UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"You're doing it wrong" : skateboarding, gender and the right to the city Gray, Kerria


My research focuses on skateboarding as a youthful and often gendered means of negotiating public and cultural space. Much of the academic literature sees the act of skateboarding as having transgressive potential in relation to public space. I use this body of work as a starting point from which to explore how class, race, sexuality and especially gender complicate the seemingly progressive relationship between skateboarding and public space. How do those publics who have struggled and continue to struggle for power, safety, and mobility in the public sphere (with a focus on women and non-binary people) engage with this struggle through their participation in skateboarding? And through what means are women and non-binary skaters creating space for themselves within the homogenous and sometimes exclusionary culture of skateboarding itself? Framed through theories of public space (Lefebvre, 1991; Borden, 2001; Mitchell, 1995; Wilson, 1992; Day, 2007) and youth, gender, and resistance (Beal, 1995), my paper explores the contradictory ways that skateboarding both reproduces and provides a means to resist hegemonic discourses. Via an analysis of 10 interviews with skateboarders in Vancouver, BC, a number of media interviews of professional woman skateboarders accessed online, and field observations, I analyze how non-dominant identities find belonging in skateboarding and how skateboarding affects their interactions in and with public space. The women and non-binary skateboarders I spoke with and researched had all at some point overcome external and internalized narratives about women’s limitations when it comes to physical ability and risk, as well as about women’s legitimacy as skateboarders. In conclusion I find that women and non-binary skateboarders negotiate belonging in public space through the use of a variety of gender presentations, the creation of female-only and female-run spaces, the seeking out of female role models, and through the creation and consumption of skateboarding media for and by women.

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