POWerful Outdoor Women's Series
“If and when you encounter sexism, call it out. Some people won’t like you for it, but you’re likely to like yourself better.” - Zofia Reych
A word on women: For too long we’ve been expected to be silent - to watch and be told how to act. But we want to do. We want to see. We want to be loud! Our desire to explore has finally overcome our desire not to be sidelined. At POINT Gym and Kitchen we encourage women to stop the cycle of self-doubt, to take risks, to fall and get back up… to take up space. Without role models that have come before us, venturing into new territory can be intimidating. It is with great excitement that we bring you our POW (Powerful Outdoor Women) Series. Over the next few months we will feature women in the outdoors who are taking chances, being bold, and blazing paths to show the world we are strong, we are mighty, and we are POWerful!
-Coaches KB and Mel
Meet POWerful Outdoor Woman Zofia Reych:
Zofia is a very special guest on this project; not only is she a big part of the climbing world itself, she also wrote her MA thesis on climbing women and the media. She truly embodies what it means to be a POW by working to empower the women within her community.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself:
A: I’m a trained anthropologist and I work freelance as a writer and an online marketer. Freelancing allows me to travel and work on the road, so it’s the perfect arrangement for me. At the moment I’m in Bulgaria. I just came back from France, where I spent two months and next month I’m heading to RSA for a month and then to Poland. It can sometimes get a little complicated, especially that I have a little dog, but between myself and my partner Andy we somehow make it happen.
Q: What is your sport or job of choice in the outdoors (1-3 different ones)?
A: I’m into rock climbing, mostly bouldering, but every now and then I like to dabble in other types of climbing. If I had it my way, I would train and climb almost full-time and then spend my evenings writing a bestselling novel. That’s the dream but I’m not going to be massively upset if it never happens. I’m pretty content with things as they are now. And I haven't yet started writing the novel ;)
Q: How did you learn about/crack into this activity?
A: When I was a kid my mum used to take me to hike and scramble in the Polish mountains. One day I saw people heading toward sheer, granite faces with ropes and all sorts of rattling gear and I wanted to know what they were up to. As soon as I turned 16, which used to be a legal requirement, I enrolled in a climbing course with the goal to become a mountaineer. Ironically, got sucked in with bouldering, which is the vary opposite of climbing high mountains.
Q: What have been your greatest challenges to move up or continue with the sport?
A: First it were my injuries. For years I was struggling with bad shoulders but I think it’s all in the past now. Although you never know for sure.
In addition, when I first started climbing in Poland, I wasn’t too fond of the community. It was the first time in my life that I really experienced sexism, although it was only years after that I realised that’s what it was.
Another thing was what the society perceives as normal, or a desirable lifestyle. You know, the general perception of what success is, etc. I thought I wanted a dynamic career in a PR agency, or something like that. I was studying for my Masters and working part time for a London based agency, and I nearly got stuck in with the corporate life. Then I realised how slowly people were climbing up the corporate ladder and it just seemed like a massive waste of time.
I traded stability for having a little bit more fun in life, but there certainly was that moment when it could have gone either way.
Q: What made you stick with it?
A: I guess it wasn’t me that stuck with it but the other way. It stuck with me. I just couldn't shake it off.
Q: What advice would you give to another women struggling to start or to find her place in a male dominated arena?
A: You need a little bit of that “f*ck it” attitude. Don’t be afraid to ask loudly for what you need and want. I think a lot of women just try to be nice way too much. If and when you encounter sexism, call it out. Some people won’t like you for it, but you’re likely to like yourself better. And you’ll find the people that are really worth spending time with that way.
It's also important to recognise that plenty of those worthwhile people aren't female. There's no point in creating a new divide between genders, that's the very opposite of what we as a society need.
Q: Who have been your inspirations in the outdoor world?
A: Definitely my mum, because she just has this pure, simple love for the mountains, even though she doesn’t climb. She’s a confident scrambler and a skier though, and it’s pretty amazing that she was doing both as a single mother with a toddler in tow!
Lynn Hill and Mayan Smith-Gobat. They both climb huge things, like El Capitan in Yosemite or crazy walls in Patagonia. Maybe it’s an indication that later in life I will get into climbing big walls, but now it’s completely unimaginable. Hill is a legend and both her and Smith-Gobat just seem like very badass individuals, focused on their goals. I look up to that kind of attitude.
And then I’m massively inspired by Alex Puccio. It’s a bit weird cause she’s my contemporary and younger than me, but she’s the strongest climbing athlete I know of, and I’m just inspired by the simplicity of it. She also shares a lot of her training on social media, so it’s clear that she wasn’t just born with guns, she had to work for everything. Even though I started training for climbing very late in life, it makes me feel that if I work hard, there are still huge gains to be made.
PLEASE READ this article written by Zofia entitled “The Problem of Female Athletes” posted by the Outdoor Women’s Alliance - http://www.outdoorwomensalliance.com/female-athletes-in-media/