Originally posted: October 2017
By Charlotte Harris
The past couple of weeks, my timeline has been full of fed up women posting #metoo. And being an affected female like millions of other women, I joined in. It’s no secret that women are just Over It. Over the bullshit and everything else that keeps us from just living our lives without microaggressions, or some dude’s bad attitude because you’d rather not suck their small dick. The snowsports world is no exception to this bullshit, so here’s my 95 theses nailed to snowboarding’s door.
I got into the snowsports world because my dad was a PSIA/AASI certified instructor at Alpine Valley, so I grew up in the ski school. (And yes, rode on the same slopes as Danny Davis at the same time. #humblebrag) I switched from two planks to one when I was 8 and loved it. My dad tried to make me do both but that was a losing battle. It wasn’t immediate that I noticed the rift between boys and girls snowboarding; I was just so stoked to be on a board and loving it. But as I got older, I realized that girls and women had to work 3x as hard to get any type of props on a board. I was surrounded by dudes but none of them ever respected what I brought to the table.
I’ve always been kind of a wuss in the park. The idea of smashing all my teeth out on a box or rail or the idea of being both cold AND in pain never completely jived with me. I found my groove in carving, (before the Yawgoons made it cool, and thank JAH they did because now I can be cool) more technical aspects of snowboarding, and most of all, teaching this to other people. Unfortunately because landfill hills of the midwest are limited in terrain, the park is where you earned your stripes, so I pushed my boundaries for the sake of earning male respect (ugh). This was nearly impossible. Every time I did something I was super proud of, it still didn’t make me good enough. I spent nearly all my adolescence trying to be as good as, or better than, the boys. When I moved to Vermont I finally was better than the boys and realized I loved being better for ME. Being better than dudes at stuff was just a cherry on top.
Around this time is when I realized, the snowboarding industry didn’t have my back. Whether is was making shitty products or just not bothering to represent me as a demographic, what I was discovering was that I loved snowboarding, but marketable snowboarding didn’t give a fuck about me.
One time I tried on a pair of women’s jeans at Burton that was the same waist size as their men’s jeans, which fit me, and I couldn’t get the leg of it past mid thigh. Why does a sporting goods company think that women who buy their products don’t have thigh muscle? My thighs are my most sacred thing about snowboarding. They allow me to, idk, do shit. Also, it’s frustratingly impossible to find just a nice, simple black snowboard jacket without something extra on it. It’s always one or all of the above: too short, has pink or another ‘female’ graphic on it [that marketing still insists on shoving down my throat], has a fur hood, has no range of motion in the arms, or has fabric on the butt and sleeves, which really sucks on a wet powder day. This can be applied to anything in the women’s section that’s black. Have they not caught on that black is the new pink? How much are they paying their trend forecasters?
Same deal with boards. When you’re lucky enough to find a brand you tolerate — let alone like — that makes a women’s board, the next compromise you have to come to is: do I settle for baby blue or pink. Usually with softer, less technical graphics than men, it’s not hard to see where companies throw their money.
One season, I bought $300 boots that only lasted me 40 days in the season before the lining blew out in the heel. They hadn’t even broken in yet around my toes, which were still going numb by the end of every day. When I went in-store to exchange them with my warranty, I was told that as an instructor I needed to be in a “higher end” boot to accommodate all the walking I did every season. What’s more higher end than $300? And how can I afford that on an instructor salary? Do men who hike features in the park, backcountry or urban all day have to spend more than $300 to make a boot last a whole season?
Last year, there was a snowboarding collaboration with a clothing company, Blvck. The same day they announced this collab, I checked out Blvck’s website. The landing page had a 3ish minute video promoting their fall line, riddled throughout the entire advertisement were scenes of a man in a mask doggy-styling a woman with an American Flag over her face. The cinematography was graphic and uncomfortable, especially being a woman. I pointed out how quasi-rape as a marketing tool alienated the entire female demographic. Especially in today’s society where the gray area between consent and non-consent is at its murkiest. I was blown off by blvck’s social media person and mansplained to me that my opinion, was just that. This sold me on the fact that they don’t need, nor do they care about marketing to women.
On any given day, industry-leading companies’ Instagram accounts only have 1-2 women in their first 12 photos (I call this the ‘above the fold’). Usually they aren’t in action. More often than not they’ll be modeling product (statically) or posing in front of a tree. In fact, 90% of the time, the women they post aren’t doing anything. I more often see Chloe Kim popping champagne on the podium than doing her winning trick. And those female-centric snowboard companies or a company’s page dedicated to the female demographic don’t offer much more in terms of strong women in action. And while a dedicated Instagram and social platform for just women is great, it’s still incredibly important to show equal representation on your main social media. That’s where you show male riders that women deserve equality in the sport. When you give them only their own space, it’s easy for men to forget that women make up one-third of the demographic.
This makes me also think of that time Hailey Langland broke a record at the 2017 winter XGames, being the first female to land a 1080 double cork in any discipline and every snowboard instagram account from Blotto to Crab Grab all posted the footage of the cork and gave Langland the kudos she very well earned. Her sponsor missed a great opportunity to talk about her historic moment.
More recently, they’ve posted photos on instagram with both men and women, where the men were in action but the women were, again static. People can laugh about the frivolousness of microaggressions all they want, but women see these things and take notice. It may seem miniscule to criticize a company for something so subtle, but the message it sends to the public is that women still are there to sit on the sidelines while men do all the action.
Desperate and irrelevant dumpster-fire media companies, like Unofficial Networks are still pandering to the circle-jerking Chads of the world that still think hyper-sexualized women is good marketing. And when confronted with several women who inform them of how outdated and lazy this marketing ploy is, they sarcastically respond “we took it down since you were so utterly offended” It’s not about the offense, brother, it’s about the fact that it somehow got okay’d by several people before it was word vomited onto their facebook page. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this, you really can’t be helped.
A Volcom sponsored post showed up on my newsfeed just today that boasted an article about “rad Florida babes” who I think skateboard? But Volcom wanted you to believe they sat on skateboards and loitered. I asked the company to consider the following: would you have described the same group of skaters as “rad babes” if they were all men? Would you also have used a picture of men standing around? Or would they be in action? Diving deeper into their facebook and Instagram, I came to the conclusion that Volcom didn’t take us seriously as athletes. Mentions of women on their facebook were mainly fashion-focused. Now don’t get me wrong, i love some style inspiration as much as the next person. My continued issue and frustration is that i had no problem at all finding plenty of articles, photos and videos of men in action, doing stuff, while the female-centric posts were lame in comparison. What’s the deal? Does Volcom not have great female athletes they like to show off? Their instagram was the same: plenty of men in action, almost dominantly so, a few women in action, and a handful of bikini shots.
This lazy, sexist, and microaggression-ridden marketing leaks into the bigger picture of how women are viewed and treated as athletes, equals, and professionals. Seven Days reported in an article last year, “…male snowboarding participants in all age groups declined from 5.4 million riders in the 2010-11 winter season to 4.7 million in 2014-15. During that same period, the number of female snowboarding participants rose from 2.7 million to 2.9 million. In the last season alone, [Kelly] Davis notes, women’s involvement in the sport jumped 10 percent over the previous season.” So while we’re seeing snowboarding as a whole decline, women’s snowboarding is increasing. Why are snowboarding marketing teams panicking about how to bring people in, when the answer has been in front of them the whole time? REI and Patagonia have figured it out: women. And not women looking like they’ve been photoshopped into nature, but women with dirt under their nails and on their faces. Women with sweat and unkempt hair and looks of determination. GNU is also is dialing into the equality of men and women in snowboarding. I frequently see women in action, and women’s content on their social media. Their boards are consistently diverse and give plenty of options for the full spectrum of female taste. I assume this is in great part due to Barrett Christy, who oversees the women’s board graphics. RIDE is also, secretly on point with their female graphics. I never see a lot of talk about RIDE boards, but if you’re fed up with shrinky dink pink boards, I encourage you to check them out.
For contests, women are still consistently getting less prize money, and a free board prize is still usually a men’s board. For instance, at the 2017 Hawt Dogs and Handrails, why did Madison Blackley, the female winner take home only one-fifth of what the men’s winner received? Her cash prize was equal to the men’s 2nd place winner.
Last winter, I donated my time to Mt Brighton Ski School in exchange for a free day-pass. I enjoy peer-to-peer exchanges of information and thought a clinic on carving and reverse carves would be a fun time. My dad being the proud papa bear he is bragged and advertised for weeks leading up to my visit, hoping to garner some excitement about coming. One person he introduced me to prior to this stood out to me. He was friendly enough during introductions, the moment my dad told him I was running a clinic and that he should attend, his entire demeanor changed. You know that look men get when they immediately are discrediting your experience and knowledge? Yeah. That’s the look he shot my way and his tone of voice made it easy to read between the lines.
“Oh… are you certified or something?”
“Yeah! I’m a level II staff trainer from Vermont.”
“Yeahhhhhh…. I’m from Colorado originally, riding out there is pretty tough”
“That’s weird, I’ve been under the impression that the East Coast is the most competitive and hardest to certify in because of unforgiving conditions, steep and narrow terrain, and bitter cold. Are you certified?”
BTW he did not attend my clinic that night.
I once taught a clinic right before I got my Level II at Alpine Valley, MI. Again, another favor and donation of my time in exchange for a free pass (BIG UPS TO ALPINE VALLEY 4EVER, MUCH LOVE.) The ski school director, while notoriously a hard ass, believed and respected my ethic, hard work and expertise enough to take all his snowboarders out in a mandatory training. It was 100% dudes. The focus being on ankle flexion and extension (my all-time fave thing to talk about). I had one guy in particular spend the entire three hours talking NONSTOP and humble bragging about the one time he went to Alaska (so cool bro), and how good he was. He didn’t pay attention once during my whole clinic. So at the end, I taught a cab three nose-roll with the ankle flexion as the main character to really tie it all together. I was met with instant respect from all dudes [who thought I was all talk and boring fundamentals] except Mr. I-Snowboarded-Alaska-Once. His only response? “I can’t do that with this board, it’s too stiff.” Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
One time while teaching at Sugarbush I overheard a guy and his girlfriend talking to the desk ladies.
Her: “I want to take a snowboard lesson”
Him: “Snowboarding is too hard for girls to learn” Lol.
Another time teaching at Sugarbush I had a woman and her boyfriend’s sister in a lesson. We had to come inside to fix her stance because it wasn’t working out for her. Her boyfriend came over to see what was up. He asked where we were practicing and I pointed towards the magic carpet where all beginner lessons live. He replied, “Aw, that’s so cute!” Right. Cute. For imagery purposes, he swaggered up with his brand new Burton Love board with those terrible, distasteful graphics of soulless-looking porn stars with shitty Chris Nunez tattoo flash over the lady bits. Such a classy man.
I help run a social media page called Ride Like Her. It’s more of a hobby and desire to pat all my fellow ladies on the back for doing what they do and giving other women something to aspire to. Whether you’re snowboarding for the first time, still a beginner, or crushing the backcountry, I wanted a place to celebrate women because for some reason, society still really dislikes us. I posted a Too Hard edit to the Facepage and received a comment quickly from a male AASI instructor coming down super critical on the skateboard footy they featured. I’ll say that every trick they do in every edit is above my skill level and I bow down to them for that. He seemed to miss the point of the post, and the whole page tbh. See below:
“This chick needs to step up her skate game. How did those clips make edit?
Not trying to be mean, but if I saw a dude throwing wack ass kickflips and p rail board slides to regs for an edit I’d call him out too. No double standards.
“I’m all about doing what you do because it’s fun. There are plenty of people out there pushing wood in all kinds of ways, and I’m all about empowerment on a board, but being female is not some sort of impediment to the sport, I don’t want it treated as such.
“I’m not sipping any hateorade. Being critical isn’t being hateful. I’m not telling her to go big or go home, or hang up her board. I’m saying I think she can do better.”
And then he mansplained me, I won’t bore you with his mansplaining because it doesn’t matter. The point? Women are always held to higher standard and under constant scrutiny no matter what they do.
So what can we do? We can start by throwing away our hate. Yobeat wrote last week that there’s been a perpetuation of shade-throwing and bad vibes in the industry. That’s a big contributing factor to women feeling like they don’t have a place in snowboarding, even though we bust our asses for it. We can start questioning snowboard companies that continue to insist we like pink and fur on everything. (For the record, there’s nothing wrong with pink and liking pink, but we’re sick of that being our only option.) We can start pushing back on social media when we see over and over women in inaction. We can start our own companies, like Coalition Snow, that make products for women, by women. We can start getting stoked about anyone doing something cool or nailing something for the first time — whether this is their first double cork or their first time in the park or even their first turn, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re stoked about it. We can check ourselves, myself included, before being an asshole. Ask yourself, is this necessary energy I’m spending on throwing shade at someone else, or is this energy better spent on snowboarding and minding my own business? Women are waking up, my friends, and we’re sick of being told and shown we’re not equal. Bitches deserve respect and we’re no longer settling for anything less.
Everything in this article is so true. Especially the part about women not being featured in the same amount (and ways) as men. I have mixed feelings with social media and I often want to delete my Instagram account. One of the main things that brings me back to social media is there simply isn’t another place to froth women’s snowboarding. It’s hard to find good content of women riding thats not standing around (or celebrating the podium win as you explained). Another bloody great read, thanks blower media.
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