Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sports and sexism

I know I say this a lot, but it bears repeating: Girls do stuff too.

Recently, a 13-year-old surfer from Australia picked up a magazine that calls itself "the surfer's bible," and was disappointed to find that it was similar to so many other sport-related publications: it was sexist as hell.

Instead of internalizing all that crap like I probably would have done when I was 13 (hey, things were different in the early 90s), this young girl named Olive wrote a letter to the magazine:
Dear Tracks Surf Magazine, 
I want to bluntly address the way you represent women in your magazine. I am a surfer, my dad surfs and my brother has just started surfing. 
Reading a Tracks magazine I found at my friend's holiday house, the only photo of a woman I could find was "Girl of the month." She wasn't surfing or even remotely near a beach. Since then I have seen some footage of Stephanie Gilmore surfing on your website, but that's barely a start. 
I clicked on your web page titled "Girls" hoping I might find some women surfers and what they were up to, but it entered into pages and pages of semi-naked, non-surfing girls. 
These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance. 
My posse of female surfers and I are going to spread the word and refuse to purchase or promote Tracks magazine. It's a shame that you can't see the benefits of an inclusive surf culture that in fact, would add a whole lot of numbers to your subscription list. 
I urge you to give much more coverage to the exciting women surfers out there, not just scantily clad women (who may be great on the waves, but we'll never know). I would subscribe to your magazine if only I felt that women were valued as athletes instead of dolls. This change would only bring good. 
[Emphasis mine]

Unfortunately, this problem is not just within the sport of surfing. And it's not just Tracks magazine. It's at the Olympics, it's in Sports Illustrated, and it's at the Australian Open. The message is crystal clear: it doesn't matter what you accomplish; all that matters is whether men want to bang you.

So having the guts to go against all that social pressure and sexist b.s. is truly awesome. Good for you, Olive. If you were my daughter, I'd be damn proud of you.