How does being part of a collective provoke feelings of belonging? From collective art classes or group sport activities we believe that by "Coming Together" we support and empower each other to feel safe in discovering our own identities. We caught up with Founder of Neighbourhood Skate Club, Lyndsay McLaren to discuss her journey from taking on the skate scene solo to starting the sisterhood of the NHSC.
Skateboarding makes me feel good and that’s why I do it. When I’m skating I feel like the best version of myself. I feel free of any worry or stress, confident in my body, happy in my head and focused on the moment. It’s been over a decade since I got serious about learning to skate, but before I had even learned how to ollie, I learned that being a woman on a skateboard came with a new level of street harassment and catcalling.
Similar to tattoo culture, there is still a massive stigma around women who skate, just as there is with women who have tattoos. Skating, or even just holding my skateboard, often attracts the same unwanted attention and commentary from men, that plenty of women with visible tattoos will be able to relate to. In fact, let’s be real, that ALL women, regardless of skateboards and tattoos, will be able to relate to.
The types of street harassment I have experienced while skating include unwanted whistling, leering, sexist slurs, persistent requests for my name and/ or number after I’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, derogatory remarks, following, flashing, public masturbation and groping.
When this started to happen to me I was living in Miami. It was hot as hell and more often than not, I’d be wearing shorts while I was out skating. Before long I realised that I couldn’t leave the house with my skateboard and return home having not experienced some form of street harassment.
I stopped wearing shorts, but nothing changed.
The hollering, the following, the attempted groping - it all continued.
I left Miami, but nothing changed.
The hollering and following continued, but the attempted groping turned into actual groping.
I had moved to New York City and I was suddenly dealing with a new breed of entitlement when it came to women’s bodies. Whether it be on the subway, on the stairs or in the streets, I encountered numerous men who felt like it was their right to cop a feel, maybe while singing Avril Lavigne at me or shouting ‘Nice board, skater girl.’
Don’t get me wrong, at this point in my life I was living the dream. I was residing in arguably the most exciting city in the world and my days revolved around what the weather was like and where I would skate with my friends, but amongst these fond memories are the flashbacks of the harassment I experienced - spurred by the simple fact that I was a woman on a skateboard.
Ten years later and I’m home in the UK and living in London. While the street harassment continues, especially in the summer months, something important has changed - me.
I am older now and more experienced and educated when it comes to dealing with ignorant men who think it’s OK to blow kisses, bark or touch me in the street. I am less accepting of the unwanted stares and commentary, certain of my lived experiences and well practised when it comes to reclaiming my space.
I am the founder of Neighbourhood Skate Club. NSC is a community made up of women and queer skaters brought together by their desire to learn how to skate, while connecting with themselves and each other. I host monthly group skate events and teach 1-2-1 lessons with an approach that focuses on mindfulness, weight shifts and flow - like yoga, but on wheels.
At Neighbourhood it doesn’t matter how old you are, what you look like, where you’re from, what type of board you skate or how many tricks you can do. It’s about being present in the moment, owning your space and trusting your voice, body and mind.
I talk openly and honestly about my experiences in an attempt to tackle the normalisation surrounding sexual and street harassment. I want others to know they are not alone and help create a community for those who feel like they do not have a voice.
For decades skateboarding culture has been considered a very male-dominated world, but I’ve never seen more women riding skateboards than I see today, both online and IRL and this isn’t just a coincidence. Skate culture is notably more inclusive and diverse than it ever has been, with tremendous efforts and initiatives going on all over the globe helping to push the sport and it’s scene in the right direction.
It’s important to recognise however that male dominated cultures and communities are particularly vulnerable to reinforcing masculine stereotypes, which make it even more difficult for women and other marginalised groups to not only excel, but remain safe. Everyone must take responsibility for their own behaviours, educate themselves about privilege, while seeking and accepting feedback from people in underrepresented groups in order to grow.
I only started getting tattooed a little over a year ago, but my tattoo journey has been really refreshing, empowering and liberating thus far.
For years I’d stopped myself from getting tattooed, probably because of imposter syndrome and fear of the unknown. I was intimidated by tattoo shops, unsure of the different styles and hyper aware of the permanence of tattoos and my seemingly ever changing tastes.
Initially I was under the impression that all tattoos should have meaning or stand for something much greater than they are, but as soon as I realised that tattoos didn’t need to have any meaning at all, they suddenly felt so much more accessible to me. It may seem obvious to people who have been getting tattooed for years, but when something is new and you don’t know the culture, it’s easy to overthink and presume otherwise.
My tattoos are scattered over my arms and legs and mostly traditional in style. My favourites are my ‘Moon Lady’ on my upper right thigh, which was my first tattoo and a fairly big one to get started with. She sits across from my ‘Tiger Lady’ which takes up most of my left thigh.
In writing this I just realised that all the tattoos on my legs represent women in different forms. I guess even without intending it, my tattoos do represent something greater after all - women.
To watch the full feature 'Coming Together' click THIS link.
Words by Lyndsay Mclaren
Images by Libby Burke Wilde