Just snowboard like a guy
Gender influences us all. Earlier this year I facilitated my first online class on Exploring Gender Biases. Gender bias, or sexism, involves any prejudice or stereotyping based on gender or sex. These biases can target all genders and can be either positive or negative. Biases can be conscious with individuals being aware of their prejudices, or unconscious with individuals being unaware of them. (If you want to understand your own unconscious biases you can take the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard University).
Many of these gender biases have been created as a result of gender stereotypes. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights a gender stereotype is a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. In teenagers these stereotypes can shape their self-perception, restrict their opportunities and impact their development. They send a message of what males and females should look like and how they are meant to behave.
A few stats about gender stereotypes and biases:
- A study released in 2017 by Science Journal found that at age 5, children seemed not to differentiate between boys and girls in expectations of “really, really smart”—childhood’s version of adult brilliance. But by age 6, girls were prepared to lump more boys into the “really, really smart” category and to steer themselves away from games intended for the “really, really smart.” Demonstrating that gendered ideas can be limiting for girls from at least six years old.
- A New Zealand study of females studying engineering at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) published in 2020 found that “Adolescent girls’ self-efficacy in their career in STEM, has strongly correlated with their mothers’ expectations for their success.” Revealing that parents’ gendered beliefs play a crucial role in how children perceive their own abilities.
- The United Nations published a global report in 2020 which found that “close to nine out of 10 men and women around the world, hold some sort of bias against women.” Indicating that a major shift is required to move away from discriminating gendered beliefs.
In my last blog post How I built confidence as a teen girl – perspectives of a 22 year old I shared how snowboarding enabled me to develop confidence. Nevertheless, as a female in a male-dominated sport I faced my own set of challenges as a result of gender stereotypes and biases.
My experience in snowboarding
I had coaches say to me that I could become a great snowboarder if I learnt how to snowboard like a guy. I also know of many fellow ski and snowboard athletes that have had similar experience with coaches. I felt the need to prove that I belonged in the male-dominated space. One example of this was when going through the terrain park I would often only perform tricks I knew I would not fall attempting. This meant that I was unable to push myself to try harder tricks. This was a result of not feeling comfortable in this environment.
I heard many comments including “you are pretty good for a girl” and from my male commentators “it is so much easier to win if you are a girl.” Compared to the male division, there were not as many competitors in the female division. But what if the space was more welcoming to females? Or what if instead of belittling female’s achievements we celebrated them? To even get to the point of competing there are many invisible barriers female snowboard athletes face to participate in snowboard competitions. So, no it is not “so much easier to win if you are a girl.” These invisible barriers are the result of gender stereotypes and bias that are embedded into our society.
Despite those negative experiences, I am finishing off writing this post from Queenstown Airport where I have just finished a weekend snowboarding as part of “SHE’LL BE RIGHT 2022” which highlighted and celebrated the females that make up New Zealand’s snowboard industry. It was such an inspiring weekend, and it just goes to show how important it is for women to be celebrated and given the opportunities to show what they can do.
Development has been made in smashing gender stereotypes and bias, however, there is still progress that needs to be made.
What can parents do about gender bias?
- Be aware of gender biases and your own bias – when we understand them we are able to counteract them.
- Support your teens in understanding gender bias – stereotypes are biases shape how teens view gender. Teens can learn from adults around them to recognise bias.
- Disrupt gender stereotypes – allow our girls to see women in all spaces and let them participate.
- Support our girls – mentoring programmes such as Rebel Starseeds and girls sporting programmes such as ‘Girls That Shred’ allow teens to be exposed to female role models. They can support them in navigating gender stereotypes and biases.
Juliette flying high at Cardrona in 2022. Shot by Amee Freeman.
Juliette during the filming of SHE’LL BE RIGHT at Cardrona in 2022. Shot by Amee Freeman.
Juliette, snowboarding like a girl, YEAH! Shot by Amee Freeman at Cardrona, 2022.
This month’s post is by Juliette Perera.
Juliette is a student in her final year of studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Education / Children and learning at AUT. She is passionate about gender equality and social justice and enjoys working with young people.
At AUT, Juliette is a Peer Mentor, who supports students in navigating university life and provides academic assistance. Juliette is also a qualified Ski and Snowboard instructor who has an immense passion for inspiring and empowering females in snow sports. She has created and coached a female freestyle snowboard program Girls That Shred.
In her spare time, you will find Juliette outside snowboarding, skiing, skating, or surfing.
About the author.