I had a fun piece about personal fashion in the works for tonight, but I’ve gotta clear my calendar because someone’s being a sexist asshole in the snow sports industry again. I’ve got a cocktail and Kate Nash playing, so let’s get into it.
Two years ago, LibTech introduced their first women’s products under the “Women’s Lib” campaign. I love gear made with a women’s R&D focus, and I love a cheeky nod to feminist theory, even in an advertising campaign. A year later, they added women’s skis to the mix, and I got to test out their Libstick 98 for a day. And while I have mixed feelings on the ski (stay tuned for a review), I really like that they value sustainable production processes, and that they do so because of a respect for workers’ rights, health, and safety.
So I was a little surprised that the same team that chose the “Women’s Lib” moniker also okayed these graphics on the Jamie Lynn Short Wide board:
So we’ve got Porno Gamora (y’all better be paying Marvel some royalties) kneeling in a coy little pose reminiscent of pinups, Playboy, and pornos with her nipples pointed STRAIGHT UP TO THE HEAVENS. And you might wonder, “Why would a brand put a naked lady on their gear? That surely can’t help them with sales.” But it’s giving me this marketing message:
“Buy this board and get your own weird little wood nymph. Me and this board are both docile and obedient. We’ll do whatever you want us to do. Buy me today and I’ll take you on the best ride of your life.”
And that would be a logical marketing message… if you were okay with being problematic. If the other side of your brand wasn’t called “Women’s Lib.” If you also didn’t spend the past two years trying to court me and other women as customers.
It’s objectification of women to sell products that are made by men, for men, with topsheets from a male artist. Sexualized advertising has always operated under the premise that if a man bought a certain product, he’d get a woman too as part of the exchange. Seriously, the first documented instances of sexualized advertising were in the late 1800s by cigarette brands who included trading cards of starlets in sexually provocative poses with every pack. And the theme has continued for over a century, at an increasing rate every year. Buy Tom Ford Cologne, get the body of a woman. Buy this jewelry, get a pair of women’s tits. Buy Post Its, get the body of a woman. Women are frequently headless (helps with the dehumanization) with bodies photoshopped beyond the laws of physics into utter impossibility to get the interest of men.
But those same ads are proven to turn women off. Unless the product is an extremely high price point luxury item, sexual advertising repels women customers. (We’re more tolerant of the idea that we’re an exquisite object vs. one that’s cheap). And studies have shown the more sexualized content women see in advertising and marketing, the more likely we are to self-objectify, feel shame and disgust with our bodies, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. And the 2011 documentary Miss Representation connects how sexualized media directly relates to underrepresentation in societal leadership roles. When LibTech puts these images on their boards, I take that as a message that their women-centric messaging is all bogus. I hear that they’re okay with making me uncomfortable in the ski community. I take that as they’re content with poorer societal standards for women.
So why call out LibTech when other brands and industries are just as bad? Because we’ve made a lot of progress in snowsports. My theory is that women in the snowsports community are largely well off, well educated, White, thin, and able bodied. We face less gender-based violence and discrimination because society believes and respects us more than marginalized women. I’ve only been skiing for 6 years, but I’ve seen a dramatic change in the way women are treated in skiing. Lynsey Dyer spoke up against Freeskier pillaging women’s social profiles for bikini shots for their “10 Hottest Women in Freeskiing.” She said “you’re not using my body for page hits that you can sell to advertisers.” And the entire industry has pivoted to annual feature lists of the “most inspiring” or “most influential” women in the sport. Freeskier still calls them “hot,” but the only media content they feature is ski videos. We’ve come so far that I’m not sure I know what The Blondes look like under their helmets and goggles. We killed off the Lange Girls. Burton dropped their Playboy boards. Praxis discontinued their “Face Down, Ass Up” topsheet for custom skis. Rossignol stopped doing the naked women topsheets and bases from the Scratch models.
We’ve seen shifts away from brands and businesses sexualizing women. Yet LibTech read the room and was like “yea yea, this is the one.” I guarantee Miss Green Goddess was the only woman in attendance at the meeting they made that choice.
I can just tell that the crusty musty dudes who would buy this board are going to find this and come for me. Why? Because sexualized products are proven to be most appealing to men with higher hostile sexism. In other words, it’s giving incel energy. So let’s get ahead of the trolls:
“jAmIe LyNn Is An ArTiSt!!! It’S aRt!!!!”
Every high school had that guy who drew mythical fantasy sexual partners because they lacked the social skills to do so in real life. Good for him turning that into a career. But they have a team of product people and marketing people who think deeply about graphics and how each option is perceived by the customer.
He paints other things. There were other options. The brand needs to have their tenets and standards. Same with all the shops that choose to stock it. (Personally, pretty shocked by Evo. They have a whole ass DEI team and somehow this cleared the bar.)
They stop being “just art” when they’re used to move products. Then they’re marketing assets.
“He’S bEeN dOiNg ThAt StYlE fOr DeCaDeS!!! iT’s A tRaDiTiOn!!!”
Some traditions have to die. My family’s been in the southern US since colonial days. It’s safe to say we let a lot of practices go, either by force or by choice, because they were fucked up. Lange Girls were a tradition. They ran for 40 years before the brand put the program out to pasture. Not all traditions need to live forever.
“iT’s JuSt A pIcTuRe Of A wOmAn. HeR bOdY’s NoT bEiNg SeXuAlIzEd!!!”
Your buddy who just commented “Boobs” really isn’t helping your case.
“iT’s JuSt A pIcTuRe. It’S nOt ThAt DeEp!!!”
See above about the number of sexualized images women see in a day and the mental health effects. Next!
“wE’lL jUsT mAkE a BoArD wItH a GiAnT dOnGeR oN iT aNd We’Ll Be EvEn!!!”
It doesn’t work like that. And it’s not the “dicks aren’t visually appealing” angle. We don’t really reduce you to your genitalia the way you do for us. But there has been a slow uptick in marketing and advertising content that sexualizes men in recent years. And it’s shown to have negative impacts on men, no matter how many times you swear it’s flattering or that you don’t care. I’m not interested in harming others, and I wish you’d return the courtesy.