Yesterday I had an epiphany about subcultures and youth rebellion. This is a topic I haven’t thought deeply on for some time, compared to when I wrote my Masters thesis on female skateboarders as cultural producers in a male dominated subculture. I was reminded of my research when a PhD student reached out to me, having tracked down my thesis and eBook via one of his research participants for a project discussing skateboarding and the Olympics. If you are in the loop, you’ll know that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan is including skateboarding as a competitive sport.
Obviously, this inclusion of skateboarding has caused all kinds of debate around authenticity and what it truly means to be a real “skateboarder.” Many of the older skateboarders condemn the Olympics, especially if they are anti-competition or perhaps began skating in the punk era of the 80s when they had jock rivals to combat. Other more youthful skateboarders seem to embrace it since the majority of these youth wholeheartedly pursue sponsorship and accept that being judged at contests is part of a successful skateboarding “career.”
The funniest realization for me is that many of those who claim to believe that skateboarding is an act of rebellion, and is some kind of hardcore, masculine, anti-mainstream activity tend to be white males. Their identity as members of a subculture is actually the most frail and vulnerable because anything they do as “rebellion” is really just entitlement. They are typically the most privileged, and more likely to be able to break the rules without immediate threat of mockery or even death if you are not white and contest authority in places like the U.S.
If a skateboarder has to be countercultural, then the only true skateboarders are those of colour, those who are female, or those who are GLBTQ and of alternative gender. Their participation contests the rights of the white heterosexual male majority to dominate the subculture. For example, I finally watched the full-length feature skateboarding video of all-women skaters of great diversity, Quit Your Day Job sponsored by Mahfia TV and what an awesome treat that was. Female skaters are still doing it for themselves and by themselves, and I love it!
I have to agree with her. The individual skateboarder can take or leave the Olympics, but for those like female skateboarders who rarely receive support from within the subculture, the Olympics could be an opportunity to make a living off of what they are most passionate and skilled to do.
The best case scenario for skateboarding in the Olympics is for the male champion to be some super soft-spoken, gentle guy who happens to totally rule and just destroys the competition, not for the glory but just because he’s the best. And then the same goes for the female champion, but she’s allowed to be articulate and forthright. Yay! No matter what, there are going to be skateboarders who mock the Olympians. In fact, Lowcard magazine is even making some money off of being non-Olympian with their merchandise. So for an Olympian to be remotely respected they have to be the best, in both their character and their abilities and that means quiet humility. Skateboarding doesn’t necessarily need the Olympics, skateboarding just needs people of quality.
As well, I love the campaign… “Men of quality support gender equality,” or similarly, “Men of quality do not fear equality,” etc. Whenever I see men in the midst of protest with such declarations, especially in light of the great exposure to sexual abuse and assault that the #metoo social media sharing has resulted in, I feel encouraged. The imbalance and injustice that has occurred for so long due to fear that sharing is futile and that the sexual predator will receive no retribution has to end. Rape culture must be condemned by all.