One of the cornerstone philosophies behind Everything Skateboarding is that we should, when we’re at our best, be a conduit for everyday skaters to find, hone, and magnify their own voices. To give a platform to those that might not otherwise speak up, or be heard by the curators, producers, editors, or readers of the mainstream skate media.
I’ve known Lew for years now. He’s an exceedingly principled fellow, with a lot of stuff to say (as you’ll soon see). Lately, he’s been talking a lot (on social media) about sexual harassment in skateboarding: the causes, the effects, and the ultimate ramifications for our culture, our scene, and our industry. We thought that this was a topic well worth spotlighting; the conversation is certainly well overdue. So, we gave Lew a neat new soapbox to play around with. He did not disappoint.
At the end of the day, Lew’s piece ended up reading far less like a traditional essay or think piece, and much more like stream-of-consciousness, free-form poetry. That was an unexpected bonus. Without further ado, here’s Lew:
When are allegations of sexual harassment going to start to affect skateboarding?
Maybe the better (and more accurate) question is: When are we going to start openly discussing the sexual harassment that has always existed in skateboarding?
I have already fielded more than a fair share of same-story, different-person complaints- both direct, and third person- about sexual harassment in the DIY community, at skate parks, and in skate shops.
This is a thing. This really does exist.
When I have raised the question among ‘lifer skateboarders’ in those circles, the conversation has been shut down, every time, with “boys will be boys” rationalizations…
Seriously. We have picked our heroes, but some of them are the wrong kind of person, off the board.
Think about this. Talk about this.
Thinking. Talking. Two things that have not been welcome, or allowed, to a great extent, within our culture. Our ‘counterculture’ that should, by rights, be far better than this.
We’ve all been there.
Pull up to the spot. There’s a heavy session going.
Wait by the side to size things up, see where we fit in the flow.
Just a normal, everyday session suss-out.
We’re here to skate. We’re here to have fun.
We’re here to enjoy.
If it’s just a bunch of boys, then everything is cool.
If there are women present, then it will almost always happen.
”One of the heavies in the scene— a real ripper— well known and well loved, sidles up to chat me up.
’Wanna come to my car and smoke?’
’Do you have a boyfriend?’
Once. Twice. Three times they ask.
Once. Twice. Three times I politely decline, more apprehensive with each pass.
I am shaking a little now, and I’m breaking eye contact…
because we know what happens if I get in this guy’s car ‘to smoke’…
His buddies leer. They know all about it, too.
At this point, thwarted, this well known local talent turns to insults, or veiled threats, to keep me from ‘shit talking’ about him, about this…
I skate a little more, then I leave.
Maybe this just isn’t for me…”
”Skating and drinking, I overstay the session.
It is late and now, and I’ve lost my ride home.
The one skater with a car left is well known for a certain ‘prowess’….
Asking him for a ride is a risk… but I’m not sleeping outside tonight!
Besides, this is my local scene. This guy is a leader here. And we’re a family, right?
’Can you give me a ride home?’
Then, the knowing leer and a couple provocative comments…
and the economy of the situation is revealed.
’Hey dude, if you drive me home, I really don’t want to give you a blowie for it, or have you come upstairs, okay?’
What happens next is not shock at the insinuation. It is not a clean-up on the communication of intent. It is a clarification, if anything:
’Oh, so you’re just USING ME for a ride?’
He counters with the offer to drive me to his house to sleep, but not all the way to mine. What should I do…?”
I have fielded multiple complaints of this kind of thing, over the years, from female skateboarders.
But in my travels, these have been the stories of enough young women in skateboarding for me to wonder… how common has this been? How common it is today?
Usually, influence and leadership in the scene falls to whomever skates the best, rips the hardest, and has the biggest pop. Young, athletic, alpha-male types. Not exactly the profile of positive social awareness… no offense intended…