Lately I’ve had a few friends send me links in regards to the Brujas, with features from Vogue to the New York Times! I’ve been following them for awhile, and the thought of this crew of primarily Latina and Black female skateboarders in New York, articulating many of my thoughts from my decade-old thesis paper (Female Skateboarders and their Negotiation of Space and Identity) warms my heart.
When I wrote the thesis in 2003 I was part of the early formations of the Montreal female skate crew called the Skirtboarders, which was essentially Caucasian women (with the exception of a First Nations woman, and a teen from Mexico) from a variety of social backgrounds and education. The Skirtboarders produced several zines called “Armpit” (edited by Erika Dube), and movies and website (directed by Mathile Pigeon). The crew is still going strong and there are several very talented sponsored riders, including Annie Guglia.
While the Brujas do not appear to have a high level of skateboarding skill, they’ve got the feminist theory particularly around the history of skateboarding being male-dominated, their right to participate and occupy public space, and criticism of the social expectations for women to be on the margins and be flawless rather than daring and active, available to them. Just as I was driven and determined to skateboard in protest of mainstream society and mainstream skate culture, the Brujas have the additional motivation of contesting traditional roles as Black women and Latinas. It’s all very exciting and encouraging. I actually respect them more for not being total rulers, filming hand-rails and flip tricks proving their worth along the lines of pro sport. There are plenty of incredible pro female skaters who can fill that role, as seen on mahfia.tv and the Girls Skate Network.
These days, my desire to be part of an all-female crew has waned. I’m still affiliated with the Majestic Unicorn Motorcycle Club because there are a few young riders who are still excited about it, but I kind of find it all a bit comical since it was initially intended to poke fun at our male counterparts vying to “be patched” by local clubs.
Instead, I get excited about lone wolfs. My mom sent me a video called Stone featuring an older woman named Heather Lawson from Nova Scotia who is Canada’s only female restoration stone mason (cutter and carver). This woman is hardcore, and a self-proclaimed “chisel whore” as she covets and collects old chisels for her craft. Lawson describes how she entered the profession as the token female at a trade school where no one expected her to last, how she forged on in spite of the attitude from the grisly old men deemed “experts,” and how this desire to succeed was not driven by a feminist doctrine but rather simply a desire to do what she loved.
What appeals to me most about Lawson is that she is her authentic self. She likes being worn out, with worn out equipment, surrounded in dust. She likes having muscles, and relying upon herself to cut and haul great slabs of stone and transform it into sculpture or leave it be. Lawson acknowledges that promoting women’s rights turned out to be a nice side effect of her and other women in various trades just doing it for themselves. I think that is very honest and very cool. She states, “At the end of the day, you prove you can do it by doing it.”
In the past I’ve had different motives inspiring me to take up and pursue all kinds of activities, most of it genuine with the occasional moment of being sidelined by guys and wanting to appeal to them. My brothers got me into snowboarding around 1988, and it was exciting being one of few females at the time pursuing the sport and being “cool.” Then there was skateboarding and motorcycling, where I got to experience being part of girl gangs. Nowadays, with my time being more limited and juggling work that is both fulfilling and exhausting, I simply want to feel confident and content in my path.
As interesting it is to justify one’s actions based on theory, and to connect oneself to a history of pioneering women, creating a context for your pursuits, sometimes it’s okay to just do what you love, no questions, no comments, no tagging, no selfies, and simply be.