Girls Can Do Anything! (if they’re white)

Extreme Sports Editor, back in the day

Last night at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema I led the post-film discussion about The Women’s Adventure Film Tour a series of short films about women in adventure sports. The intention of the program was to celebrate women who push their bodies to their limits, follow outrageous dreams, and do anything they set their minds to.

But the not-so-hidden message I got from watching was that those things are only possible — for white women.

When, what seems like a lifetime ago, I edited extreme sports videos, the only women, white or otherwise, who showed up in the footage were girlfriends and wives. The only woman who, maybe, got any real screen time was Gabrielle Reece Hamilton, the Olympic volleyball player- turned-wife of big wave surfer Laird Hamilton — and that was to talk about Laird (these videos did not pass the Bechdel Test).

So, adventure films about white women are an improvement over adventure films about white men — which, I admit, have the occasional indigenous Hawaiian surfer or Sherpa mountain guide thrown — but both genres have a long way to go.

The name “Represent Editorial” emphasizes my commitment to diverse representation in media and the arts, as well as my acknowledgement that “representation” is more than just about diverse faces in an ad, crowd scene, or story. Representation is essential at every tier of the creative process — among writers, editors, publishers, and everyone else who has a hand in bringing an idea to life.

In the case of Adventure Sports, a more diverse film program requires not only more diverse films, but more diverse athletes, directors, producers, programmers and — maybe most importantly — diverse executives at sponsoring organizations like Honda and North Face.

At a time when we are fed a 24-7 menu of global disaster and injustice it is easy to feel like no one effort can make enough of a difference. But there is no question to me that when our world begins telling different stories, we will get a different world — and that those different stories will start with greater representation.

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