Ilka. All photos by Obi Blanche.
For a lot of dudes at the park, female skaters are still often seen as a novelty, instead of just equals. And for young women who aren't interested in flirty advice, or thinly veiled condescension, that's a regular source of annoyance.
To hear how the skate community receives women, we reached out to some friends around Melbourne. Here are their thoughts and anecdotes.
People have certain preconceptions about me skateboarding. They think that I'm trying to be more masculine, which I'm not. The other day I was just carrying my board, walking down the street and a group of guys passed me. One of them said "you don't skate" in a really condescending voice. I've got these comments from random guys before and it always pisses me off. Especially because they're usually not even skaters themselves and just shouldn't be talking. Next time I might just punch them with my board.
There are always people who tell me I'm sexy because I skate. They say it as a joke or a flirt, but in the end it sucks that I can't just blend in and be treated the same. If I was a guy nobody would cheer at me for what I do on the board. Shit, I've only skated a year! Some people say I should just be happy for the attention, but that's not why I go to the skate park, and sometimes it's what stops me from going all in. It's unfair and sad when girls get tons of publicity only because they show some skin and not because of their skills. It proves that skateboarding is still mainly about guys.
People notice me often when I'm on my board. Lots of guys stop to talk and they've always got their opinion about me skating. They say that I'm badass, that they want to go skating with me or they say they used to skate. Skateboarding seems to be an icebreaker. Often they ask if I can kickflip and if not, they are happy to teach me.
Those parts of skating as a girl are good, but it annoys me when people see my scars from skateboarding and say I shouldn't have scars because I'm a female. Let me just do my thing. If they don't bother me, they shouldn't be bothering you. People should be free to express themselves and decide what they want to do. If you want to get naked and hold a board in front of your girl parts to sell energy drinks, that's your choice.
It's annoying that jumping can hurt your boobs. You've got to wear some ugly ass sports bras sometimes. Also in summer when it's hot as hell dudes can just cruise around shirtless, I wish I could do that! It has taken a while, but I'm slowly meeting more girls who skate and it's cool. I think what I like most about girls I've met or skated with is that we all push each other.
If I'm being honest, the sexism I experience actually comes from other women. When I'm in the streets, women are always the first to give me a dirty look, especially middle-aged women. A lot of the time they just seem really confused, like skateboarding isn't something I should be doing. Maybe it's the way I dress, who knows.
I also work in a skate shop, which means I have to grip boards. Most guys think it's rad and are happy to let me do it, but some are hesitant. Because I'm a girl they don't trust me. Usually it's pretty easy to talk them into it though, and they're always super impressed at the end.
In general the skater community is friendly. The love of skateboarding seems to bring people together, but I have had some guys talk down at me. They give you a lot of shit when you're on your board. They make gross sexual gestures and ask if you carry the board as a fashion accessory.
Women tend to only skate when they have someone else to skate with, but then the same is true for guys. Sometimes people do feel a little intimidated at the skatepark. The parks are generally male dominated, and people can be scared off when they see highly skilled skateboarders and think they're not good enough to skate.
I think there's a wall between men and women in skate culture. Guys still think that girls who skate are lame, and we're just trying to fit into a men's group or something. And in the pro world, girls are either sexualized or sidelined. It's very rare that Thrasher posts a video of a good female skater on Instagram. If something is posted, it's because the girl has never stood on a board and slams really bad, or she's in a bikini. I also think that the guys sometimes just don't know what to do with us, really. They are just a bit unfamiliar with a girl being around. On the other hand, maybe that gives girls some power.
Once I was at a party and a skater came over and started asking me questions. Just what I do and don't, and who I know and don't know. Later he told his friends I was there because of the guys and I was just trying to be cool. Why would I try to fit into a group of people that treat me like that? It makes me pissed off. The prejudices against female skaters are hard to get around, and they're so sad. I know a lot of girls who would love to skate, but just don't feel welcome.
Check out more of Obi's photos on Instagram.