September 2, 2014

Snowboarding Is Sexist And We Should All Be Ashamed

Rachael Oakes-Ash has written a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald on sexism in snowboarding. Specifically on coverage of womens snowboarding (and skiing) in the magazines along with representation by women on industry bodies.

Snowboarding is a sausage fest and I’m not sure where the figure of 33% female participation in snowboarding came from. That doesn’t feel right and I’ve tried to get those stats in the past. The best I got was a guess from a few well placed people and it was way below that figure. But it also kind of ignores the fact that those magazines (Pop included) was/is aimed at male readers. In the same way Cleo markets to girls, and FHM to guys, Pop was aimed squarely at male readers and I feel like the other snowboard magazines are too. Writing articles about female snowboarding didn’t resonate as well with our readers as the ones on male snowboarders did – and this is backed by web stats. Again, we were male focussed so this may have just been a self fulfilling prophecy. The issue may not be with the magazines that exist now, but the fact that no one has managed a break through snowboarding magazine targeted at women?

Then on the business front, the companies that support the magazines through advertising are selling the majority of their product to men and spend their marketing dollars trying to reach an audience of scale. In order not to waste any of their deniro, they’d be looking to make sure that the guys are getting what they want from the magazine. So if a magazine were to come out with articles that didn’t get the male consumer base excited, they would be risking their ad deals and future viability. There needs to be a solid business case for these magazines to make an investment in female focussed content, which can only come at the direction of their advertisers.

Then, straying from the coverage, there’s the equal prize money argument at the bottom of the article – detractors would say that perhaps the prize money should be equal when the competition is, and there shouldn’t be gender based categories… ie. Everyone competes together for the same money, equal pay for equal work, etc. But if we have male/female comps, then shouldn’t the person winning get the same money if they come out on top?  Pop wants all riders to earn as much as is humanly possible. Perhaps the solution is scaled recognition of talent regardless of gender…That means that (all other things being equal) a male rider who can’t throw a double cork shouldn’t earn more than a female rider that can. Tough to boil skill down to just that but you get the idea.

In the end the article is a little bit of click-bait. There was nothing added to the ongoing discussion – everyone knows the coverage isn’t balanced along gender lines, the boards and bodies from the industry aren’t completely representative and that the money driving the industry is largely controlled by dudes. But it does get everyone fired up and talking about it (see paragraphs above). In my opinion, the best that can happen from here is someone comes out and proves the majority wrong by creating some absolutely epic female focussed content.

PS. The Fairfax article did have a bikini snow picture originally (not selected by Rachael Oakes-Ash) but it’s been replaced by a lifestyle shot of Torah… Just sayin’.

by Dave