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?

This is a thing. This really does exist.

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. 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.

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 from female skateboarders. In my travels, these have been the stories of enough young women in skateboarding for me not to wonder… how common has this been? How common it is today?

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 smoke?”
”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…

or:

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?” 
”Sure!” 
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…?

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. I have spent a lot of time rubbing elbows with shops, scenes, park locals, small company owners and on and on. These folks like to make an ado about their service to their community, and their leadership in making skateboarding better. Whether that be by getting parks built, or “holding it down” by “raising the level” or what have you. Some of them legitimately score pretty high on making things bigger and better. Some operate like bullies. Very few of them are well-known for taking responsibility for the long- term effects of their words and their actions. This level of adult introspection is not common in the resume for scene leadership in mainstream skateboarding. You only need to look at the most popular skateboarders to see examples of some real doozies. Some of the married “industry leaders” are even well-known for public drunken idiocies… idiocies that oftentimes include creepy behavior toward women.

When will the other shoe drop? When does the tidal wave of social consequence begin to hit the skate industry, and culture? Maybe it’s always been here. Maybe it’s been hitting us the entire time, and we’ve just failed to see it for what it really is through our alpha-male eyes.

At this point in a discussion of such topics, there usually emerges the opinion that “It’s skateboarding, man”, as some kind of wet blanket to darken the fire we are starting. Others may use the “shut up and skate” sticker as a comment in the thread, calling into question whether or not anyone interested in getting into and dealing with this is a “real skateboarder” at all.

Well, kiddos, the thing about being an adult skateboarder, is that you’re an adult first and foremost, and then a skateboarder. An adult human being with responsibility for the consequences of actions… And the consequences of inaction.

The consequence of our corporate and cultural failure to make sexual harassment far more difficult, far less popular, and far more costly, is the obvious stunting of female involvement in skateboarding. We might address the lack of women in the scene as being, to a very large extent, a direct result of this very bullshit.

So, here’s the answer:
Make it difficult,
Make it costly,
And make it unpopular
For the “leaders” of your scene
To be creeps
To women…

People all over the country will read this and think, “Jeez, Lew. You’re way off base, man. None of this happens in our scene!”

Ask yourself: “Is that because there are no women in your scene?”

“Is that because the women in your scene have endured it so long they’ve ‘got past it’?”

”Is that because the women have simply left, never to return?”

Ask yourself…
and talk to each other.
Ask a woman. See what she actually has to say. Hear the words for yourself. Just as I have done.

And, please.
Make it difficult,
Make it costly,
And make it unpopular
For the “leaders” (and not just the leaders) of your scene
To be creeps
To women.

Do it.

*this was originally posted in January 2018 at: http://everythingskateboarding.com/perspectives-january-2018-lew-ross-of-fickle-skateboards-on-sexual-harassment-in-skateboarding/

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