And yet. Go to a ski store and experience a sales associate trying to identify you by your sex and then sell you on a pair of skis based on whether they’re “men’s” or “women’s.”
They don't sell "men's" and "women's" skate boards. They don't sell "men's" and "women's" sleds. They don't even sell "men's" and women's" cross country skis. Yet the downhill ski world is stuck in this genderized clap trap.
I’ve worked as a ski pro, I rode my first pair of sticks when I was two years old, I took a bus to Vail from the church in my neighborhood in Denver every Saturday during winter to rip in a youth ski club, I’ve read the articles, I’ve talked to the sales associates — in other words, I know I thing or two, enough to form solid opinions of my own on the topic. I’ve heard the malarky straight from the mouth of the Elan sales rep about how women’s bodies have lower centers of mass, which means the pressure and tipping occurs differently on the ski, blah-blah-blah -- cough — bullsnit.
Let me take this moment to address an important belief of mine, based on decades of personal experience and extensive study of the subjects of biology and psychology, about gender and sex differences in human beings.
We are all different. Each individual. All of our bodies are different, as are our stories, our desires, our weirdnesses and our spirits. Ideas of sex, both physical and psychological, are built on averages, assumptions, cultural narratives, bell curves and generalizations, and there are many more folks who live outside of these averages than who live within them. And what all these differences mean, ironically, is that we are all more similar than we are encouraged to believe, whatever our sex parts are.
Therefore, any kind of merchandise, athletic equipment, clothing, shoes, bath products — whatever — would be better sold by matching a product’s features with the desires of an individual rather than with generalizations about sex or gender.
In the realm of skis, this means some women’s centers of mass are higher, some are lower, some men’s are lower, some higher. Most women are taller than a lot of men, most men are shorter than a lot of women, and many men are “weaker” or less aggressive or less athletic or lighter than many women. And that’s just along the imaginary binary! There are lots of people who aren’t women and aren’t men, and — oh, no! — how will we make immediate, baseless assumptions about their personhoods and bodies and abilities?
Which is all to basically say, center of mass and other genderized physical attributes are not sound bases upon which to practice selecting a person's skis.
(The idea that men and women have significantly different “centers of mass” is also considered apocryphal in many athletic circles now, and is in fact considered apocryphal in professional ski instruction, too. We teach the individual, not the label.)
Okay, so let’s move on from this one shady thing — center of mass — some sales people might try to convince you is important in order to back you into a gender corner and shove some lightweight pink skis onto lady-you or some burly black skis onto gent-you, whether or not that’s the best ski for what you as an athlete want from your skis. Let’s move into more overt territory.
It impossible to escape “pink it and shrink it" in the world of gear for women, a colloquialism I learned during a long post at an outdoor gear store near where I live. Most skis and boots are pinked and shrunk — made woosier, frankly — in order to be sold to women. Women’s skis will often be shorter and have less structure lending rigidity to them. If the company or sales rep won’t admit this is due to the narrative that women are weaker (and if you’ve ever seen a pro tennis match or ultimate fighting round, you know strength and muscle mass are not directly proportional), they’ll say it’s because we’re lighter and smaller. You might be, but I’m not. And he might have a penis and be built, but he’s lighter and smaller than me. So why are you going to put me on these short air-sticks and him on some mean rip-boards?
I’ll tell you why — by talking about ski boots. I have to buy a “men’s” ski boot, because boot brands literally do not make a ski boot designed specifically for women with the stiffness I desire. Boot-makers must assume people who identify as women are (a) weaker, (b) less aggressive, (c) into skiing just to be cute, (d) less athletic, (e) lighter or (f) all of the above. The fact that the boot companies tend to fur-line “women’s” boots makes it look like (c) might be the answer, but I’m guessing it’s in the f-range. As in F that snit.
Why not make a fur-lined boot for whomever wants it? For any dude or dudette or person who is more focused on fashion and après or maybe just likes fuzzy, soft packages for their feet? And make a high-performance boot for whomever wants it? Some of these boot sellers will tell you women’s calves sit lower on their legs so the companies make women’s boots with shorter cuffs, but you can re-read the paragraph above beginning “We are all different” and roll your eyes. My calves are completely at peace with my burly black “men’s” boots.
Bottom line is: buy the gear you want. Don’t let some sales person sex-trap you. If you’re a middle-sized guy looking for a playful, agile all-terrain ski, it really shouldn’t be a stiff 180. If you’re an expert woman looking to rip hard, buy a nice, long, heavy, stable ski and some 130-flex boots. If you’re a solid-bodied 5’8” person wanting a floaty powder ski, demo that composite 175 or 180, no matter what package you’re carrying in your pants. If you get on those sticks and don’t feel good on them, whether you have a uterus or a pair of balls or both or neither, get something shorter or heavier or wider or narrower.
This isn’t rocket science, people! It’s simple. It’s the crappy gender narrative that limits and confuses us.