When Olive Bowers picked up an issue of Tracks magazine while at a friend's house, she was not amused. As a surfer, the 13-year-old Australian was disappointed to discover that this self-proclaimed "Surfers' Bible" not only failed to feature many women among its pages, but also that those who did appear were rarely "surfing or even remotely near a beach."
Believing Tracks' coverage of women (which includes a "Girl of the Month" section and a website tab dedicated to "Vixens" and "Poster Girls") to be both inadequate and overly-sexualized, Bowers wrote a scathing letter to Luke Kennedy, the editor of the magazine.
She may be young, but she completely nails why the magazine's portrayal of women is harmful.
"These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance," Bowers writes. "I would subscribe to your magazine if only I felt that women were valued as athletes instead of dolls."
Bowers not only thinks that Tracks is sexist, but also that it's missing out on a big marketing opportunity: "It's a shame that you can't see the benefits of an inclusive surf culture that in fact, would add a whole lot of numbers to your subscription list."
According to News.com.au, in response Kennedy asserted, "Obviously [girls] are not our primary audience." But regardless of who their target market is, the media commonly treats women as adornments to men's sports and emphasizes female athletes' looks over their athletic ability. Bowers' letter shows that young girls ingest this message, and that's not okay.
Also, Kennedy clearly has never seen Rip Girls.
Image Credit: Disney
Here's the text of her letter in full:
Dear Tracks Surf Magazine,
I want to bluntly address the way you represent women in your magazine. I am a surfer, my dad surfs and my brother has just started surfing.
Reading a Tracks magazine I found at my friend’s holiday house, the only photo of a woman I could find was "Girl of the month." She wasn’t surfing or even remotely near a beach. Since then I have seen some footage of Stephanie Gilmore surfing on your website, but that’s barely a start.
I clicked on your web page titled "Girls" hoping I might find some women surfers and what they were up to, but it entered into pages and pages of semi-naked, non-surfing girls.
These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance.
My posse of female surfers and I are going to spread the word and refuse to purchase or promote Tracks magazine. It’s a shame that you can’t see the benefits of an inclusive surf culture that in fact, would add a whole lot of numbers to your subscription list.
I urge you to give much more coverage to the exciting women surfers out there, not just scantily clad women (who may be great on the waves, but we’ll never know).
I would subscribe to your magazine if only I felt that women were valued as athletes instead of dolls. This change would only bring good.