“So… how many pros have you fucked?”

Sitting with some male skaters in a suburban Chipotle near closing time, I brushed off the question, taken aback. At just twenty years old, it was the first time I’d been so callously asked about my sexual habits by anyone other than a doctor. It was a question I would have to get used to ignoring.

Let me start here: I love skateboarding.

For the past seven years, skateboarding has provided an avenue for creativity and travel; it has given me brothers and sisters and stories and experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. It reignited my passion for photography.

But, as a woman, skateboarding has also taught me to tread carefully. I’ve learned that the best way to avoid unwanted sexual attention is dressing like a fifteen-year-old boy (and it doesn’t always work), that the “boys’ club” mentality often means I’ll be excluded from introductions in circled conversations, that I’ll be asked whose girlfriend I am over and over again both at the park and at events––a question at best prodding my relationship status, at worst assuming my right to be somewhere is only earned through my relationship to a man.

I’ve been terrified of garnering the reputation of “ramp-tramp” or “pro-ho” just from spending time with skaters; a reputation which is damning for any woman near skateboarding even when it’s unfounded (never mind that it shouldn’t matter if or how many people a woman chooses to sleep with).

“I’ve been terrified of garnering the reputation of ‘ramp-tramp’ or ‘pro-ho’ just from spending time with skaters.”

Skateboarding in 2018 is being hailed as progressive and diverse. We applaud ourselves for taking small steps forward (Women’s SLS! More female pros and skate photographers!), and ignore the harmful attitudes still being fostered, particularly toward those on the peripheries. When I spoke with one of my friends about writing this piece, she cautioned against it, stating that women in skateboarding have come so far in the past few years and I should wait to see what happens in the next few. But this isn’t an article about female skateboarders. This is a piece about my experience as a woman in skate culture.

Last year, I decided to forego attending Creature’s Rumble in Ramona contest after the flyer brazenly proclaimed, “BANDS – CARS – BREWS – BABES – GOONS – SLUTS”. Sluts? Are “babes” and “sluts” mutually exclusive? Would I be either one or the other for attending? Would I be both? It was such an unnecessary inclusion. I’d looked forward to seeing my friends but was uneasy after reading that. One word can carry a weight that extends beyond the boundaries of a single event. One word can be the difference between feeling welcomed and feeling objectified.

For those of you who will dismiss my frustration as oversensitivity: I envy you. I envy the fact that you don’t have to think about what it feels like to have your self-worth chained to your sex, and that you will never know that feeling.

As the #MeToo movement rose around me, I supported my peers and didn’t pause to reflect upon my own experiences. I didn’t think about the times I’ve been groped or harassed; it was easier to dismiss than confront them. I was complacent.

“Hiding behind being a ‘skateboarder’ as a means of justifying sleazy and careless actions toward women often goes unchecked.”

It is here that we arrive at the slippery slope. Maybe I should have turned back, the late night I was led to a hotel room after being invited to hang out with a group of friends, only to realize my invitee had no intentions of ever taking me to them. Maybe, after turning down his attempts and telling him point blank I wouldn’t hook up with him, I should have bolted. But I didn’t. It was late, I was drunk, and I wanted to sleep. Instead, I was woken up twenty minutes later by him forcing my hand into his pants. I fled, immediately.

That was five years ago, and I still get anxious when I think about running into him. Could it have been worse? Absolutely. But it’s a situation that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Now here I am, nervous that you might be thinking to yourself, “who cares, it wasn’t rape,” and angry at myself for having those fears, because I need to believe that most of you won’t think that.

There are more stories, of course. Like the many times I’ve had my ass grabbed. Or the time someone came up to me at a contest and pinched my nipple. Or the time I gave a few skaters a ride back to their hotel and one of them presumed I only did so in order to have sex with him. I could go on, but why bother? None of it is excusable.

When I’ve called out this kind of behavior, I’ll be told something along the lines of, “it’s just part of being a girl in skating.” Hiding behind being a “skateboarder” as a means of justifying sleazy and careless actions towards women often goes unchecked. It’s culturally accepted, or at the very least unquestioned. This shrug-your-shoulders attitude does more than demean women, it bolsters the stereotype that skateboarders lack moral character––a stereotype that has hurt friends of mine, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that fact.

photo: 2010

So what?

I am no one to skateboarding. I don’t work in the industry. I’m never going to go pro. And that’s exactly why I wanted to write about this; I don’t have to worry about losing a sponsorship or angering the powers that be. Some of you may say my experiences aren’t that bad, that again, it’s just “part of being a girl in skating.” Boys will be boys. But how is this okay? I’ve endured behavior that has made me question my value, and this behavior is normalized on a cultural level. If these have been my experiences, I can only imagine that much worse has happened to other women.

This isn’t about PC culture taking over. This isn’t about “the patriarchy.” This is about basic human decency. If you think that politics have no part in skateboarding, that everyone should just shut up and go skate: skateboarding has always been political and will continue to be. Skateboarding is not exempt from the pitfalls of sexism or power corruption. We don’t get to dust off our hands and walk away from the discussion; if anything, we’ve only just started.

I’m not asking for skateboarders to exemplify some impossible pinnacle of human morality. I want to stress my experiences so that you can learn from them and better understand what it feels like to be a woman in this specific world. While the path to equality may seem daunting, there are easy ways to push forward.

You can lead by example: by treating others with kindness and egalitarianism. Think about what you are saying before you speak, and call things out when they don’t sit right with you. This doesn’t mean you have to be fearful of everything you say, it’s rather the opposite. This is an opportunity to use the weight that your words and actions carry for the better. You have power and agency. Use it.

Comments

  1. Todd Warren

    August 22, 2018 6:51 pm

    Spot on. Thank you for writing this. I’m a man and I skate and I get tired of the sexism. Kudos for writing such an honest article- I’ll be sure share with some dudes that need to see this.

    Reply
  2. Jacob

    August 22, 2018 7:00 pm

    Great article and so well expressed. Please do not be discouraged by the defensive and unthinking responses, I hope you feel only good about having published this

    Reply
  3. Angie

    August 22, 2018 7:21 pm

    Never realized that this probably why I subconsciously dress like a 15 year old boy. 😑

    Reply
    • pinched

      August 22, 2018 8:57 pm

      im sure your ass looks great in those dickies.

      Reply
    • Who gives a fuck

      August 23, 2018 2:14 am

      What the fuck
      Why is that when girls get chirped at they suddenly lose all self respect? Can you not dress like normal women do and chirp back at a guy for being a pig? Am I being sexist?
      Fuck me if I am

      Reply
      • Easy Work

        September 5, 2018 2:33 pm

        For real. If you look good, own it. If other people notice, awesome. If people cross boundaries, snap some collars. Life is but a dream…

      • Russ Trollbong

        September 29, 2018 4:23 am

        It is because you have never had that experience little boy…You thought it was coincidence when you bailed your trick as I position myself to brush my filthy hairy arm against your sweaty shirtless body you slick little fuck. It almost hurt didn’t it, at least enough to stop you from learning that flip back tail. It isn’t over yet, we have time I think.

  4. chipped tail

    August 22, 2018 7:39 pm

    People behave badly. it happens in every scene and not just skateboarding. even at my office a few dudes are total creeps to the women. Men are attracted to women by nature. you cant stop it. you also cant hide beauty, and what a woman has to offer will be noticed by men. if you are an attractive woman you’er gonna have to deal with men wanting to hook up with you. its biological. some men will express their desires openly and brazenly while others will respectfully suppress themselves. I agree people should be respectful towards others and shouldnt put their hands on people uninvited, but you really cant expect all the beer guzzling sun baked skatepark billies to share those views. some of these dudes are actual incels with no self control that only skate and dont see tons of chicks around. if dudes are sketchy dont associate with them. maybe run with a smaller circle of people you actually like and trust. skateboarding is a solo act that you can do with out anyone else. Also she mentions being 20 years old which leads me to think the skater bois she hung out with were around the same age. complaining about sexist behavior from immature adolescents seems pretty silly. lots of people dont learn to respect and care for others until they are much older.

    I dont see anything wrong with celebrating sex and sexuality but the “women belong in the kitchen” ideas from the industry are lame.

    Reply
    • Fuck you. My feelings matter too

      August 23, 2018 2:16 am

      Fucking WORD brother, but the women in the kitchen jokes are funny.
      Gotta admit

      Reply
    • Darin

      August 23, 2018 12:44 pm

      “she mentions being 20 years old which leads me to think the skater bois she hung out with were around the same age”

      “complaining about sexist behavior from immature adolescents seems pretty silly”

      So 20 years should be excused from “sexist behavior”? You are disgusting.

      Reply

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