You Can Leave Your Bra On

The following was written by my friend Erin, an active snowboarder. Erin does not
have a blog, so I have volunteered to host the article. This article is copyrighted by Erin, and all rights are reserved. I will
be metaphorically borrowing John Scalzi’s Mallet of Loving Correction for any comments
left. In other words, don’t be an asshole in the comments.

The other night, I attended the Seattle premiere of Dopamine, the newest snowboarding
movie from Absinthe Films. It was awesome and I loved it. After the movie, the director
of the film, Justin Hostynek, and several of the riders featured in the movie got
up onstage and gave away prizes. Most prizes were awarded in a raffle-style contest…
then a snowboard was given to the winner of a long-jump contest… and then, another
prize (I forget what) was given out to “the first bra onstage”.

For a good minute, the audience was effectively silent. I admit, I jokingly went
for my bra clasp as if I meant to toss it onstage… but then I thought about it.
I thought about it, and I was offended.

Snowboarding is largely dominated by men, a fact most of us are aware of. Men’s
snowboarding gets more press, more attention, has a bigger audience, etc. Famous
male snowboarders become so well known, even non-snowboarders know who they are
(Shaun White, anyone?) As a woman, accept that this is the way it is in most sports.
I don’t find it particularly fair, but I typically decline to get up on my soapbox
and preach to the masses about gender equality in this arena.

However, the request for bras onstage struck me as particularly distasteful. I was
really disappointed in Mr. Hostynek for (probably not maliciously and possibly not
even consciously) emphasizing the mindset that women are second-rate and best judged
by their hotness and sex appeal rather than their athletic abilities. What was even
more distasteful to me was watching the couple of women who raced up to the front
with bras in hand to receive a prize in front of a sold-out audience.

As a director, Justin Hostynek has a huge responsibility. Indeed, everyone associated
with a snowboarding film has a huge responsibility- they may not like it, but they
are role models for a vast audience of snowboarders, and as such, they have the
potential to influence the attitudes of thousands of young people across our nation
(most snowboarders are under the age of 35). Mr. Hostynek’s request for bras on
stage set the tone for everyone’s attitude towards women in that audience-
we all went from athletes who came together for the love of a sport to a bunch of
horny guys oogling a sexual object. His plea for women to throw their underwear
reinforced the fact that many people (men and women) don’t take
women in sports seriously. Why should women be taken seriously when it
is so easy to convince them to remove their bras and proudly wave them around?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the movie premiere, and I have been going
back and forth with being saddened and offended, and telling myself that I’m over-thinking
and over-reacting. I think this is yet another symptom of our mindset as a society
that tells women it’s okay to be a sexual object, that we should smile more, that
we should be flattered by any and all attention we receive from the opposite sex.
That it’s perfectly fine to have a double standard in sports, where men are judged
on their athletic prowess and technical ability, and women are judged by physical

Erin. about to SLAY a double black run
Photo by Fes

But you know what? I don’t think it’s okay. I don’t think any of that is okay.
I dream of a day when I can head to the mountain and feel the easy camaraderie
that I see my guy snowboarding buddies experience, when I can walk into a gear shop
and not be talked down to and insulted or just outright ignored by the
sales bro simply because I am woman. Someday I hope to attend the premiere of a
snowboarding movie that features an equal number of men and women, and someday I
will win some free schwag from that movie and not be asked to remove my bra for

I can hear what you’re thinking; “Dude! Who cares what people think? Just ignore
that crap, I do.” And you know what? You have a good point. But this is not a problem
that is going to go away if we ignore it, bury our heads in the sand ostrich-style,
and continue to tell ourselves that it doesn’t bother us. Changing the way we perceive
women’s snowboarding will benefit everyone. How? Well, here’s what Capita-sponsored
Canadian badass Jess Kimura had to say about it, in an
interview in Transworld Snowboarding
from November 2012:

“… The only way that I can possibly contribute to the overall progression of snowboarding
is doing tricks and making guys look at them and be like, “If that’s what a girl
can do, I gotta do better.” Guys are always going to have to be better than girls;
otherwise they feel like pussies. I can definitely contribute to pushing the level
in girls’ stuff, which pushes up the bottom level in men’s snowboarding. And I think
a lot of guys—regular dudes out there—feel like girls when they watch Travis Rice’s
stuff. But when they see someone who’s at a total disadvantage—a girl like me—they
can relate. And I hope that inspires people.”

While I internally wince when I hear Ms. Kimura equate the top of women’s riding
with the bottom level of men’s, I think she has an awesome point- encourage girls
to do better, to ride harder, to throw more tricks, and the whole of snowboarding
will improve.

If we can manage to change our perception of women athletes and start thinking of
them as athletes instead of just hot chicks trying to get guys’
attention, I think that might encourage more young girls to be involved in sports.

Check this excerpt from yet another
article from Transworld Snowboarding
(emphasis added):

“Our culture traditionally views strength as masculine and a small, frail body as
feminine. Girls have historically been discouraged from participating in athletic
activities and strength development,” Gentile explains. “Such stereotypes, formed
early in childhood, can influence behavior and limit women’s ability to express
their full potential.” This crucial fact means that women could be on a similar
skill level as men had they been given the opportunity at an earlier age or relieved
of such cultural pressures all together.

Do me a favor and read that last line again. Can you imagine what the snowboarding
world would be like if women were supported and inspired to ride just as hard as
men? Can you imagine what the world would be like if women were supported and inspired
to tread where men are typically sovereign (ie, sports)? The mind boggles.

Encouraging younger girls to snowboard can have a drastic effect on their self-confidence,
self-esteem, and overall health. We all know that being active is good for you,
but studies have proven that “regular physical activity can enhance girls’ mental
health, reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and make them feel strong and
competent.” (reference)
Involving girls in a snowboarding program will give them more opportunities for
physical, social, and intellectual development, and that, in turn, can lead to young
women with reduced risk of chronic disease, who do better academically, and have
greater leadership skills. (reference)

Bottom line, snowboarding is fun, and we are all out there to have a good time.
Why disparage women who want to participate? Here are my pleas, and I don’t think
I’m asking a lot: Mr. Hostynek, stop asking the ladies to throw their bras onstage.
Ladies, stop throwing your bras onstage. Absinthe Films, get more women riders featured
in your movies. Guys, encourage your sister, daughter, girlfriend, mother, wife
to get out there and be active, to get involved in sports, and don’t make derogatory
remarks about female athletes based on their looks. Girls, get out there, get active,
and be fearless! Go snowboarding!

4 thoughts on “You Can Leave Your Bra On”

  1. Well done, Erin. I’m grateful for the number of women we’re seeing speaking up in the various corners of society about his kind of crap. The fact that the message is coming from so many voices in so many places gives me hope.

  2. Thank you for talking about this. I am thinking so much more about things like this since having my daughter. She is so much more athletic than my husband and I ever were, even at 4 years old. We made the joke the other day that in the future she’d be hitting the slopes with Erin. As she has immediately picked up biking, scooters, we laugh about skateboards and snowboarding after that.

    I am trying to be more aware of the difficulties that we face as women. I have become a lot more vocal in previous years. But as a non-sport fan and non-athletically inclined person the difficulties we face as women in sports and athleticism is so foreign to me. Knowing that you are out there speaking out about this important point is wonderful. We have to push for the world we want, to open doors, and stand our ground for an equal place to participate.

  3. Erin, I couldn’t agree more. I’m a skier (I run, the leading online community for women skiers), and it’s very much the same in the ski world. I started the site 7 years ago to get away from conventional ski forums, which were pretty testosterone charged. Women were automatically perceived as beginners or intermediates, and were often talked down to or treated as sex objects. It’s amazing that this is still going on, especially when you see the incredible women out there. Thanks for taking a stand.

  4. So glad to see this post. My young daughter gets very frustrated when she’s not taken seriously as an athlete, whether on the slopes or in martial arts. Thankfully she has had some awesome role models so she has the confidence in herself and her potential to push back against the nonsense, but it is sad that she needs to waste the energy doing so. It is a soul suck she doesn’t need or deserve.

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