Casual sexism

Sometimes I read an online story about women and surfing that is so stupid and pointless and obviously sexist that I don't point it out or talk about it, because to highlight it only brings it traffic. But this morning I read one that is even more irritating than usual, because it's written by a woman and published on a website that situates itself as being for 'thinking surfers' and as promoting diversity.*

So the sexist story?

This morning I clicked on a link to The Inertia, which was promoting an article called 'Shit Surfer Girls Say'. This article was one of four highlighted in their regular bulk-email promotion, so the editor (or someone) had chosen it to be included. I guess they had decided it would draw traffic to their site (which is why I don't usually re-post this stuff). The article was a suggested script for one of those 'Shit _ Say' videos that were so popular following the 'Shit Girls Say' ones, which were, by the way hilarious. The original was hilarious because it was clever, respectful and astute. It wasn't about putting women down, but about laughing with them.

Funny, right? The second episode is funny too. It's funny to me because the guy isn't dressed in drag, he actually looks and carries himself like a woman. It's funny because the script doesn't play on stupid and overdone stereotypes about women and relationships, sex and their bodies. It's funny to me because girls I know really do love hummus. Girls I know do compulsively eat all the chips. Girls I know do say things that are contradictory. Girls I know do rummage through their handbag a lot. Girls I know do say "I had such a good sleep". And when I say 'girls I know', I am totally including myself in there.

However, the suggested script for 'Shit Surfer Girls Say', by Shelby Stranger, is not funny. It's not funny, because I have never heard any of my female friends who surf say any of those things. My friends have never said, 'That lifeguard was so hot. You should've gotten stuck in a rip', nor 'Does my wetsuit make me look fat?' They have most certainly never said, 'You should get a mermaid tattoo on your ankle. I wish I was a mermaid.' In fact, the only one on the list that I have heard someone say is, 'Is my mascara running? Do I have raccoon eyes?' and that was me, when I used to surf straight after finishing work and didn't take my makeup off before racing into the water. Sure, girls who surf talk about sex and dudes and other women and their own bodies - of course they do - but this script is not funny, astute, nor clever, and didn't make me feel as though Shelby Stranger was laughing with women who surf, but was getting cheap laughs by laughing at them. Like some cliched male-fantasy version of what women might say. And that's the most irritating bit of all: that a woman wrote this. Because none of my male friends would have written this. Because I honestly don't think that The Inertia would have published this if it had been written by a guy. No way!

And I realise that some websites use stories like this to generate traffic (and I realise I have now responded exactly the way they wanted me to, by generating further links to their site), but that's not really a good enough reason for promoting it. The Inertia publishes many good stories by and about women (and men) that discuss experiences women who surf have, topics they're interested in, and advocating against sexism. But when they publish trite, unfunny articles like the one discussed here, the editors of this site aren't actually behaving in the ways they advocate for other surfers to.

*Although maybe it 'used to'. I just went to the site to re-read their 'about' section', but now it's cut right back and doesn't make any mention about this, so the site might have changed their focus. Also, they no longer have that tagline about being for 'thinking surfers' anywhere obvious.


  1. Right on, Rebecca. I decided to ignore it; thanks for saying what needed to be said.

  2. Thanks Cynthia. Yeah, I don't usually like to rag on other women, but this was just, well, not cool. But even more than that, I'm disappointed that The Inertia published it. I don't really understand why they did, beyond an attempt at cheap and easy traffic.

    I think the lack of people commenting and contributing ideas (thank goodness!) probably says quite a lot.

  3. There is a difference between the comically insightful (that which shines an uncomfortable light on our habits and unconscious attitudes) and funny (that which is funny.)

    "Will this sunscreen make me break out?"

    "OMG…He’s awesome.. Smart, funny, successful… but he cant’s surf! It’s over."

    "I think my butt just ate my bikini."

    I've heard guys say that first one.
    That second one isn't funny, but I have to like it.
    And while that third one may or may not ever have been uttered by a surfer, it's hilarious.

    Maybe she wrote that piece in fifteen minutes half asleep after getting a desperate midnight call asking for some quickie web-zine filler?

  4. I also liked The Inertia better when it was about thinking surfers. What happened to that idea?!

  5. Yeah, I get what you're saying Toddy. Funny is funny, and I am notorious for laughing heartily at bad jokes while others look on confused - an embarrassingly cheap laugh.

    And like I said, I usually wouldn't even have pointed this post out, and that I think The Inertia usually publishes interesting, thoughtful stuff.

    But, whether it's filler or not, this one just grated.

  6. Well, either way it's not funny.


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