Shorter version featured in Issue 19.3, here's the full story...
Recently the Jess Kimura-presented, all-girls snowboard film, The Uninvited, exploded across the Internet. The movie begins with a montage of the women who were pioneers in the streets, and brings us into a collection of boundary-pushing footage from the gals who will continue to raise the bar for years to come. In short, it’s one hell of a film, the product of one hell of an effort from all involved. The movie also, from the title on through it’s production, forces us to reconsider the age-old question of the support and opportunities women are given in the snowboard industry.
Looking to get an unadulterated take from the rippers right in the thick of it, we asked each of the girls the following question:
"What do you think are the toughest barriers facing women snowboarders and how do we overcome them?”
When it comes to street snowboarding, the toughest barrier is the inequality and the fact that there are rarely any girls invited to join bigger movie projects. To be honest, I understand why: mens’ snowboarding is more progressive. There are many girls who film impressive video parts, but in general, there’s a long way to go before guys will watch a girl’s video part for inspiration. I don’t think girls should copy guys snowboarding or go to the same spots and do the same tricks just because they’re girls. If we do something that’s original, we’re going to get the same respect. The goal of The Uninvited movie was to take a big step in that direction. Who knows, maybe, eventually, the industry will start supporting women’s street snowboarding more. But it’s a loop: girls need support to produce something fresh and good, but if there’s no support, it’s hard to go out and film. Hopefully with The Uninvited we break that loop.
- Ivika Jurgenson
In my opinion, one of the biggest barriers faced in this industry is the inequality in funding and support between male and female athletes. Although we are on the precipice of change, there is still a divide that does not incentivize the forward movement of women in these roles and therefore does not create the same draw to progress. My fear is that if we do not start investing the same amount of support and interest into our female athletes we are going to hinder the progression of the sport.
If we are to overcome these challenges we need to achieve a balance. Women in this sport need to have the same advantages as the male athletes, and until we are considered to be performing on the same level, we will never be able to reach our full potential.
- Maria Thomsen
I think one of the toughest barriers is opportunity. The industry has gone through waves, and although it seems like a peak for women right now, it is still a deep valley. Ten years ago there were tons of competitions large and small that included women, especially on a lower level to incorporate less advanced riders and get them interested in the sport. We had Forum Youngblood, Volcom PBRJ, Burton Am and TransAm. All of these contests had a huge female turnout of all abilities, cash prizes and stops all over the country, if not the world. They had free registration with qualifying opportunities for larger contests. The Burton Am was my personal route to the Grand Prix and then the Dew Tour circuit, which was short lived thanks to the Olympics. I met all my friends that I still have to this day at these contests. These no longer exist. It seems the very few contests that still allow women are extremely small with no rewards, or are on such a professional level that almost nobody can qualify. It seems it’s the same top-20 girls who have been invited for what seems like the past 10 years and there is not a real qualification process that’s easy to navigate without a team or personal coach.
I have noticed that a lot of girl boarders right now are in their mid-to-upper 20s, if not older, and hardly any new girls are getting into it. When I started filming I was 16 and so was everybody else. Now the same group of people, with a few newcomers, are still filming. But I’m not surprised. Why would anybody want to start filming if all their favorite pro female street riders obviously don’t get paid? And if all the money is in slopestyle? Not something to look forward to, huh? Year after year we film each other, as all paid filmers are typically reserved for the male team members and are in short supply. Finding and compensating a filmer is the girl’s job to handle on her own if she wants it bad enough. How is it that Jess Kimura had to pay out of her own pocket to support what seems like the entire generation of women’s street snowboarding?
- Madison Blackley
That’s a big question. I could touch on a lot of different things, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows what they are! And if they don’t, well, that’s also part of the problem. I think the only way things are going to change is if people start to give a shit about women in sport. There’s a big movement of women in skateboarding right now. If we don’t follow that lead, it will be pretty embarrassing. It’s not rocket science. Women should be given equal opportunities in every sport. Once that happens I think we will see a big change in content, progression, and just more women in sports overall.
- Kennedi Deck
I think there has been a very small area in women’s snowboarding for us to really thrive. Most companies just have that “token girl” on the team and do not make much room for others. I think that created a lot of hostility between females back in the day, which I think really hurt the progression on our side until now. The companies I currently work with - K2, O’Neill and Dang - don’t run that way, thankfully. I think they are on the forefront of giving more space for more girls to have a chance. One way to solve this problem is just giving more girls that opportunity to shine.
Along the same lines, big film companies usually just have “room” for one female in a movie. I think that’s an outdated model. Why not have three or four or even equal number to guys? When I was a little girl I would fast forward through all the guy’s parts just to watch my favorite girls board. I feel like the number of girl boards are increasing fast so why not have more girls involved? Not to mention the level of girls riding is getting insane! I could go on but I do think things are getting better already. I think it’s time for us to stop talking about getting more and just start being so good that they can’t say no.
- Melissa Riitano
I think girls like us who are aiming for expression in movies are harder to evaluate than men. As a practical matter, it is difficult to get financial support from sponsors. And it is difficult to hire filmers. I understand that when these evaluations are made, that there is a difference in physical ability compared to men. So is the female snowboarder a degraded version of the male snowboarder? I think it is exactly the opposite. I think that there is an excitement only women can provide because they express a style that’s only given to women. I hope that the industry as a whole will pay attention to this fact so that talented women can more freely express themselves.
- Miyon Yamaguchi
There is no short way to answer this question. The world of athletics has primarily been dominated by men. Girls are told their entire lives that they are inferior to their male counterparts. Less female participation creates less competition amongst women, resulting in less progress over time. That, in conjunction with finite budgets for girls, has created a massive fucking barrier. Society and the media need to do a better job of empowering women. Girls need to believe in themselves more. They need to hold themselves to a higher standard.
I don’t expect to get paid the same as someone who is literally putting their life on the line to film a video part. We still have a long way to go before we bridge the gap between the level of riding that men are doing. But I do believe that if the industry created more opportunities for women to succeed, that they will rise to the occasion.
- Alexa McCarty
I think the toughest barrier facing women’s snowboarding is the exposure for women compared to men. Looking at major contests and even sponsorships, it is still highly divided between men and women. I feel like women in snowboarding are still underrated in some sense. This is all changing, as seen with The Uninvited, and women are being recognized for their talent and how we do it differently. I think to overcome these barriers we just have to keep doing what we are doing and show everyone what we are capable of. It’s cool to see how women’s snowboarding is evolving, especially over the last few years.
- Laura Munro
I think that not so many girls try and go snowboarding, so we have to get more exposure in the media, in videos and magazines. This year I got couple clips to use in The Uninvited and then I got some DM from people saying things like, “That was dope!” It really helps to send good vibes to fellow girl snowboarders. It made me happy as well!
- Karin Onozaki
The opportunities the girls are given are almost always half the time, half the resources, half the effort... So the result is half as good as it could have been, and it just continues the vicious circle that perpetuates the appearance that girls can't perform at a certain level. This image effects the young girls who would or could be the ones pushing the limits of snowboarding in the future. What they see is a watered-down version of what we are really capable of. There is also no incentive for them to go out and throw themselves off of shit. They've seen that they won't get the proper resources, if any. Very few girls continue to push beyond this level because it’s obvious that there are few rewards for doing so. Companies are happy to sell women's product but they balk at the idea of helping to support their up-and-coming female riders. I never claimed the girls are riding at the same level as the guys, but if you look behind the scenes, they are systematically being held back. I'm supposedly at the top level of this system and still I get pushed to the back of the line when it comes to filming. Even when I bust my ass despite the circumstances and pay my own filmer to try and give myself the same chance anyway, my shots still get cut from the movie. Or I’m forgotten about altogether and the editor doesn't even look through my footage to consider it. Treat us like an afterthought and we will continue to perform like an afterthought.
- Jess Kimura