Using sex, and more specifically, the female form, to sell products is one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book, but you’d think in these times of supposed equality and respect for women, that it might have dwindled somewhat. But not in snowboarding it would appear.
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given the way that women tend to be portrayed in the snowboarding media – predominantly as eye candy – but I’m always amazed at the number of new boards that emerge each year sporting graphics that quite blatantly objectify women.
What’s even more surprising is that it’s totally at odds with apparent efforts by the snowboarding media and certain brands over the past few years to recognise, represent and cater to the industry’s female contingent better. These companies seem to reach out to women with one hand, offering female specific products, media channels, and even the odd female team rider, and then slap them in the face with the other, with sexist advertising and degrading graphics on their boards.
Here are some of the worst culprits…
Sims – Fader 2003
Back in the dark ages of 2003 Sims managed to get away with putting a topless image of porn star Jenna Jameson on their Fader snowboard, along with a series of other glamour models posing seductively. Classy eh?
Burton – Love 2009
Six years later Burton featured Playboy centrefolds on its, equally tacky, Love series. While they stopped short of showing any full on boob-age, they were still the kind of images that belong on the top shelf rather than the top sheet of a snowboard. Needless to say the boards didn’t go down very well (not like that) and there were protests to have them banned.
Burton – Custom Restricted 2014
Undeterred by the offence caused by the Love series five years previously, Burton decided to roll out the scantily clad ladies again for the 2014 restricted version of their ever-popular Burton Custom, which featured blurred images of swimwear models posing seductively on the beach. Admittedly not quite as risqué, but still pretty disrespectful nonetheless.
They must have decided that female objectification had become more acceptable in our increasingly liberal and “progressive” society, or perhaps they’d just run out of ideas? As Burton is hardly renowned for its creative graphics, let’s assume it’s the latter.
The fact that the boards were only available in certain shops just made them seem all the more seedy, as if they were some kind of illicit porn or sex toy. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the blurred design looks like it’s being viewed through the opaque plastic cover of a top shelf magazine?
Rome – Artifact 2009
It may not picture the slightest trace of naked female flesh but the 2009 Rome Artifact manages to be even more offensive than the ones that do, with its neon light strip club graphics and “LIVE NUDE GIRLS” or “BENT OVER BABES” emblazoned on the base. Seriously?
Reprobate – Tap Her
I had to do a double take when I saw this board in the window of a snowboard shop in Morzine. Not so much because of the graphic, as it’s hardly unusual to see a semi clad woman gracing the topsheet of a snowboard, but more because of the name. Personally, as a woman, I find the expression “I’m going to tap her” pretty offensive, but given the brand name, I guess that’s their objective. Fortunately their puerile attempt to appeal to snowboarding’s laddish contingent appeared to fail, as I’ve never seen or heard of them since.
Lib Tech – Jamie Lynn Phoenix
I have to confess that I feel a little conflicted with this one, as I actually really like the graphics on the Jamie Lynn series of Lib Tech boards. The images are more abstract and arty than the gratuitous lads mag style “artwork” seen on some other boards and I think they can legitimately be considered works of art as opposed to mindless sexism.
Lib Tech – Deflower 2014/15
Jamie Lynn has a real thing for the voluptuous blue nude, and here she is again on his 2014/15 signature board, except this time with no head, super-sized nipples and a flower not quite covering her lady bits. I’m sure Germaine Greer would have a lot to say about this image, and the fact that it’s called the Deflower makes it hard to refute any allegations of sexism. As I said before, I like Jamie Lynn and his designs for Lib Tech, but I think I’d probably have to side with Germaine on this one.
Bataleon – Camel Toe 2013/14 (limited edition)
Well done Bataleon, we see what you did there. You’ve got to admire their audacity, but the graphics on this board are wrong on so many levels. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t stop it being pretty degrading to women, and er, transgenders.
Yes – Great Boobs
Yes managed to justify decorating this snowboard with nothing but, pretty fake-looking, tits by donating the proceeds to help breast cancer survivors “experience the life-changing effects of snowboarding through Retreat Yourself camps in Colorado”. While I commend cause, it seems like a pretty tasteless way of going about it.
Gnu – Pickle Stallion 13/14
A couple of years ago Gnu eventually hit back at all this flagrant sexism on behalf of the ladies with the delightfully tongue-in-cheek Pickle Stallion, which features naked male models in ludicrous poses, on skis no less. Their modesty is protected by pixelated strips, along with their faces, which are obviously of no interest to us girls when there’s a naked torso on display.
It’s a great parody that manages to subvert the notion of sexual objectification and ridicule the offenders. The strategically positioned banana logo is a particularly nice touch.
Lobster Jib Board STD
The Helgasons are hardly renowned for being saintly and subtle so it’s no surprise that their range of Lobster snowboards feature some pretty controversial graphics. However, last year’s special edition Jib Board STD was offensive even by their standards. Apparently the board carried a safe sex message to the kids that “STDs will fuck you up”, but that wasn’t enough to prevent it from being banned in several shops. I’m not sure it’s been proven that you can catch genital teeth from sleeping around though…
Union Danny Kass bindings – 12/13
Snowboards aren’t the only culprits. Boobs have even made it onto bindings thanks to Union and Danny Kass. At least the modesty of one of the pair, of bindings, is protected by a little T-shirt, although, as it bears the logo “We Make Party” I’m not sure whether that makes it any less chauvinistic…
Flux RK Visuals bindings 2015/16
And it looks like Flux have gone one step further by featuring a close up of a woman’s crotch and thighs on their RK Visual bindings for next season. Awesome.
DC Ply 2012/13, Nitro Addict 2014/15, Capita DOA (most of them), Salomon Man’s Board (all of them) … The list of sexist snowboards goes on and on…
However, none are as bad as the Anti Hero Allen Before & After skateboard deck…
I guess they do say that snowboarding borrows a lot from skateboarding. Perhaps sexist graphics are just another example?
I’m not a raving feminist or feel personally affronted by any of these designs, (ok, maybe some) but what does make me uncomfortable is the fact that they are representative of this male dominated industry, and the issues associated with that. How will women ever attain equal recognition in snowboarding, be that with prize money, funding or sponsorship, when we’re still being presented as nothing more than boobs on boards.
At the end of the day, the market is driven by consumers, and these kind of graphics wouldn’t continue to emerge year after year if people weren’t buying them. So come on guys, show us some respect. Female shredders want to be taken seriously as riders, and not as eye candy to decorate your snowboards and the pages of magazines. There are loads of rad graphics out there that display a lot more depth and imagination, so why not leave the pictures of boobs and bums on the bedroom walls of teenage boys and get yourself a grown-up snowboard. And besides, if you want to impress a girl on the slopes, riding around with sexist images emblazoned on your snowboard is probably the worst way to go about it.
What do you think of these boards, and the representation of women in snowboarding generally?