Snowboards and Sexism – a rider’s tale

Sometimes I find it extremely frustrating to be a girl who is intensely passionate about a VERY male dominated sport. There are the days where it’s hugely empowering to be out there smashing sweet, sweet powder turns with the boys, and then occasionally there are the days when you are made to feel like you don’t belong – simply because you have boobs.

I for one love my lady parts, and happen to know a thing or two about snowboarding!

While I would NEVER claim to be an expert on all things snowboarding, I am confident in my abilities and my knowledge, in fact my very first job out of high school was selling snowboards in one of the very few snow/skate shops in the suburbs of Melbourne, and I freaking loved it!
However, it was in that job I experienced the sexism of the industry for the first time.

This particular customer was looking to buy a new board, I took him to our rack, asked him a few questions to get the ball rolling…and while trying to cover his scepticism that a woman could understand his needs , he suggested that someone else help him (knowing full well the only other member of staff was male), I explained that I was just as experienced as the other member of staff, but the customer insisted that he wanted a MAN to help him.

I was devastated.

From that point on I knew that it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, so I made the most of the shitty situation and continually immersed myself in product catalogs and websites. I asked questions. I demoed gear. I learned to wax, edge and base grind. I expanded my knowledge and my skills in the hopes that I would be taken seriously. Eventually that store closed down and I was forced to move on. Since then I’ve travelled the world snowboarding, working in different areas of the industry as well as being an everyday consumer.

Walking into a snowboard shop as a woman feels a little like what a man must feel when braving the local lingerie store.  I’ve been into snowboard shops with the intention to expand my quiver or treat myself to some new kit, hoping that I’ll be able to get some good advice. More often than not the sales staff don’t offer assistance, and on the rare occasion they do stop by to ‘help’, they tend to be quite dismissive –  immediately suggesting sale boards, and entry level kit even after I explain what I’m after/what type of riding I’m into. I’ve been at industry demo days with work where I’ve asked reps for their top of the line women’s board, to be told they didn’t bring it because no one would be interested anyway – or on the flip-side want to ride a men’s board only to be told I couldn’t handle it.

Is it honestly so HARD for so many men in the industry to grasp that us ladies really can rock it, might actually have a clue and want to be taken seriously?

I do get it though – I get that there are less women than men who snowboard, less demand for women’s gear, and the ever present argument that women can ride mens gear. All true and valid arguments, but that isn’t to say that we don’t WANT our own gear, that there would be more demand if we could walk into a store and feel comfortable that we were getting given genuine, honest advice with our best interests at heart. Surely these things would lead to more growth in female participation, and increase overall interest in the sport as a bonus. Personally I’d LOVE to see more women working on shop floors, as brand reps and within the industry full stop.

In all of the years I’ve been riding, trends have come and go, rocker came along and revolutionised what we could do, and now splitboarding has taken us back to our roots of just getting out there because we love it, but I’d happily trade every tiny scrap of progression to ditch the sexism.
IMG_20140318_160449
Your turn ladies! Have you ever felt like you weren’t being taken seriously? Do you feel supported by the industry or would you like to see them doing more for girls who ride??

2 thoughts on “Snowboards and Sexism – a rider’s tale

  1. When I first started snowboarding, my friends did not take me seriously at all. They would tease me constantly. I’m not sure if this has to do with me being a female, but regardless of the reason, it bummed me out a lot. I found myself constantly trying to prove myself until one day I realized I don’t have to prove myself to them at all. I worked hard to learn, not only how to ride, but everything else that comes with the sport.

    I do wish that we could scrap pictures of women modeling boards in bikinis though because there’s a lot more to women in this sport than our bodies.

    • You’re absolutely right – we shouldn’t HAVE to prove ourselves, to anyone!
      Fortunately for us there are more and more women like you out there who will do what they love regardless of what other people think!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s