Most skaters and many non-skaters knows what Street League Skateboarding is. The professional skateboarding competition has been running since 2010, but it was only this year in Chicago that they included a women's division for the first time. After years of sitting in the sidelines or being included in comps without the promo or paycheck, here was a chance for women to finally skate for a mass audience—and on a massive platform.
Lacey Baker, who placed fourth in this year's Street League, begs to differ. Widely held to be one of the best female street and technical skaters of all time—in 2013, Thrasher Magazine named her first full part in a skate video one of the best female street/tech parts ever—Baker claims that she doesn't even cut enough competition checks to justify a full time career. Now the 24 year old says that she feels let down and rejected by the same skate scene that thrived off her decades-long participation.
Baker talked to Broadly about how it's time to speak her mind on the scene, and why the male-dominated skateboarding industry needs to stop getting led by their boners when it comes to female skaters.
Broadly: For those who don't know you, how did you start skating?
I found skateboarding a really long time ago when I was around two or three in foster care. My foster brothers skated a mini ramp in the backyard and they asked me what I wanted for Easter and I got a skateboard. That's where I discovered it. That was at least 20 years ago, I couldn't have been older than three. I'd fuck around with skateboards, rollerblades, and bikes when I was really young, but by the time I was seven or eight I mostly just obsessed with trying to land a kickflip.
You also work as a full time graphic designer, not a skater. Would you have it the other way round?
No, I made it this way on purpose. I stayed in school so I could have a job and appreciate skating. It was getting foggy for a bit when skating contests was my only source of income. There was a lot of pressure to make money and shoot photos, or do stuff where there is not even an opportunity or space for girls to achieve those things in the first place.
Do you think the women's division at Street League could change that?
I hope so. It would be nice to see some equality. There are still some discrepancies there; [it] feels patronizing. I am being a dick about it, but the way they talk to us… "Aren't you so excited to finally be apart of this? Look what we did for you!" Or getting asked questions like, "How does it feel being a female skater?" Okay I skate, and I have a vagina. Oh look, I did a kickflip! And I still have the same set of genitals… What the fuck kind of question is that?
Filming for parts in skate vids is important to you and you enjoy skating for yourself, so why do you have to be on the competitive platform?
Yeah I skate for me, and like doing video parts, but contests are cool to be part of. I think [the Street League Women's Division] is really great, and I do think big things are going to come from it. It's important for us as to create a platform ourselves, too. Instead of relying on this male dominated skate industry to give us space, let's create our own fucking space. You know, like Meow Skateboards, Girls Skate Network, Mahfia TV, etc… If we do it ourselves then we have nothing to complain about. I think we are going to get a lot more out of that than whatever we think we can get from the existing industry. It's unfortunate that it has to be that sexist, but it's reality.
Who supports your skating at the minute?
I ride Meow boards. I get flow [sponsor support based on free product] from companies. I don't get paychecks from any of them. I get royalties from my board sales, which is pretty cool. Vans send me shoes but they are never going to go further than that. I have been on Bones [Skateboard Wheels] since I was like 12 and still can't get a plane ticket or any other type of financial support to skate and travel.
As one of the most popular female skaters, people would assume you are making good money from skateboarding.
No, I'm fucking broke, haha.
Maybe that's what we'll call the piece—"Lacey Baker: I'm broke." But seriously, I think people would be surprised to know that.
Yeah, but a lot of people think we are complaining. "You should be grateful to get less than half of what the first place prize is for men for our whole entire purse." Go fuck yourself. I'm going back to work on Monday to make my living.
If there was a big enough competitive platform, presumably you'd be able to make a living from it.
Not only that, but there's a whole other level of politics too. You look like a boy, we don't care. We don't care about you.
You get that?
Absolutely. The skate industry is a bunch of dudes making decisions and judgements. If I don't have long hair, wear tight pants and a push up bra then they decide I look too much like a boy. They don't care about how well I skate or my skill level. It's about how I look. It's about how we all look. It's catering to all these dudes in the skate industry. "Who's the prettiest? We choose you…" That's a whole other level of bullshit. Maybe if I did conform to what they wanted to see they'd give me what I want. I'm not going to do that… That's just my situation personally, I don't think that anyone is really conforming; I think It just works in the favour of those of us who are more feminine. If I felt comfortable looking that feminine I would be milking that shit.
Are you watching women skate to get a boner or do you actually respect us for our skill level of skating?
That's pretty shit.
Oh yeah, honestly I am pretty repulsed by the skate industry for that reason alone. I have been around it a long time. I feel treated differently from when I had long blonde hair versus now. It's night and day. I don't want to say too much negative stuff on it, because the overall progression is great. But they are all worried about our sexuality, our hair cut, how tight our pants are. Are you watching women skate to get a boner or do you actually respect us for our skill level of skating?
That might just a specific group of the skate industry—I think the wider skate audience does really respect you regardless of your gender.
Yeah, I definitely feel like I am generalizing a lot of this, it's true that there are many people out there who respect us regardless of gender. But that doesn't mean that the patriarchy should be ignored… Sometimes it's like, why am I doing this? When I feel so repulsed by the industry, sometimes I think, "Do I really like skating?" Obviously I do. Why did I start doing this for the first place? It was never about money. It was fun.
Maybe your purpose here as part of the women's division at Street League is to help pave the way for future females and create that platform?
I definitely think it's important in that sense. We have to look out for each other. Dudes aren't going to look out for us. We need to be kind and welcoming. I think it's important to create the platform and be open to the youngsters who look up to us. Spread the good vibes and how we would want to be treated in the industry.