If you Google ‘Cindy Whitehead’ you may come across the dark-haired feminist entrepreneur in hot pink, behind The Pink Ceiling. But that’s not the Cindy I’m talking about today. This Cindy Whitehead was one of the top-ranked US female skateboarders of the 1970’s, when she was but a teenager.
Cindy may no longer skate pro, but what she has been up to is supporting the hell out of the next up-and-coming international female skaters, with her brand and blog, Girl Is NOT A 4 Letter Word (GN4LW) Teenage girls who are are performing on world-class scales, in bowls and on vert ramps, rivalling their male counterparts. Which is a big freakin deal in a sport and culture that has historically been sooo male-dominated.
If girls (or anyone for that matter) don’t feel comfortable in their setting, they are less likely to commit, progress and achieve. Cindy and GN4LW are working to normalise the idea of girl skaters, and the idea that girls can be GOOD skaters. The more positive female role models there are to present to young girls, the broader their imaginations will stretch about what they can do and be. I know that when I was growing up I was exposed to a brilliant girls’ magazine called Chick, and its pages featured a handful of talented girl skaters, showing me it could be done. Unfortunately, outside of the pages, in my real life, I was surrounded only by boy skaters, and the idea of failing in front of them instilled a little too much fear (along with, ya know, the fear of physical harm). And fear is the enemy of progress.
From my small experiences of being a newbie in front of roller derby girls, Chicks in Bowls girls, and the tutors of OnBoard Skate School, I can easily acknowledge that positive, uplifting female encouragement can make all the difference for female progression in sports. Perhaps I’ve just run into some good teachers, or maybe it’s that they speak the same language as me, and can get inside my head because they live in a similar world to me. Either way, positive female role-models will forever be important in the journeys of both girls and boys.
And Cindy is just that. She was recently inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame by Joan Jett (YUP!), has spoken about her famous open skate down a closed highway and general doing-what-you-want-ness to TedxYouth in Santa Monica, has created badass limited edition skateboards with charitable benefits with Californian board company Dusters, and is supporting female skaters on the daily through her work with GN4LW.
Oh AND she and her photographer husband have just had a book published last month titled It’s Not About Pretty: A Book About Radical Skater Girls, which is exactly what it says it is. A book that shows girls that other girls skate and that skating is fun. While some gutsy bright sparks don’t need to be shown that something can be done before they give it a go, there can be a lot of negative language for girls to wade through before they get that level of confidence up to give something scary a go. The book of course also celebrates the talented young things who are already smashing through their own glass ceilings, and doing ‘epic shit’, as Cindy would say.
The popularity of skateboarding with girls and women has been growing significantly over some years now, and while I’m only just learning how amazing it has become since I last paid attention, I’d like to list some of my other fave female-skating discoveries before rounding off this post:
Thrusher, all-girl skate crew from Melbourne, started by a coupla Kiwis
MEOW, adorable and kooky female skate brand
She Shreds Australia, all-girl skate crew from Tasmania
Local girl-only skate lessons with OnBoard Skate School
In my day I had Chick magazine to inspire and motivate, and these days, where magazines have moved online, girls instead have Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word. So here’s to Cindy Whitehead! Talented skateboarder, inspirational speaker and writer, and badass role-model for today’s young girls
Do the scary thing and have FUN!