The thoughts or ideas expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Moja Gear. We do, however, support a platform for freedom of expression and open discussion within the climbing community.

bouldering shirtless

Shirtlessness … should it be allowed for men at the gym? Photo: Blockhelden

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Skins vs Shirts … it’s how we used to solve the problem of not having bibs when playing football (soccer) as children. Put simply, one team remains with their tops on; the Shirts, while the others donate their upper garments to form goalposts and as such to form the Skins team.

One problem we never came across was a girl playing.

Presumably, they would have joined the Shirts, along with any males who didn’t feel comfortable going topless. I can vouch that this scenario is a common discomfort among young males …

I know I’m not alone in saying that men climbing topless is not acceptable.

Modern society is more gender equal than ever, so why should we let it stop at the door of climbing gyms?

Current societal norms dictate that it would be unacceptable for a woman to climb topless, so why should a male have that privilege? It’s really not a matter of “but I get too hot, why can’t I be topless?” … it’s a matter of equality. Males and females are not, by definition, biologically the same but the point is that all genders should be treated the same.

Take a look at other sports, triathlon for instance; all competitors are required to keep their tri-suit done up so as not to show their bare chest at any point during the race. Easy, simple. Men cannot undo the zips on their suits, neither can the women. They play on a level field.

Why is climbing lagging behind?

2020 will see climbing in the Olympics, which will carry its own nudity rules, so why can’t this trickle down into the Corinthian spirit of indoor climbing gyms?

Anyone who claims they need their top off because they are climbing at the top of their game and pushing their limits need only look up. For example, the IFSC Boulder World Cup: both genders are wearing tops and I’m sure the case will be the same in Tokyo. Surely these climbers are at the top of their game and indeed the game as a whole. They seem to perform just fine with their tops on.

While writing this article I considered the implications of the all-gender ‘shirts on’ rule at a climbing gym for a breastfeeding mother. Clearly, this should not be classed under the same implication since it is nearly always contextually appropriate for a mother to feed her child naturally. Is the context always appropriate for a male to bare his torso?

No. In a public climbing gym where others have a right to be treated equally, it is not appropriate to allow males to do so but not females.

Climbing outside is another matter. Outside you are free to do as you please so long as it remains legal (keep in mind causing offense to others can fall short of the law …). So, as a matter of respect for the equality that should prevail in society, and until such time that a bare female torso would not cause controversy in a climbing gym (at which point I guess society can choose whether to be Skins or Shirts) let’s all keep our tops on please.

What do you think?

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