Words by Emily Wilkins
Nikki van Dijk is a great surfer. Yet here we go again, another athlete taking the well trod path to Stab Magazine’s door, and playing into the hands of sex stereotyping.
So what’s the draw? After all you don’t regularly see the pro snowboarding ladies getting their jackets off in order to pay the bills as a pro/model. Nor are there magazines like Stab that are so heavily reliant on the female body, to support it. And why don’t we see the same controversy over men doing the same thing? Remember when we saw Kelly getting down to his birthday suit for the ESPN Body Issue, way before Stephanie Gilmore and Coco Ho did the same. He did not receive nearly so much criticism, and his nakedness was not seen as a threat to the image of men’s surfing. Yet when it comes to girls and surfing, it would seem that bums and bikinis are an integral part of the same parcel. This is the image that we have a problem with.
Nobody forces women to frolic under a waterfall before scrutinising bright lights and cameras. And likewise no one is forced to look. Yet for many people this is just not on. Strong and fierce women have gone before us and have fought to create a place in the world for women to compete and be taken seriously as surfers for surfing’s sake, not as objects of voyeurism. This image however, sometimes too extreme and far removed from what many women enjoy about being feminine.
On a similar thread the very concept of sport is traditionally affiliated with values like strength and competitiveness, values that are shared by masculinity. And so often sports women find themselves in the precarious position of straddling masculine values while trying to maintain or even redefine aspects of femininity. To say it’s complicated would be an understatement and most people are content to have an opinion one way or the other without the mention of the ‘F’ word …feminism haha!
But we digress away from Nikki van Dijk and Stab Magazine’s love of surf girls. If we did not know that Nikki happens to rip in the water, this video would be in no way related to surfing. But we do, and for this reason her position as a role model is inescapable and images like this are neither progressive nor useful to our aspiring generation of young surfers. As for Stab, its representation of women could not be further from that of most surf chicks. But is that the problem? These guys are milking a system where sex sells, in fact they’re bolstering it further. And yes, if there were no girls (at all) like Nikki, or magazines like Stab, perhaps the culture of gender stereotyping in women’s surfing would fade to dust. But that ain’t gonna happen without some serious culture shifting and that doesn’t come from finger pointing, it comes from all of us.