Photo Ian Logan
I spent Friday night reading the article that almost everyone in action sports has been talking about this past week. In case you missed it, Olympic medalist & freeskier, Gus Kenworthy, decided to come out. In the action sports world, that was a big deal, although it really shouldn't need to be.
However, Gus had a great quote that really got me motivated to write this piece and say something I have been thinking about for a long time.
"They say it's a community of individuals and everyone is doing their own thing and it's not a team sport, so you get to be yourself, but you don't really" Kenworthy says. "Be creative, be yourself, be all this stuff, but also literally be just like everyone else."
I have heard things just like this when it comes to women's skateboarding.
"She's too edgy"
"That girl is a bad influence"
"She doesn't dress or act like everyone else"
It kills me when I hear these things about our female athletes. And it's time I started speaking out and saying it's bullshit & that we are all lucky to be part of this tribe called skateboarding. I feel shitty that I haven't done that enough already.
When I started skateboarding in the mid 1970's we had very few girls in the sport. We were the minority gender in skateboarding, so we were pretty visible whether we wanted to be or not. We may not have all liked everything about one another, but we never spoke badly about each other either. We stuck together. We were a tribe of sorts. Our parents didn't think anyone else was "weird", or another skater girl was someone we should "stay away from". Why? Because we were already "different" ourselves. Our parents left us alone at the skatepark or contests to "sort it out", get along, and find our way. There were no clique's, because if you wanted that, you needn't look any further than your own school to get plenty of it. We tried our best NOT to act like the mean girls we all saw at school. Our rules were, "there are no rules".
We took our cue from the guys we skated with, the Dogtown boys were edgy and wild, Sims Team riders were pretty clean cut and all American, the Badlands boys were hardcore and tough as nails, the list of different skater teams goes on and on. We watched them skate hard & respect each other. Differences are what made skateboarding "alternative" and "cool". We didn't expect, nor did we want everyone to be the same.
I firmly believe that every girl out there inspires another girl. But we all can't be the "same" to do that.
I have seen a few of our skater girls come out recently on social media, and have had other girls tell me it gives them strength to be who they are now - just by seeing that example. The girl who comes from a single parent home may relate to one skater girl, who has had a similar life growing up. Another girl may draw inspiration from her favorite skater who is going through tough times and speaks out about it.
And another girl out there may just relate to YOU and who you are.
Diversity is key - we can not continue to inspire ALL girls if we are all cookie cutter versions of one another.
So, moving forward I'm challenging you as a skater to do two things:
1. Don't talk trash about other female skaters.
2. Stop listening to those who do.
Skateboarders are renegades and trend setters - lets all start acting like that instead of like the "Mean Girls" from high school, who try and dictate which people we should like, what we should wear, and who we should be.
I've heard enough of that "conformity" bullshit to last me a lifetime - how about you?.