This year’s Women’s World Cup of soccer went off. The level of interest, excitement and coverage seemed unprecedented. Not only was it a showcase for women’s sports but it brought global attention to a long overdue conversation of equal pay. A conversation I wasn’t expecting to have on a long weekend skate-trip to Tofino.
It was an exciting spring for women’s skateboarding. With Nike’s Gizmoand Van’s Arms Wide Openvideos coming out, and then Wheels of Fortune in Seattle and Stop Drop and Roll in Vancouver went down—I was over the moon to see so many ladies get recognition. I romanticized this idea that skateboarding finally got it, and was becoming the inclusive and progressive community it seemed to always claim to be. Skateboarding is for anybody, right? I was quickly reminded of the double bind that exists.
A solid excuse for city kids to escape to the island, Tofino’s annual park contest in memory of Jamie Collins is a fun event that brings the skate community together. The winning prize of $1,000 was announced countless times throughout the day. While I was already expecting a disparity between women's and men’s prize, it was disheartening to hear the meek announcement of a $150 prize when the women’s category began. I watched the first-place winner Meagan Kost rule the park and get torn up by the rough concrete. All that for $150 and a bag of throwaway T-shirts. Fifteen per cent of $1,000, it was absurd. The fact of the matter isn’t even about the money; this exposes a serious lack of respect to women in the skateboarding community.
I’m happy that I can say the men’s first prize winner, Mikey Ray, did the right thing and shared his portion of the money with Meagan Kost, but that was a small solution to a bigger problem. Now, my aim is not to call out the organizers of this specific event, what’s disappointing is that this is nothing out of the ordinary. In contests, women are rarely compensated equally to men, if at all and if even included. The fact that the contests that offer equal purse prizes get praised is just proof of that. Progress has occurred, and there are big time events like the X Games that offer equal prize money. As mentioned in Kristin Ebeling’s Skate Witches editorial (you should read it!), you’ll know that’s thanks to the proactive work of women like Mimi Knoop and Cara-Beth Burnside stepping up to the cause.
It might seem reasonable to you to entertain ideas that men should get paid more because maybe they skate better, they have a stronger following and generally there’s more of them. First, I’ll ask: When did skating become solely about difficulty? There’s merit to style and creativity and we see those in all genders in skateboarding. Validating those previous arguments leads to a sad logic that men deserve more pay and that women in skateboarding haven’t earned it. Isn’t it common sense that if you don’t provide proper opportunities and support, that will hold back a community from progressing? So, how do women earn the right to same prizes when there is a handicap of opportunities. It’s a gross feedback loop communities and the industry need to break. And it’s true, as Kristin mentions—this goes beyond prize money and sponsorship. We have to put into question skateboarding culture as a whole, and how it can do better to support diversity.
We’ve seen the benefits of providing better opportunities. This year’s Stop, Drop and Roll, an annual women’s skate contest organized by Rosie Archie in Vancouver, attracted skaters from all around the world and the ladies were ripping. Generally, we’re seeing younger girls entering the scene and even standing on podiums at big events. I live in Vancouver, a city where the skateshop is run by the most badass lady I know. The Skate Witches are constantly producing quality content, and frankly, it’s difficult for me to keep up with all the ladies’ nights that are going down. I’ve joined skateboarding at its most welcoming and encouraging time but all this shouldn’t camouflage the progress that still needs to happen. These community events need to step up, and demonstrate the female category is valued. You’re blowing it pretty hard if you think 15 per cent is a way to demonstrate support. — Cat Moreau