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They were called ramp tramps and skatepark slags and their interest in skateboarding was misconstrued as interest in male skaters. Lucy Lavery explains how reclaiming the derogatory language that surrounds their hobby has empowered her and a collective of women in Blackpool to proudly skate like a girl – and why they want to empower other women too. Photos: Lauren Quarmby

Over the past few years, the skate scene has experienced a huge uptake among women, non-binary and queer people. Consequently, a talent surfaced that I find endlessly inspiring. There have been so many powerful communities created, among oppressed individuals, that have flourished as a result of this surge. In Blackpool, myself and Emily Morgan were so encouraged by this growing movement that it motivated us to co-create Skate Like A Girl (SLAG) Collective.

We are an inclusive community, seeking to reclaim derogatory phrases and create safe spaces for all of those who wish to take up skateboarding, but don’t feel comfortable doing so.

“As a woman in skateboarding, who grew up desperately wanting to skate and being too scared to start, with nowhere to go and no women to look up to, forming SLAG collective has been so empowering,” says Emily.

“I’ve never felt so truly freely able to be me. I feel so safe and supported. I’ve never felt so proud to say I skate like a girl!”

As a collective we found our interest in skateboarding was often overlooked and misconstrued as an interest in male skaters. We were called skatepark slags and ramp tramps. Often, when we stepped on a board, we were told we ‘skate like a girl’, and we found ourselves questioning what that even means? How do girls skate? This kind of language has had an intrusive impact on my self-worth and has often left me feeling reduced as a person and riddled with anxiety. Regardless of how many safe spaces are created for women, non-binary and queer people, these phrases continue to be used. So, alongside creating these physical spaces we thought it was in everybody’s best interest to reclaim the words themselves.

Reappropriation of sexist slurs is a very powerful mechanism for a huge community of oppressed individuals. Hi-jacking derogatory everyday language replaces the original discourse of power and hands it over to those it seeks to offend. By reclaiming them, we imbue them with an alternative power and a different meaning. Now when I hear the phrase ‘skate like a girl’ I no longer feel anxious or undermined. I feel empowered due to the community we have created and connected with through our collective. You don’t have to be afraid of being called a slag here.

“When I’m skateboarding, I feel like a kid again, and when I’m skating with SLAG, I feel like I’m with friends I’ve had for years,” says member Ali Eland. “I’ve never felt so truly freely able to be me. I feel so safe and supported. I’ve never felt so proud to say I skate like a girl!”

Unfortunately, there are still many places in society where women still fear being called a slag – such derogatory phrases are just one of the many forms of violence and injustice women face in their day to day lives. Therefore, we decided we didn’t want to start and stop with skateboarding. Our goal is to empower and help ALL women. We will be hosting a fundraiser on the 17th February at Bootleg Social to raise money for Fylde Coast Women’s Aid (FCWA) – an amazing charity that has huge impacts on many women’s lives.

“I think nearly every woman I know has experienced some sort of abuse,” says Emily. “Whether that be emotional, physical, financial… Women’s Aid provides life changing services in Blackpool, and I think it’s so important to raise awareness and funds for them.”

FCWA offers free advice and support to individuals living in Blackpool, Fylde & Wyre who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse, stalking and child sexual exploitation. Although it may feel impossible now, FCWA says you can rebuild your life free from violence and fear. Whatever you decide, your safety is always their priority.

As someone who endured a domestically abusive relationship, I have first-hand experience of how certain charities, resources and groups, can support and empower women to leave and survive. Domestic violence can cause fear, isolation and embarrassment – all of which act as reasons for many women to stay. They are the very same reasons I stayed. When I think back to my own personal experience, I would constantly blame and question myself. It is an extremely traumatising experience that can completely strip away a person’s individuality. It truly devastates me that women still live and experience such abuse. If it wasn’t for the resources provided by charities such as FCWA, I very well might still be in a very dangerous situation.

Creating and being a part of Slag Collective has been a truly beautiful and empowering experience. I hope to continue spreading the love I have for skateboarding as our collective grows. The existence of such communities is vital in creating spaces for oppressed individuals to seek help and safety and I will continue to contribute to this effort for as long as it’s needed.

SLAG Night Out is raising money for Fylde Coast Women’s Aid at Bootleg Social, 17th February from 8pm onwards. Under 18s are welcome until 8pm. There’ll be grip tape art, live music, beer pong, pool and a raffle. £2 minimum donation on the door. If you can’t make it but would still like to donate visit: gofund.me/5f631418. To join SLAG collective follow them on insta @slagcollective. Call the Fylde Coast Women’s Aid helpline on 01253 596699 or visit fcwa.co.uk

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