The Case of Joe Kinder

The Joe Kinder story continues to develop. The climbing industry has had their say, here’s a selection of opinions that have been shared since the news broke.

The Case of Joe Kinder

If you missed The Outdoor Journal's initial coverage of this incident, then you can find it here. Joe Kinder, a professional climber, has been removed from the Black Diamond and La Sportiva teams, for violating their zero tolerance policy towards bullying. Another climber, Courtney Sanders, who was kind enough to speak with The Outdoor Journal, has also come forward with an IG post stating that he made fun of her physical appearance as well, through his fake Instagram profile.

This is what Sanders posted on May 3:


Joe Kinder aka @joekinder and I have known each other for almost 8 years through my ex and the climbing community. Generally our time in person has been fun, light, and great. We actually have a similar dark since of humor. However, for whatever reason this past year I get a message from his fake Instagram “jetskijoyrider” making fun of my forehead size. Literally saying “you got a big forehead yo” in response to one of my photos. Tbh I tried to not let it bother me, but it did. Everyone has insecurities. I definitely do. I literally messaged every friend of mine afterwards asking if I should get bangs to hide it after that. Then this morning you mocked another photo. After Sasha publicly called you out I wrote a comment on your ‘apology’ and you deleted and blocked me. You and people alike need to learn that people have real feelings behind their Instagram name. I’ve always loved your style and actually thought you were hilarious, but today I’m standing up for myself and my friends. Let’s be honest you’re not the only one who talks shit and it’s a bummer you’re the one being made an example of, but so many women struggle with eating disorders and insecurities bc men are constantly telling them they’re not pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough, or cool enough. I thought you would apologize after reading my comment since you were owning up to your remarks but instead you deleted it to save face. That makes me question your genuineness. I’m no angel. I’ve definitely made a lot of mistakes in my life so I’m not here to judge, but I hope that you and your friends learn a lesson here and start treating people with more love and respect. (I know you’re not a bad human) and in general I hope the climbing community can one day be less negative, bc at the root of sarcasm is cowardice. Sad as an outsider looking in to think people have to be self conscious of who they are. Probably discourages a lot of young climbers from trying hard because it’s cooler to make fun of it.

A post shared by Courtney Sanders ♡ (@courtneyasanders) on

Georgie Abel, a writer and a climber, wrote a piece on Medium titled, "Sasha Digiulian, Joe Kinder, and the Reframing of Normal - How a male professional climber created a fake Instagram in order to bully at least two young women, and felt supported in doing so".

Excerpt from Abel's piece: Sasha and Courtney felt that being bullied was not normal and decided to do something about it. Black Diamond and La Sportiva helped shift our idea of normal with their decision to drop Joe. We need more of this. We need climbing companies to take a hard look at who they sponsor, because by giving a harmful person access to resources, gear, and media, brands are actively supporting harm. We need white men to loudly denounce harassment and other forms of oppression in their public and private lives. We need media makers to start representing people who are not able-bodied white men. We need women of color in positions of power. We need women to be able to set routes in gyms without being harassed by their coworkers. We need women’s stories to be taken seriously. And when I say women, I am not just talking about prominent white women. Women who are not well known, women of color, and women from other marginalized groups need to feel like they too can safely come forward and have their words be taken seriously.

Click here to read the full Medium post.

Caroline Gleich, a professional ski mountaineer, has been very vocal on this issue, supporting Sasha through this entire ordeal. On Sasha's original IG post, she commented, "Sasha- thanks for speaking up about this. I know it isn't easy. I admire your strength and bravery. Only once we begin to bring these examples to light can we address them as a community. We have a duty to make the internet a more compassionate place for future generations. Let me know if I can do anything to help. You have my support."

On Kinder's apology post, Gleich commented, "Thanks for taking responsibility and for sharing this. I think it brings up an important conversation about men’s role in women’s and other movements for social justice. You may think movements like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter have nothing to do with you. I would argue that you have an incredibly important role to play- to be an ally and supporter to women and people of color. To call out injustice, bias and harassment. Women already work harder to make as much money as men. We don’t always have the time and energy to fight these battles. You say you want to be a better human. I ask you, what are you doing to make climbing culture more inclusive? How can you be an ally as a white man? You have a huge opportunity to spin this around. I hope we can continue this conversation and that you will begin to utilize your platform as an athlete to do good for people and the planet. And at the very least, to do no harm."

On May 6th, Gleich posted this statement on her IG:

Kati Hetrick, a climber and film producer commented on Sasha's original IG post, "@joekinder I gotta say I'm pretty disappointed to see this man. You have such a platform to do a lot of good and help pioneer the way for future generations in climbing. I know this was on your private platform but the things we joke about and say in private are often a reflection of our true intentions and feelings, even when they're said in jest. We've all been in this community for decades and have the potential to support and respect each other as climbing evolves, regardless of the different approaches we have all taken in our careers. We've all made mistakes and I'm certainly not excused from saying and doing the wrong thing publicly in my own life. However, this hits a sensitive and painful place in today's climate, especially for women, and I would hope to see more from you and the other men in climbing moving forward."

Andrew Bisharat, a National Geographic writer, replied to Joe's apology, "You’re a brother to me. You make fun of me all the time and that’s one of the qualities of our friendship I value most because so few people in my life are able to do that because they’re afraid to push any boundaries. The thing about pushing boundaries is sometimes we go too far and that’s when our friends take the time to let us know that we’ve gone too far. I hope I am not only judged by those few times I’ve gone too far myself, and that people know and see all the other shit. I know that at heart the Kind Kid is actually one of the most kind people I know. Thanks for being upfront and taking ownership and agree with @emilyaharrington let’s give a little more love now."

On Sasha's original post, pro climber and The North Face athlete Emily Harrington responded: This is a really valuable conversation to have right now. And respect to you sasha for having the courage to bring it up under some pretty personal and hurtful circumstances. Not many of us would have the courage or know where to begin. Respect. I’m sorry it came to such a painful place though and I sincerely hope good can come from this. That everyone can be better and kinder humans as a result. Big love to you and especially to your fam right now. Mountaineer and TNF athlete Conrad Anker responded: It takes strength to speak out. Thanks Sasha for being a beacon of positivity. May our community learn and make steps towards integrity, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and humility. Be good, be kind, be happy.

Joe Kinder, Sasha DiGulian, and Courtney Sanders are all products of climbing culture. From this, we can see that there are some positive things about this community but that there is a structure in place that supports the oppression of certain people. This cannot be normal anymore. This must change. We need to envision something new, something better for all of us. - Georgie Abel

The Outdoor Journal's Editor-in-Chief, Apoorva Prasad, commented on a relevant issue in the industry, "The overall lack of diversity, gender gap, and lack of a level playing field in outdoor activities and sports is symptomatic of a much larger gender gap in the US than in the rest of the developed world. For example, it would simply be unthinkable in Europe for major sporting events to have skimpily-clad women performing on the sidelines for the purpose of “cheering on” the athletes and beer-drinking audiences. But wait, there’s more! Why is every mountaineering or climbing story from America fundamentally about white people going somewhere (most often Asia) to climb mountains? Are we living in the 19th century? As a Indian-origin climber who’s lived and climbed in America and Europe from the early 2000s onwards, I’ve often been the only non-white person in any given crag, mountain or wilderness area. While I personally have not felt discriminated against, there is indeed a gigantic, larger problem, where a lack of overall diversity in outdoor pursuits enables and engenders a certain kind of environment, as reflection of a bigger societal gap. However, as a society, we’ve finally started a serious conversation on the subject, and we’re beginning to address egregious offenders when and where we see them. This is the only way forward."