It’s no surprise at Misadventures that surfing magazines have a history of erasing women from their pages, and the sport.
Last year, our very first Gender Representation Report, which tracks women’s representation in outdoors magazines across the board, revealed the sorry surfing media statistics: in the August 2014 issue of Surfing Magazine, only 9 images of women appear, as compared to 82 images of men, while July 2014’s Surfer included 11 images of women in comparison to 81 images of men. Neither magazine printed any articles written by women, and both listed only 4 women on staff. What’s worse, the few women pictured are part of advertisements, and so serve as bikini-clad eye candy instead of sources of surf inspiration.
What’s the impact of this lack of representation? In her fantastic article “Why Are Surf Magazines Erasing Women?”, published at The Establishment, Joanna Schroeder explains: at least 10% of surfers in the United States are women, and girls and young women are participating at even higher rates. But “something ominous happens to girls around age 13,” Schroeder reports. “They start dropping out of surfing in large numbers.” She investigates, and discovers:
“The message that a powerful, talented girl who has been surfing most of her life receives when she looks at surfing magazinesisn’t just ‘women don’t belong here’ but also ‘women and girls aren’t worth our time and effort.'”
In other words, the failure of magazines like Surfing and Surfer to represent women is discouraging girls from pursuing the sport into adulthood. Those girls who do soldier on confront an incredibly sexist media and industry as adults. As Schroeder explains, “Women who fit the mold of the sexy surf kitten often find more sponsorships…so women often consent to beauty shoots, rather than demanding to have their skills represented.”
The short-term impact of this sort of media strategy is that many people have a negative, and inaccurate, impression of women surfers. As one 51-year-old lifelong male surfer informed Schroeder: “To be blunt, guys want to see ‘rad shit’…and like it or not, guy surfers are more likely to get the shot.” Statistically, of course, that isn’t true, and Schroeder includes in her article a number of videos of women shredding surf to prove otherwise. But the media certainly makes it seems true and that’s where the long-term impact comes in. “The message that beauty trumps skill” and the simple erasure of the many, many women surfers who kick ass in the water on a regular basis has a huge impact on the surf scene as a whole:
“The bottom line is simple: surf media needs to change. Magazines like Surfer and Surfing are not only erasing the reality of women athletes from the sport, they’re actively telling the younger generation…that they don’t matter. And that’s not just bad for our girls, but for the future of the sport.”
As Schroeder points out, it’s up to “activist editorial” to change the media. She wonders, “Are these same conversations are happening in the editorial meetings of magazines like Surfer and Surfing? Do they realize that, in order for change to occur, they will have to take an activist stance and start featuring women surfers, even if it seems uncomfortable at first?”
Luckily, Misadventures does. We founded the magazine in large part because of how unhappy we were with surfing media in particular–and we don’t feel even remotely uncomfortable about featuring amazing women surfers. For starters, check out our interview with and dispatches from Jessie Tuckman, a U.K.-based competitive surfer and all-around badass, and then head into the archives to find all of the surfing articles, how-tos, and gear guides we’ve been sharing since the beginning.
Then subscribe to the print magazine, which will not only feature women surfers in the Summer 2016 issue, but will also get you out in the ocean. Yep, you heard me right: a three-issue subscription enters you to win a women’s-only surfing getaway with SwellWomen in Central America or Hawaii…because what would be sweeter than more women riding waves? And that’s what Misadventures is all about.