“But like, if you deflower a girl man, man, you’re the man. No one, no one, has the power to do that again,” muses the character Telly, in the opening scene of the genre defining skate flick, Kids.
With this charming line in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine why the subculture from which Harmony Korine and Larry Clarke (the film’s creators) drew their inspiration has gained a reputation for being less than welcoming to anyone falling outside of the scene’s hypermasculine ideal.
Rather than gaining the acceptance of a male-dominated culture that can be hostile to their participation, women and nonbinary skaters have been using social media to build their own infrastructure and support their peers, who have often been excluded from the narrative of mainstream skateboarding.
“Talking to skaters from all over the place via Instagram has been really fun and motivating,” says Betty Wright who runs the Galway based skatefeeks Instagram page for “queers and girls”.
“I love the fun and creativity of skating, as well as meeting people I wouldn’t have otherwise. The sense of community is really amazing,” Wright tells me.
“I was always too afraid to start, and I’d think girls couldn’t do it because I’d never seen any girls in any of the edits or films I’d watch. I was so nervous when I started going to skate parks, but finding other girls in Ireland who did it through Instagram made me less nervous,” says Jodie Galvin, a Limerick skater.
As the skills of skating can be honed in socially distant solitude, the pandemic provided the perfect environment for Galvin to find her feet in skateboarding last summer.
“I would say skating saved my life. I don’t think I would have made it through 2020 alive or in a good place without it,” Galvin says.
Old media has been playing catch up to the Instagram explosion of all-girl skate gangs – last year HBO aired the six-part series Betty, based on the 2018 film Skate Kitchen which followed a group of Gen-Z skater girls.
The series title, ‘betty’, refers to a derogatory term for women thrown around at American skateparks – but does this outright misogyny exist in the Irish scene?
“The misogyny shows up in covert ways. When I’ve personally experienced misogyny I’m aware the person is not present in their behaviour, I’m almost certain they are unaware they are acting harmfully,” says Wright, reflecting on her days spent perfecting tricks in the Irish scene.
“I can see where it comes from and how most times the person acts out of complete naivety. I can acknowledge these things while still believing each person has a responsibility to be a better person and be considerate to those around them,” Wright continues.
Galvin has actually experienced supportive skater boys: “You would see a lot of gatekeeping online in the skate community where they think girls aren’t allowed or a girl is a poseur until she proves herself otherwise, but that hasn’t been my experience here in Limerick,” She initially felt intimidated by the prospect of joining in and skating, she says.
“I’d land the wimpiest trick ever and all the boys would explode with cheers,” she laughs.
A shared obstacle facing Irish skaters of all genders is the lack of infrastructure compared to what other countries with a more established skateboarding culture may have, and both Wright and Galvin are keen to draw attention to this.
“Dublin and Cork have some nice parks but it could be so much better. Galway is lacking – fingers crossed we get our first concrete park this year,” says Wright.
“I think more indoor infrastructure would be better,” Galvin says. “The only one we have in Limerick closed down and it makes it difficult to get out and skate in bad weather.”