms for good and work hard to push the limits of what us humans are capable of.

A post shared by S A S H A • D I G I U L I A N (@sashadigiulian) on

Joe’s Apology:

Social media has been an awesome way for most of us to reach one another on so many levels. My career has changed immensely with the ease of sharing stories to motivate or inform audience. It can be used in great ways or harmful. I’ve always had a bit of a harsh sense of humor as I grew up a skater-kid punk. I’d rile my friends with pranks or nicknames, as it was done out of love. Fast forward to my adult years and I still enjoy joking and never taking ourselves too seriously but there’s a point when it’s too much. Bullying or harmful content is nothing I’d like to be connected to and I’m not proud to have offended people. For a few months I had a private account that would include a small group of people on inside jokes and memes poking fun at people. (It’s deleted now so no need to search it out.) I went overboard and would like to publicly apologize, Sasha, I’m sorry. I respect women and support our current era for our women as we’re in a historical moment of time. It was not pro, kind, human, or yielding of anything positive. Social media is great and I want to share content to inspire and not cause harm. The brands I work with support women on a major level and I’m dang proud to affiliate with that. My actions are by me and I own it. I apologize to anyone that was hurt by my tasteless acts, I’m learning from this. -joe (Above are photos of people I respect and who teach me to be a better person)

A post shared by Joe Kinder (@joekinder) on

Black Diamond’s Statement:

La Sportiva’s Statement:

9 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Lukas May 14, 2018 Reply

    Well done, sirs!

    I also support your decision that men shall hear it from men and you decided against having female reviers on this podcast. Even though I am afraid they could recount many encounters and anecdotes, where they were unjustly treated as women.

    It is still a looooong way (few generations) to go until we have equality.

  2. Chris May 15, 2018 Reply

    I enjoyed this podcast and appreciate the forthright and conscientious way that the issue was addressed. In the interest of furthering the understanding of male athletes and journalists about women’s experiences with bullying, I do want to point out that your guest kept referring to Mr. Kinder’s behavior as “immature” and “sub-optimal,” which are frustrating word choices.

    Mr. Kinder evidently spent eight years insulting and ridiculing Ms. DiGiulian’s physical appearance. She describes the behavior as “bullying,” “harassing,” “defamatory” and “assaulting” behavior. I wish there had been more discussion of exactly what Mr. Kinder did and why it was so harmful so that we could really get a sense of the impact this had on Ms. DiGiulian. At any rate, this sort of double-insult is something that women in adventure sports deal with constantly; first the abuse, and then the secondary attack on the woman for daring to complain the abuse, which is minimized via weak language. And suffering will rain down on a woman exponentially harder if the main involved suffers any tangible consequences for his actions.

    It seems that there is still, even among the most empathetic of male commentators, a gap in understanding how behavior such as Mr. Kinder’s impacts female athletes, and a tendency to mitigate the severity of the male behavior while diminishing the experience of women. Again, I applaud your treatment of the issue in general and I know that your intentions were earnest, but I do want to urge you in the future to consider your language choices and what they may say about how you perceive or articulate women’s experiences.

    Lastly, I disagree that Mr. Kinder responded “well” to the whole matter. It seems to have taken the loss of his sponsorships for him to even respond to Ms. DiGiulian, and then his apology was decidedly tepid. He essentially said: “Sorry you don’t get my sense of humor and sorry if you were offended.” That’s not an acknowledgement of his actions He didn’t “own” anything; he deflected responsibility to his audience for the way they received his behavior. That is not the action of an adult taking responsibility for himself, it is the weasel words of a person who does not want to confront the harm he has done.

    • Author

      Thank you for the comments, Chris. Two things I want to respond to here:

      (1) Dave’s word choice was pretty deliberate, as was mine. Because neither Dave nor I (and perhaps no one beyond Sasha and Joe?) know all the details about exactly what’s been said or done. So we thought it was important to stick very close to Sasha’s own description about what has been said or done, and not move into speculation.

      So while I agree with you that in cases where we *do* know what has transpired, it is important not to use “weak language.” But it is also important not to say more than one actually knows. So I don’t think it would be fair, in this instance, to say or assume that Dave or I “mitigated the severity” of Joe’s actions or words — we don’t know exactly what has been said or done. What we could speak to – and did speak to – is the inappropriate responses – mostly from guys – about this matter.

      (2) As far as Joe’s apology, when I personally first read it, my initial thoughts were similar to yours.

      But what we thought was best was to follow Sasha’s lead — and you can read her own words about Joe’s apology on this page. Sasha requested that all of us accept Joe’s apology as sincere, as she herself has done. I think hers was a very charitable response, and I can’t see how it is better for us (or anyone) to ignore Sasha’s statements and requests and condemn the apology as insincere (and perhaps especially since neither you nor I know what’s in Joe’s heart). So in **this particular case** we thought it best to follow Sasha’s lead.

      But as a general rule, yes — it’s become far too common in our society to see “apologies” from men to women that seem neither sincere nor remotely adequate. And that needs to change immediately.

  3. Chris May 15, 2018 Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply; I understand your reasoning and appreciate your instinct toward neutrality in reporting. It’s just that Sasha’s own words were that she experienced “defamatory and assaulting” behavior that was “malicious” in its intent. And Dave called that same behavior “immature,” which implies a significant difference in degree of severity. In choosing to call Kinder’s behavior “immature,” Dave was in fact asserting his own speculative judgement about that behavior, not hewing to Sasha’s own description. He could simply have said “according to Sasha… ” and then used her actual words, but he didn’t. He used his own words, and those painted a different, and less damaging, picture than hers.

    I do appreciate the that podcast was largely about the response of other men to the incident (and again, thank you for addressing that so forthrightly), but in the case of the “immature and sub-optimal”comment, Dave was referring directly to Mr. Kinder’s behavior.

    I think that the reason this semantic nuance is important (to many women anyway) is that when the word “immature” is applied to male behavior, it is received by women as a sort of “boys will be boys” shrug-off of their concerns. We have all heard some version of the “he’s a good guy, he was just being immature” defense and it rankles because it often diminishes the impact and severity of behavior that caused real harm.

    In the end, I am on your side and applaud your podcast and sincerely hope that you continue to tackle such important issues. Best wishes. Chris

  4. Dave May 15, 2018 Reply

    Chris,
    Thanks for listening and thanks for the feedback. These are issues that I take very seriously and work to stay current on, but I’m not very rehearsed at speaking about them off the cuff, in a live setting. Yet words matter, and I appreciate the reminder on those words in particular. I agree with your sentiments, cheers for taking the time.

  5. Jake May 27, 2018 Reply

    Damn was this good to hear today. Kudos for taking the time to make an episode about this.

    As a guy who recently lost a few good adventure buddies due to other, yet similar aspects of toxic masculinity it was a real pick me up to feel less alone.

    • Author
    • Chris May 27, 2018 Reply

      Jake and Jonathan,

      I wonder if there is a willingness in outdoor journalism to make space for people like Jake to share their experiences? I ask because Jake, my immediate reaction to your comment was curiosity about what happened, and because I think it’s important that male voices be heard on the subject of toxic masculinity as well. That is, how it impacts not just women but male friends and co-workers. It seems like it would be a rich and interesting vein to mine. Or perhaps it’s being done? Anyway, thanks again for a great piece.

  6. Blister Member
    Big K May 31, 2018 Reply

    If not for Blister this would be totally off my radar. This went on for years? Powerful stuff. Thanks Johnathan.

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