As a lone female in a skatepark full of men, you stand out. They make comments. They laugh. They criticize. But most upsetting is that harassment and unwanted advances are encouraged when you are a singular women around a large groups of men.
My last visit to the skate park I encountered an inline skater. He immediately began to egg me on. Coming up to me constantly, trying to get me to perform tricks I’m clearly not comfortable with, or capable of, at my skill level. When I refused, he would not back down. It was like arguing with a second grader who was mad he wasn’t getting what he wanted, so he just kept coming back.
Ughhh. Flashbacks of elementary school come back to when you tell someone a boy is picking on you: “oh, it just means they like you.”
Trying not to go it alone again, I asked a coworker to come with me to the skate park the other day. I was super excited to have the company. But, I’m there for not even ten minutes when the same bully starts up again. This time he’s more aggressive about his intentions. He makes comments such as, “I know you have one between your legs, but don’t be a pussy about dropping in today.” I flatly told him his rude and vulgar comment wasn’t appreciated. He laughed it off and apologized.
Later on, he starts to “reassure me” after I wiped out, by touching my arm to ask if I’m okay. He does this two more times. Each time I pull my arm away. The third time I was sitting on a ramp and he touches my knee. I jump up and skate away. Meanwhile, there are about thirty other men at the skate park. All of them witnessing this, none of them doing anything. If nothing else I heard a few snickering from the other side of the bowl.
Of course I could have just told him to fuck off and leave me alone. I could have scream and yelled. But then, I’m the bitch. I am the one causing problems. I am the one that has to worry about this incredibly persistent male’s retaliation, and what that looks like — because there would most certainly be some sort of “punishment” for getting serious about leaving me alone.
I’m not sure what that looks like for him. Maybe he would call me names. Maybe he’s an innocent guy who’s a bit misguided. But, I don’t know. I don’t. And that’s the scary part.
So at the end of the day, I smile, I ignore, I try to move away. I practice avoidance techniques similar to dogs, so I can continue about my day and just try to skate.
In an awesome update, Burlington, VT Parks and Recreation saw this posted and did something! Together we are in the process of creating advertised women’s skate nights at the skate park this upcoming summer! Furthermore, I will be working with the city to help them educate city officials on street harassment to make both the skatepark and city safer for women. Thank you for publishing my story, Offbeat Home!
Do you have tips or advice for being the only female at the skate park? How do you handle the pressure, the bullying, and the sexism?