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.