Whatever you think about Sierra Blair-Coyle, statistically speaking, she probably climbs harder than you. If not, she probably competes better than you. She climbs a solid two grades harder than me, and looks better in her slutty clothes than I do in mine. I have respect for her as a climber and as a fellow sports bra aficionado.
So who inspires me to climb harder, fight through adversity, and be more honest? Alex Puccio, Emily Harrington, Hazel Findlay. I don’t follow Sierra Blair-Coyle on Instagram or Facebook. The difference is that seeing pictures of Alex Puccio in a sports bra makes me feel proud and want to train hard. Seeing pictures of Sierra Blair-Coyle in a sports bra actually kind of makes me feel silly for wearing one around. This could be due to my ravenous coveting of another woman’s gnarly six-pack, or the fact that SBC receives so much criticism for… essentially for being perceived as promiscuous, which isn’t fair. Or that compared to SBC in a sports bra, I feel the way I would imagine an inanimate object ironically wearing sunglasses feels.
All of this hypothetical rambling is procrastination, I know exactly why Sierra’s photos don’t inspire me.
It’s for the same reason I don’t follow Dianna Dahlgren, Miss Monster Energy Supercross. She has a six-pack, rides dirtbikes, and is probably a major badass, but all we get to see her do is flirt with the camera and pretend Ralph Sheheen isn’t an idiot. She and the other Monster girls are the only women on the Supercross track, and it’s uninspiring. Little girls don’t want posters of Dianna Dahlgren sitting on a bike in her bikini, they want posters of Vikki Golden ripping it up. Similarly, I don’t want a feed full of Sierra Blair-Coyle winking at me while bat-hanging in hot pants, I want to see Alex Puccio doing one-arm frenchies, and Hazel Findlay digging up the confidence it takes to send hard routes.
As for whether or not SBC is good for climbing, I don’t know because I don’t know what that means. Is the goal to get everyone in the world to start climbing so they will all share our joy? Is the goal to get more people into climbing so brands can sell more gear, pros can make more money, and everyone involved in the climbing sphere can profit more thoroughly? Sierra Blair-Coyle’s priority is to live the life she chooses, which is no less noble a goal.
As a friend recently put it: Climbing has given me a gift. My life feels meaningful because I climb. I don’t need very much money because bouldering outside is basically free. I don’t have a job I hate and feel trapped in. I always have something to look forward to, and places to explore. I’m healthy. I don’t have body image issues, I only care how strong I feel.
Just like SBC, I wear a sports bra and a skort most days of the year, because it’s what I want to do. My sports bra is just my “summer shirt” and I don’t wear it to be sexy. I wear it because it’s comfortable, and otherwise I have a serious pit-stain problem. Sexy isn’t really a word I think at myself ever, truthfully, because I have a pretty hard time trying to be sexy. Once, nearly black-out drunk at a friend’s wedding, the DJ told me to relax because my dancing was so stiff it was making him uncomfortable, for example. A sports bra with a skort is just the outfit that weathers my dirtbag lifestyle the best between offensively infrequent washes. It never gets in my way, it doesn’t get all sweaty and then flap clammily against my skin. It keeps me cool when I have to try hard, and it matches my dirtbike. It isn’t the best for beached-whale top-outs, but nothing really is, and I don’t do a lot of spine jamming, so it works great for me. I could go on.
Perhaps SBC isn’t inspiring to me because I don’t (can’t) aspire to be a sexy climber, but on another level she has made her own life and sculpted it to be exactly the way she wants. We all enjoy the things we are good at the most, and while I’m bad at being sexy, Sierra Blair-Coyle is good at it. Of course it is a bummer when that is what women are reduced to, but she isn’t. She doesn’t have to give up climbing to maintain unrealistic beauty standards. She just gets to be herself for a living. She also climbs v9, which still counts as being an athlete in my book. She isn’t pushing the limits of the sport, but she has shown us that there are entrepreneurial possibilities. Of course, all of this wouldn’t feel so cheap if we could reduce men to sex objects for money, and maybe SBC would get less flak because it would be harder to slut-shame her in that world.