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Words by Joe Cavanagh
This year was the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, an American law that stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in […] any activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Despite the fact that this bill was passed by Richard Nixon (generally recognised as a bit of a bastard, and certainly no radical feminist) it was an incredible step for women across the country. It allowed them to practice and compete in sport without the glass ceiling that had for years limited their potential.
Competitive snowboarding may be far younger than Title IX, but female riders haven’t always had the platform to really shine. However, these days women like Cheryl Maas, Kjersti Buass and Kelly Clark show our youth that anything is possible. Elena Hight landed the first double rotation in the pipe this summer; Kelly landed the first 1080 in the pipe at the X-Games in 2011; and Cheryl landed the first 900 in a slopestyle competition at the Euro X-Games last year. For several years now, women have been hitting the same monster slopestyle and big air booters as men.
So is competitive snowboarding now completely equal? No.
There is still a massive amount of work to be done. Why are the best female snowboarders in the world worth up to half as much as the best male snowboarders? Why can women only attend half the number of 6-Star World Snowboard Tour competitions as men? Why, on a tour with nearly 300 events, are there just six women-only events compared to thirteen male-only events?
It’s not like women aren’t supporting our industry either. Many snowboard brands make more money off their female customers than their male ones, not least because women will generally buy these companies’ summer lines as well. It makes you wonder: how much of The Art of Flight’s budget was supported by sales of Roxy kit, only for the final movie not to feature any female riders? If this was a film designed to showcase our sport to the wider world, we should be disappointed in ourselves.
It’s part of a wider problem of course. It’s a fact that by the age of 14 girls are twice as likely to have dropped out of doing sport as boys. But surely we as snowboarders could be doing more to make a career in sport as attractive and rewarding as being a singer or a model?
“Why are the best female snowboarders in the world worth up to half as much as the men?”
Encouraging as many women to get into snowboarding as possible may seem like a no-brainer. But in many ways male riders are their own worst enemies. For this article I checked out the videos of Kelly landing the first 1080 and Cheryl stomping that 900. Do you want to know what the top rated comments were? “Women’s snowboarding is such a joke” and “Seriously I don’t understand why women’s progression is so slow when 15 year old [boys] are capable of 1260 double corks, and women who have been snowboarding ten years longer than those 15 year olds can only do a 1080.”
Well YouTube haters, I shall tell you why. It’s because you post comments like that, because you hate on the girls and demean what they’re achieving. What kind of wider culture does that encourage in the sport, and what message does it send to young girls thinking about trying snowboarding? And if they do dare enter your macho world, what incentive does it give K2 or DC to invest in a 12-year-old female ripper when you call the best in the world a joke? Your lack of respect for women in snowboarding is directly related to their technical progression.
So my message to you armchair commentators is to get out of that bedroom of yours, with its faint aroma of semen and tears. Leave that house that you still share with your parents, and go out there and help our sport progress. Because whatever laws have been passed, you and your type are still stopping our girls being the best they can be.
What do you think? Are girls getting the recognition and the rewards they deserve? And if not, are the boys to blame? Have your say below – the best comments will win some Whitelines stash.