Pres­sure to Con­form to ‘The Look’

Curl - - Over Exposed -

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.

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