Popular Culture: Looking in the Mirror Essay
December 2nd, 2014
Sports are very popular in our pop culture these days. Throughout the world, we have all sorts of events/competitions to display people’s great sport talents from The Masters Tournament, to the Little League World Series, and then to one of the biggest competitions worldwide are the Olympics. The Olympics hold the appropriate sport events during the winter and summer. One of the sports during the winter Olympics that catches my eye every four years is the snowboarding event. How each and every person, whether female or male that competes, carry themselves all in the same orderly fashion, but then it is what they are capable to do on the mountain that sets them aside from each other. Throughout popular culture, we have labeled snowboarders as adventurists who defy the limitations of nature and who push themselves to the limit. Snowboarding could be either considered a hobby or a sport that involves a person riding down the hill of a mountain that is covered in snow, while standing on a snowboard that is attached to the snowboarder’s feet. For years, Snowboarding has always been viewed as a male dominant sport, but in recent years the pop culture of woman snowboarders has proven that they are just as versatile and talented as any of their male counterpart in this area. Which gender have you seen more in this sport? This problem of gender inequality in snowboarding has been an issue in the past, but now our culture has been finally coming around and showing off the talent that these women have in this sport.
Women have taken up snowboarding as it allows them to enjoy the activity as an individual or in a group, take in the beautiful environment around them, and have a great workout and a stress release. I would like to shed some light on how our culture views female snowboarders in this day-an-age. Some people in our culture advertise females in snowboarding gear, but they’re not represented in the same way as men. In the media, women are shown advertising snowboarding gear in their bikinis. For instance, when searching “Female Snowboarders” on Google, the first thing to pop up is, ‘The 20 Hottest Professional Female Snowboarders’. Female Snowboarders are breaking out of that sexist idea and are overcoming being known as ‘a Bikini model with a Snowboard’. The talents hidden behind their faces are being uncovered by more exposure in the media and now coming to the forefront and being shown in our pop culture. An author who wanted to point out the prevalent sexist mentalities, Chickie Rosenberg, did so in her book, “Snowboarding for Women: A Guide for the Betty Shred Wannabe”. Some of the sexist trends that Chickie spells out in her book are, “But such comments tend to be a ‘guy thing’; women are usually, by nature, more responsible in terms of risk”, and another one, “I happen to think that snowboarding is a sport which is particularly appealing to women in terms of the fact that the balance movements involved in riding are so much like dancing,”. Chickie shows us that Snowboarding is looked at as a “guy thing” or a male dominant sport, but that women could potentially be very good because of their practice from other sports. She also adds her own opinion, “I am not a big strong athletic person, and I started to snowboard at the advanced age of 50. I had determination and confidence that I would persevere until mastery. Those are the necessary ingredients.” Rosenberg brings up a really good point by saying that you can “be a woman of 50 years old in our culture” and still be a rock star on the mountain as long as you have a drive to do so. Breaking down some of Rosenberg’s book, Chickie explains how sports like dance represent a feminine side of women to show off their beauty and delicacy, and sports like snowboarding are seen as masculine because of being ‘Brave and Wild’ to do jumps and to speed down the mountain. Therefore, how our pop culture has viewed women in dance or other sports, they expect them to act the same way while snowboarding. As women are becoming more popular in the media for snowboarding, they are now looked at as risk-takers and as to executing jumps precisely vs. just studying a jump in-depth. That is why they are becoming more popular than ever before.
I have always been curious of how snowboarders, both female and male, view/see female snowboarders. To start off, male snowboarders see female snowboarders as cautious on the mountain. Female snowboarders have agreed with the males in the past about being cautious and respectful, but that’s how they used to be. Female snowboarders have become more dominant in this sport. When females first started competing with male snowboarders, females had a small fear of being seen as masculine, which made a good portion of them hesitant to compete in competitions. Since snowboarding is looked at as a male dominant sport, females have had to think of ways to make it more feminine. The women didn’t want to feel like they were losing themselves as a female by wearing baggy clothes and talking in the nature of how the males do. That is why there are now more colorful tighter fitting clothes made to help distinguish gender, so that the female snowboarders are more comfortable in how they are seen. There is a very specific language that goes on, on the mountain. Things like, ‘shreddin’ the gnar’, or ‘hittin’ the jumps’ or ‘carving the pow pow’ are some popular usage of terms used. That was another reason that made females snowboarders hesitant to really go all out and express themselves on the mountain because they were afraid that they wouldn’t live up to those “hard-core” words. Nowadays, women snowboarders are more confident to use those words, because of their increased rank in our pop culture next to male snowboarders. Female snowboarders have viewed other female snowboarders as risk-takers. When female snowboarders compete with other females, they still want the other female snowboarder to do well in the competition because they understand and respect each other. They know how hard it has taken each of them to get to where they are. An all-girl only snowboard event competition is put on each year for pro snowboarding girls to help gain interest to new becoming female snowboarders. This event helps as well to get the word out there that females can make it and do well in the snowboarding world. Transworld Snowboarding magazine give the latest news on this girl’s only competition called, “Supergirl Snow Pro” which is a 5-star event put on by the world snowboard tour. This competition has the top female snowboarders from around the world there. There were interviews with the competing female snowboarders taken place after the ladies went down some of the runs. One of the interviews, put on by Breck TV Show, featured a professional female snowboarder, Kjersti Buaas. Kjersti talked about how it was an honor to come to a competition like the Supergirl Snow Pro because “They cater to the women”. Another interview took place with Silje Norendal, and she commented how, “There needs to be more all girls’ events because personally I want to grow our sport and get more girls involved in our sport”. Female snowboarders want to encourage other females to either try snowboarding out or have current female snowboarders try new things like jumps or new tricks. Female snowboarders in our pop culture see how few of females snowboarders are out there and how they want them to prove to society and our culture how women snowboarders are impacting and can bring good competition to events.
As stated earlier of how our pop culture views both of these genders in snowboarding, is it fair to ask if male and female snowboarders view themselves as equals in snowboarding after being told they aren’t equal in our popular culture? I see it as a very important thing to get the inside scoop of how the snowboarders actually competing with each other feel about one another. In an article by Matt Boxler, Boxler interviewed one of the head coaches, Carla Hess, for Loon Mountains snowboarding camp. Carla explains how, “The one thing I did notice, though, was that in all the magazines the guys had these awesome action shots in their ads and the girls were either just modeling the gear or pulling some wimpy straight air with a grab,”. Hess said, “It was so annoying and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I saw things starting to change.” Hess commented on, “How she didn’t find the male snowboarders to be equal to the female snowboarders mainly because of the different recognition that they were getting at competitions”, Carla continues, “If a guy would land a jump perfectly and it looked cool, then he will most likely get in a magazine, but if a girl does the same thing nothing will happen”. Carla’s last comment about how she has seen things change since then, I couldn’t agree more with her. Female snowboarders are now starting to get featured on much credited Snowboarding magazines cover. Boxler also came across a survey conducted in 2008 by the National Sporting Goods Association to see what percentage of the American snowboarders were males. Out of 6 million snowboarders, 72% were males. Male snowboarders continue to think of a good majority of them are still dominant in this sport. The fact that there are still more males in this sport than females is true, but the females are coming up to speed and winning a good amount of competitions with new tricks than ever before. Our pop culture for snowboarders is that it has been made easier for male snowboarders to get acknowledgement in this sport faster than female snowboarders. Female snowboarders have had to work up to 3x’s harder to get the same acknowledgement from popular snowboarding companies. So in saying that, males are coming around to the idea that females are becoming their equal in this sport, and females already think that they are equals to the male snowboarder if not more than that. I mean hey, from my perspective if the female snowboarders have had to work and train 3x’s harder than the males to get where they are, then I will give them credit for that, and same goes if it was the other way around.
Popular Culture has labeled snowboarding as a male dominant sport and it has been viewed as that from the beginning of its time. In recent years, the culture of women snowboarders has proven that they are just as versatile and talented as any of their male counterparts in this area. From finding out how our culture views female snowboarders as more delicate and respectful on the mountain, to current thought that female snowboarders have gained their own title and rank in the snowboarding world. Competitions between male and female snowboarders have been looked at as real competitions because they are now looked at as equals in our culture, and furthermore, more males and females have been found to think of each other more equally in the snowboarding sport. Male snowboarders have been previously been viewed as the dominant part of snowboarding, but little by little female snowboarders have been earning their equal titles by training a lot and attending all girl competitions that focus and cater to each women to make them a better competitor. Males in this sport got their recognition a lot easier than female snowboarders did. Whether it is female snowboarders still working hard over the next few years to have them looked at as normal in the snowboarder world or males still keeping the dominant face of snowboarding, both genders are out there doing what they love most. As a female snowboarder, I respect the sport of snowboarding so much because it is one of the things that you can’t buy to be good at, it just happens over time. It is an amazing sport with a lot of talented people out there killin’ it and working their butt off doing so. I can’t wait for the years to progress to see how snowboarding for females is taken to the next level and how they can continue to excel in this sport.