SKATEBOARDING NEEDS TO LISTEN
If Shut Up and Skate Is Your Mantra Then Practice It Positively.
In a previous post, I addressed the accusations against former WKND pro skater Johan Stuckey as well as the responses to his admission of guilt via Instagram and comments on the SLAP Message Board.
Like many of the comments, the conversation quickly became toxic which was never my intention. What I wanted to do was focus on how the predominantly male audience in skateboarding responds to alleged sexual assault and abuse and why it’s a harmful dialog that does little to support or educate.
I received some very helpful feedback that drove me to reevaluate my post and think about what I could do personally going forward as well as through this newsletter.
The answer is to listen.
I’d like to point you towards a very important piece co-authored by Kristin Ebeling and Alex White that ran on Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine in September of 2019, titled Coping With Creeps: Concrete Action You Can Take.
Please read it, digest it, then continue through this post.
In reflecting on the feedback, emails, messages, and resources I was provided, I immediately realized that a well-intentioned post can not only miss but can trigger trauma so I wanted to start to address this as well as offer advice to those who don’t want to perpetuate negativity.
My audience skews CIS male. So I’m speaking directly to you. When an accusation comes out against any skateboarder, rather than offering support, condemnation, or turning the situation into a debate on consent, please avoid speaking out through a male lens, especially on someone whose been accused of a crime’s social channels. These conversations are not only toxic but directly hurt victims and survivors. These are intense legal issues that shouldn’t be discussed flippantly.
Instead, if these acts bother you, the best thing you can do is listen to those speaking out, elevate their voices, and if there is a call to donate to organizations or charities, consider doing so. This is much more productive than engaging in debate, even if you feel like you’re coming in with a positive and helpful angle. The reality is that the outcome rarely equals the intention.
You’ll notice the square post that introduces this week’s newsletter. I chose to use victim and survivor based off a resource provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
Victim or Survivor?
One of the most frequent questions we receive is, “Should I use the term victim or survivor?” Both terms are applicable. RAINN tends to use the term “victim” when referring to someone who has recently been affected by sexual violence; when discussing a particular crime; or when referring to aspects of the criminal justice system.
We often use “survivor” to refer to someone who has gone through the recovery process, or when discussing the short- or long-term effects of sexual violence.
Some people identify as a victim, while others prefer the term survivor. The best way to be respectful is to ask for their preference.
As accusations against the skateboard community emerge daily, perhaps posting a message of awareness continually could steer the conversation away from a debate about “cancel culture.”
Artwork by Angie Crum (Originally published in Bigfoot Magazine, 2019)
I then reached out to Dr. Indigo Willing (Consent is Rad). Willing, along with Kristin Ebeling provided several helpful resources and critique. Here are some additional pieces I recommend reading immediately:
WILLING: Consent is Rad is a by skaters for skaters internationally collaborative campaign that raises awareness about healthy boundaries in skate culture. It was launched in August 2019 by Dr.Indigo Willing at Pushing Boarders Skate Conference in Sweden and was kicked off by her, Evie and Tora and of the core team at We Skate Brisbane and staff at Pushing Boarders and others.
Since beginning the photo, art and video series collaborations includes Rick McCrank, Lucy Adams, Kristin Ebeling, Kiere Johnson, Bing Lui, and people from Reverb Skateboarding, Skateism, The Skate Witches, Girls Shred, Girls Skate India, Skate Like a Girl, Womxn Skate the World, Las ChicAz and more. High profile and ordinary skateboarders have been sharing art, skate videos, and photographs of them with signs saying 'Consent is Rad' ever since.
As a collaborative, decentralized project it is 100% driven by the aim of removing the taboo and normalizing conversations about consent, and getting people to get familiar with what it means and talk about it in their own scenes. There is no naming, no shaming, and no blaming policy. While there is a real need for things like rape crisis services and projects that go harder and more directly to identifying and following up on incidents of rape, we are not trained to handle reports and allegations. There are professional services and people who are trained who are available. We offer some links in our Instagram bio. We also don't name people for the protection of victims, and our collaborators, from all kinds of things including online aggression and defamation charges.
What we do focus on is how to recognize sexual harassment and sexual assault. We regularly share in our stories and highlights how to keep healthy, respectable boundaries and get active consent via sharing posts from campaigns, artists, activists, and services from around the world on what constitutes consent and what is abuse. We are also influenced by other skaters who have campaigned long before our effort, like Fatta in Sweden and No Consent = Sexual Abuse zine by Tessa Fox in Australia and the article by Kristin Ebeling and Alex White to name a few.
The types of things we want people to start thinking about include making it natural to ask for consent. This is whether you want to just hug someone, send a flirty text, or get physically intimate. We need to get comfortable asking things like "I hug and high five my friends, what are you OK with?", "I can be a bit flirty, was wondering if you are interested but totally cool if you're not", "what do you feel comfortable with?". And if you are becoming intimate physically, checking in and saying things like "how are you doing?", "shall we keep going?" and "what would you like to do next?".
Lastly, I was able to speak to Nick Lattner who is a SLAP Message Boards moderator and works for High-Speed Productions.
*Please note his response is the lengthiest as I had specific questions regarding the moderation process that I wanted to be answered based on the feedback:
I think we can all agree that since the boards started, overall awareness has grown exponentially how is SLAP responding to changes in what's tolerated?
LATTNER: Previously we moderated SLAP with what is now considered an outdated philosophy of handling trolls on the Internet. The philosophy of—if you censor or suppress in any way, they will retaliate at an exponential scale, and it is better for the community to moderate from within rather than having an authority figure step in. This ethos was fairly typical when it all started and it worked for a while. But as the skateboarding community has grown so have the people inside that community.
Having the community police itself from within is a nice theory, but it shouldn't be a requirement for people to police their community to be involved with it. So we have shifted to a modified version of this by having a larger moderation force (still community-based) with better tools for handling problem users, clearer guidelines as to what is permitted and more attention to the community, as well, from an admin perspective. That being said, the steps we are taking are what is wanted by the majority of SLAP, so these actions really only directly affect a small number of users.
I floated the idea of word filters and as a policy for SLAP and people attacked me using the "free speech" defense. My opinion is that a message board is not a public forum as it's owned by someone and a code of conduct isn't a big deal. I'm a huge supporter of free speech but it gets murky on message boards.
Could SLAP implement word filters and do you think that would work in the forum?
I think the technical limitations and the "policy" reasons for word filters are two different topics. While blocking words used in the forum is something it is certainly capable of, these efforts often just result in a never-ending back-and-forth battle of Word, W.ord, W0rd, W 0 R D, etc.. between mods/admins and the problem users.
Rather having the speech first be spoken allows it to be acted upon and then have the TOS applied to it as we see fit. This allows members of the community for whom it is an allowed term to use it between themselves in their context, while still removing instances of it which are being used in a hateful context. Having a reasoned and articulated discussion about your stance on certain topics is one thing, but once these conversations degrade into slurs or name-calling it is no longer a conversation.
My assumption is that moderating SLAP isn't anyone's full-time job so what's the process and how difficult is it to monitor what's happening?
This is correct. We are lucky that for the majority of its existence we have had a couple of people willing to handle the majority of all community moderation with only limited interactions from an "authority" when things got escalated to me. These mods are what have allowed SLAP to continue.
Now I am taking a more active role in the forum, to enable these mods and the new ones we have brought in, to moderate the community more effectively so we can hopefully more evenly distribute the load and have more voices from within the community discussing what the community's moderation level should be.
People constantly assert that threads are deleted at the behest of companies. Is there any truth to that?
This one is a favorite of mine. If you knew the amount of stuff we deal with defending and protecting the good sides of the community from the backlash due to the small number of trouble topics, this wouldn't be a question. While some people's only interaction with the boards is the times it's got some "juice" on it, the day-to-day topics and conversations being had on there carry on every day—helping skaters who are traveling to new cities find spots/people to skate with, hype and announcements around gear/teams/upcoming videos, the latest scuttlebutt about who is leaving what team or skaters in the community sharing their media of them skating with each other are far more common on the boards then the "juice.”
That being said, not all topics that generate discussion about the boards are "juice.” Some, especially more recently, have been voices inside the community speaking out about that community in an unflattering way. While that is hard for some people to bear, it is something we believe needs to be brought to light. There are times where something needs to be removed for legal reasons, but we try to be transparent with the community about that when it happens.
Also, just in response to some of your references to "data collection" and "monetization,”(mentioned in my initial email) we don't do any data collection beyond anonymous analytics (Pageviews, Audience Size, Geography, etc.) on any of our websites. The advertising on the boards is only there to offset the hosting costs incurred by the boards. They are by no means a money-making venture for us.
I thank everyone for their feedback, questions, and input. Over the past week, I’ve been reading quite a bit and while this was something I found somewhat unrelated to my search but coincidentally relevant. Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic made a very interesting point that circles back to Mr. Stuckey and how this all began.
Please read it in its entirety but the quote below is what caught me:
“I knew that traits from the so-called Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) as well as the traits subsumed within psychopathy are linked to health risk behavior and health problems, and I expected them to be implicated in health behaviors during the pandemic. There is also prior research suggesting that people high on the Dark Triad traits may knowingly and even deliberately put other people’s health at risk, e.g., by engaging in risky sexual behavior and not telling their partner about having HIV or STIs,” Blagov told PsyPost.”
The bolded section—taken from the piece—suggests that people who exhibit the Dark Triad are likely to not wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This act felt connected to Mr. Stuckey and others’ actions and complete disregard for the wellbeing of anyone but themselves. These are high-level psychological problems, not just “Whatever, man, I forgot to tell her” shit as some posts and comments imply. It exhibits a terrifying level of purpose—DELIBERATELY putting people at risk. This is why I offered no sympathy for Stuckey, WKND, or the people high-fiving him in the comments.
I apologize for not taking the steps for my work to enact the purpose I intended and it’s caused me to reflect on my process and how I need to be less concerned with reacting and more focused on how I react to things.
Thank you again to everyone who reached out, worked with me on this post, offered feedback and critique, and for all the work and resources people are putting out in the world to offer solutions and help.
Lastly, thank you for reading.