Friday, June 14, 2013

Of All Things, Why Nyjah?

 I know, I know, I'm showing up extremely late to this party. Nyjah Huston's comments in his Thrasher interview have been talked about the world over. At first, I didn't think too much of it- Nyjah said something that I thought was ignorant. It wasn't the first time something like this had happened and it wasn't the last, and on top of that, I don't care much about Nyjah besides acknowledging that he's very skilled with a skateboard. I kept seeing the quote, "I personally believe that skateboarding is not for girls at all. Not one bit." And so all was right with the world, in that everyone had a reason to hate on Nyjah again. Hooray!

After a while I remembered that I write a skateboarding blog and figured that this is the kind of stuff that I should probably be talking about, so I looked into it a little and saw the full dialogue. The part that everyone is up in arms about is led into as follows:

"Phelps: The women do the downhill stuff because they think it's like sidewalk surfing. They don't realize how dangerous it really is.
Nyjah: You could get way more served up skating downhill than you could skating a ten-stair rail. Some girls can skate but I personally believe that skateboarding is not for girls at all. Not one bit."

Wait, did anyone else just see the thing that Jake Phelps prompted Nyjah with?

So everyone is mad at  Nyjah because he implied that girls can't skate for some reason or another. But Jake Phelps implies that women are too stupid to understand the risk associated with downhill skating while also suggesting that women shy away from street skating for being... I don't know... Not sidewalk surfing? I don't fully understand what Phelps' reasoning is in thinking that 'sidewalk surfing' is somehow more preferable to girls than 'skateboarding.' In  any case, that's way more insulting, and it directly prompted Nyjah to say something stupid. I don't agree with what Nyjah said and I'm not going to defend it, but if we honestly look at his options upon hearing what Jake Phelps said, they were:
A) Say something about how women don't belong in skateboarding and being labeled a sexist hater by everyone (which he did).
B) Laughing uncomfortably and have everyone to make fun of how awkward he is for refusing to comment, and probably accusing him of being afraid to reply in the interest of not losing sponsors.
C) Told Phelps off for being sexist, at which point most Thrasher fans would have had to remove their lips from Phelps' butt cheeks so they could give him hell for disrespecting The Phelper.
I don't mean to single out Jake Phelps, who has done a lot for skateboarding and for the most part seems to be a good guy. In fact, my aim is to stop singling people out all together- our judgement of people's words has to be independent of how cool we think they are. What would this world be like if we had just forgotten about how much of a narcissistic cheeseball Kanye West was when he interrupted Taylor Swift that one time?

... Oh, right. I guess we did that.

But just because we've been doing it doesn't mean it's right.

This discussion isn't about rappers, it's about those things that most rappers flagrantly disrespect, women. Where do girls stand on this issue? I wasn't sure, so I asked a girl. She had this to say:

"(Jake Phelps) said, "The women do the downhill stuff because they think it's like sidewalk surfing. They don't realize how dangerous it really is." What's that even supposed to mean? That men understand what downhill skating is and women don't? That we don't understand we could get hurt from doing it? No, we understand perfectly. Some of us actually LIKE the thrill of downhill skating and we fully understand the possible consequences. Stop overgeneralizing."

Huh. So she thought the same thing. It's almost like women are able to think as well as men are.

So this brings up an interesting topic, which is that of whether or not skateboarders are portrayed accurately in skate media. The aforementioned girl (who used to skate, but quit for reasons shockingly unrelated to wishing skateboarding was more like sidewalk surfing) is a good friend of mine, and when I asked her if she ever felt singled out for being a girl in skateboarding, she said, "Noooo. If anything, people seemed to respect me more for being a female skater. But I think a lot of the guys just liked having a girl around to hang out with." If that's true though, why all the hate?

To recap, girls seem capable of evaluating the risks of skating and still choose to do it because it's fun. Most skaters find it refreshing to have girls come skate with them. So what's the problem? Maybe if we read Nyjah Huston's apology it will clear some things up about what he meant.

"I want to apologize for the remarks I made in Thrasher about female skateboarders," he wrote. "What I meant was that skateboarding is a gnarly sport, in general, and as someone who knows the wrath of the concrete all too well, I don't like the thought of girls (like my little sister) getting hurt. My words were an inaccurate reflection of who I am; more importantly, they were disrespectful and I genuinely regret them."     -ESPN

Hmm. This comment smells weird. Resident girl expert? What do you have to say about this?

"As for his apology, that's bullshit. And also fairly sexist because he implies that women are too fragile to handle "the wrath of the concrete" as he puts it. By mentioning his little sister he (very obviously) tries to garner empathy from female audiences, but his attempts don't feel genuine at all."

Yup, that sounds about right. I think that the conversation between Phelps and Huston was far from reflective of how most skaters feel about girls in the skateboarding world. And if there's anything that we've learned about Nyjah, it's that his career is a perfect example of how NOT to get people to like you as a pro skater. Even before he opened his mouth, he was mechanically annihilating contests for money and notably not putting out video parts or being creative. Most skaters hate that jock mentality. In front of cameras, he's also been pretty mellow, but more noticeably, sort of oddly distant, as if he didn't really care if he was skating or not. So why should we care about what this guy has to say? Maybe this quote from Mimi Knoop, well-known women's skateboarding advocate can tell us why:

"What bothers me most about it is that there are younger girls out there who maybe don't have the same perspective I have," Knoop said. "I know Alana Smith really looks up to Nyjah and I know it probably broke her heart to read that."  -ESPN

We should care because some people DO look up to Nyjah. We have to realize that whether we like it or not, what Nyjah says and does has an impact on this next generation's attitude on a woman's place in skateboarding. Most people range from indifferent to supportive, but some people still want girls to stay in the proverbial kitchen. Nyjah isn't the only one- It's other pro skaters, interviewers, and even some of us at the amateur level. We need to avoid getting outraged by such comments and instead discredit them if we want to send the message that girls can skate if they want to. As we discuss this with younger skateboarders, it needs to be noted that Jake Phelps isn't necessarily good at what he does because he's smart, but because he's good at getting a rise out of people, whether that be in interviews or elsewhere. When we look at what Nyjah has to say, we need to remember that he grew up under a tyrannical father who was strictly Rastafarian, and Rastafari is a religion that believes that women are subordinate to men. So maybe he isn't a good example to follow for people who think otherwise. And lastly, we need to understand that there's nothing wrong with liking and supporting female skaters. I know most of us agree that women should be able to skate, but the fact is we turn around and refuse to buy pro model boards from females. I'm not just saying that by the way, Ed Templeton discusses the challenges of selling Elissa Steamer's boards in her episode of Epicly Later'd.
We need to cut that out. There are plenty of female skateboarders that are plenty fun to watch, and as proof, I will post one of my favorite parts from any guy or girl, Marisa Dal Santo's part in "Strange World"

... Also, that face she makes right before she starts that awesome line at 1:09 is priceless.

1 comment:

  1. I sooo agree with you. I am a girl skater and PROUD of it!!!! I am 100% not a fan of him. I skate every single day and to show how WRONG people like him are. Thank you so much for this post.