V. Diaz, a journalist and passionate skateboarder, is a full-time writer for SHIT®️ Magazine.
In 2013 Amelia Brodka and Brian Lynch made a documentary that bring forth part of the problems experienced by women as skateboarders in the United States and in the world, although the documentary is more than 7 years old, and at that time the girls on skateboards was deeper than present-day in their struggle to be exposed and supported, many of the same problems still exists today.
The documentary begins with a series of interviews with men and women in the skateboarding scene, including the renowned president of the International Skateboarding Federation, Gary Ream who said: "There is no question about it, these women should be in skateboarding", however, “These women don't get exposed like men do, why is that?” David Everly, former pro skateboarder added.
The question of why girls aren't exposed like the boys are was growing, and in this way the documentary starts taking a look at the past and the situations that led Amelia Brodka and her team to deconstruct ideas that were affecting the possibilities for women in the scene.
All of these thoughts and ideas were rooted in the community, but they managed to turn these into opportunities for growth and visibility for girls, recognizing that there are several factors that make female skateboarding be seen in the right way.
An Equal Treatment
Photo: Tyler Nix (Unsplash)
Amelia mentions her first encounter with skateboarding, and although she emphasizes that she didn't continue because of her brother, the same person who showed her skateboarding in the beginning, she would meet skateboarding again later thanks to her friends. Her motivation to skate was inspired by having witnessed the X Games Vert Contest, so she started her learning process and after she obtained some results, she created a training program, not only where she lived, but also in different places in California.
Today, Brodka is not only an excellent manager in the world of skateboarding, but she is also a great skateboarder in park and vert in her country. In 2010 Amelia was invited to participate in the X Games Vert Contest, after these important news, she made a big effort to become stronger and prepare for the competition, however, after applying the event was canceled.
This prompted her to think in-depth about the opportunities that she and all the girls needed to open up in the industry. “I was really upset, and I didn't know what to do, so I started writing and I starting asking questions from people in the industry”. Brodka sought answers about what could be done to create more opportunities for girls who practice skateboarding and those who see skateboarding as a career.
Inequality is felt in the moment when a man has a wider range of opportunities to make a living as a skateboarder compared to that of females, to them it looked and felt more like bad news and a lack of opportunity.
For many years competitions such as the X Games were everything in the skateboarding career of a skater, for Lynz Pastrana, obtaining a gold medal, especially in the Vert category was the top as a professional skateboarder and if there was no category for the feminine, then what could any of them aspire to. "It may not have been important to them, but it is everything to us," Lynz said during her interview.
The unfairness of these events were soon to be overcome. What was to come for women's skateboarding have been the result of a constant struggle to provide the right space to all talented women with the potential to be pro-skaters, and to inspire other girls too.
Although it is true that the support has not been completely achieved, the progressive advance has been fulfilling and the doors that finally opens do so largely due to rigorous work by all the girls who work for skateboarding and those that live skateboarding as a lifestyle.
Girls Need To Be More Exposed
Photo: Lisboa ind. (Unsplash)
In search of the right answers and actions to take, and to change the situation of the American female skateboarding, Brodka brought together all the possible points of view within the wide sports world in which she was and still is in.
Among these are professional skateboarders like Samarria Brevard, Lizzie Armanto, Nora Vasconcellos, Lynz Pastrana, Mimi Knoop, Julie Kindstran, companies like Toy Machine, Woodward, Acme Skateboards, Silly Girl Skateboards, marketing managers for brands like Don Brown, Elise Dabby, Kim Woo, Michael Furukawa, skateboarding magazine editors like Michael Burnett of Thrasher, Kevin Duffel of TWS and some skateboarders like Steve Caballero, Elissa Steamer, Cara-Beth Burnside and more.
The documentary achieves its ultimate objective, exposing the female talent developed throughout the history of skateboarding, loaded with videos and archival records that demonstrate the power and capabilities of each skateboarder.
“Underexposed” touches on different fundamental themes to build a general concept of skateboarding, taking it to specific points where women may participate.
The reason why a female skater deserves recognition as a professional skateboarder has been a matter of debate. One of these reasons are the profile that could has a male or female, if he/her wants to become a pro skateboarder, these are some of the answers from skateboarding brands and editors think about it.
To them, a skater goes from being an amateur to a professional when he/she competes to earn the title of pro, the one who is prepared to represent the brand that supports him, who makes himself known and earns respect for what he does with his skateboard while being consistent, disciplined, with their own style, and are "cool" while performing tricks of a high degree of difficulty.
A skateboarder becomes professional when, due to his talent and the prestige he has achieved, he becomes the hallmark of a brand and exclusive merchandise comes out of it, generates income for himself and for the brand, for each product, pro-model board, shoes or clothes and also build a community.
Elissa Steamer was one of those first skateboarders who achieved recognition by skating and doing things like “the boys did it” and, recounting her personal experience as a professional, she mentions that it was a great exhibition as a skateboarder, magazine covers, photoshoots, video parts, interviews, everything about skateboarding.
Before Elissa, Cara-Beth Burnside was one of the female skateboarding legends. Like Steamer, her experience in this highly masculinized industry got her bad comments, there was no vision for women even when a skateboarder like Burnside lived up to being recognized and supported as a pro.
Brands Should Be Inclusive
Photo: Lisboa ind. (Unsplash)
The process that brings girls under the wings of skateboarding brands has also been a theme for discussion because skater girls like Brodka think that it is a failure if a brand works on portraying a feminine style and are contracting models who don't fit or who know nothing about skateboarding, making the case that it would mean that many skateboarder girls won't be feeling inspired or identified with the brands.
However, the opinion of the girls has been heard and brands like Osiris, Element, Vans and others have made a collective effort to promote their brands while supporting skateboarder girls. Brodka did emphasize that if they use an outside model to sell their products, they are missing an opportunity to promote their brands while inspiring other girls as they could start skating too.
Some brands have used the women image and their physical attributes as sexual objects on their products and decks, which left the female community in disagreement. What they wanted is that the focus should be on skater girls talents, the way of how they express their style and skills through skateboarding.
Silly Girls Skateboards helped gender get more exposed in a constructive way, recognizing the most iconic skaters like Patty Mcgee and others. The documentary did highlight the difference in consumption of both genders, the Silly Girls founder says that a man arrives, buys what he has to buy and leaves whereas a girl arrives and buys what she has to buy, and additionally, she gets interested in buying other things as well.
They all agree that girls are big consumers, but they were still wondering, why are female brands or pro-model boards, from pro-skater girls still unable to grow in numbers? One of the reasons could be the lack of interest and credibility in the girls and their brands with products that at the end of the day are for anyone.
'Underexposed' gives everyone a wide view of what is going on with girls and skateboarding, an extensive look at injustices and the few opportunities female skateboarders traditionally earn. A lot of girls have stopped because there wasn’t a future, but with this documentary, we can see the possibilities and progress that they have made, now looking at the present there are so many things that we can do thanks to them.
All the interviewees recognize the increase of girls and the vision that support them. Through collective work between companies, skaters and professionals together, everyone can achieve better results and give the girls the spot they deserve.
There are many points of view to mention from this documentary, however, the reflection is that there are many people who want to and who can become pro-skaters, but only a few get it. Even if that it’s the top of this sport, skateboarding isn’t just about being the best competitor or the one with the best style, it is about being a person who helps the community grow up, in every corner of the world.