Pressure to Conform to ‘The Look’
Not all of the women I spoke to supported the decision by female snowboarders to feature in men’s magazines, or to appear in ways that prioritise their physical appearance over their skills. Some argued that the women posing in these magazines were only thinking about themselves, and showed limited awareness of the unintended broader consequences of their actions. One of my older female interviewees proclaimed that the young women who pose in men’s magazines fail to think beyond their own bank- balance and consider how posing in this way might affect the role of women in sports more broadly. Jaime, a passionate American snowboarder, told me: “yeah, to be honest, it kind of pisses me off. I don’t want people thinking female snowboarders are like that. I’ve fought long and hard to be taken seriously on the slopes, and these sorts of images really don’t help”.
For some women, part of the appeal of snowboarding is that it created a space in which they could create an alternative female identity. In her autobiography, Pretty Good for a Girl, Tina Basich describes how, during the 1980s, snowboarding offered her group of female snowboarding friends a liberating alternative to the ‘girly girl’ femininity celebrated at their local high school: “we were the misfits of the misfits— the anticheerleaders. We didn’t fit in [at high school]. Snowboarding was a saviour to us”.
Some of the women in my project expressed similar ideas. However, some noted changes over the past decade as a distinctive female snowboarder identity and ‘look’ has emerged which puts pressure on some women:
Some women enjoy snowboarding because it offers an escape from daily social norms and routines. But the increasing the sexualisation of female snowboarders worries some women who don’t want trends in broader society to infiltrate snowboarding culture. During interviews, some of the women I spoke to expressed concern that these images might prompt young girls and women to feel new pressures to ‘look cute’ and ‘sexy’ on the slopes, which could distract them from the more valuable activities of developing their confidence on different terrain and having fun in the mountains with their friends.