While checking out Burton’s booth at the annual Snowsports Industries of America convention, we noticed something a little nakeder than usual: this year’s Love series, a collaboration with Playboy Magazine, features full-length photographs of Playboy models.
We weren’t exactly shocked by the graphic, but maybe we’re a bit jaded by years of being in this industry. After all, only a few minutes before we came across those boards, cheap hookers had handed us invites to some industry party. It’s not like the snowboard industry’s objectification of women is something new or unexpected. Even so, these boards caused a stir among industry women at the event, many of whom brought it up with us. Opinions varied, some were appalled and upset by the graphic, while others weren’t bothered. A few girls announced that they thought it was hot, but their exaggerated volume made us suspect this was just a ploy to attract some nearby bros. There was, however, consensus on one thing: this board was going to cause trouble once presented to consumers.
And it has, especially in Burton’s home state of Vermont. Recently, we received an email from a concerned parent in Vermont, who is worried about the exploitation and sexualization of women, and how it impacts children. The letter has made it’s way around the state, gaining momentum with outraged responses from varied sources, from the Vermont chapter of the Girl Scouts, to women’s business organizations, and the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. The letters call for a boycott of Burton, and removal these boards from shops.
So, the question is, is it all worth this level of outrage, or are these just the same folks to get all riled up about violence on video games, or other matters of “decency.”
Burton issued a rather dismissive reply to these letters: The Burton Coalition line and the Playboy limited edition snowboards were created at the request of two of Burton’s professional snowboarders. Both Burton and Playboy were founded on principles of individual freedom, and the collaboration has resulted in boards that reflect this attitude. The imagery on the boards is tastefully done, and we believe that they will be collector’s items. The snowboards will be fully wrapped with an 18+ age disclaimer to purchase.
So apparently Playboy was founded on the principles of individual freedom? And all this time, I thought it was founded on the principle of “boys like naked chicks lots, this will make us rich!”
As for the snowboard industry, while they may pull the creative/artistic expression card when confronted about offensive imagery, the exploitation or objectification of women seems to be the basest and least creative form of marketing in snowboarding. It’s like a bunch of guys are sitting at a conference table going “hmmm, how the heck will we appeal to this impossible-to-reach 14-25 male demographic… what do 14-25 year-old-men like… ooh, I know! Boobs!” Don’t get me wrong, I support freedom of expression. I just find it a bit suspicious when a large company claims that something questionable they’ve done is a matter of individual freedom. They are not an individual. This questionable behavior has most likely been approved on the basis of financial motivators, and I can’t see how it could be described as an artistic expression of some broader idea.
But the Burton boards were conceived by some of their pro riders, so isn’t that an expression of these riders as individuals? If it is, it doesn’t seem creative or original. It’s hard to imagine that in the sausage-fest that is snowboarding, this is the only time some pro has grunted and gone “I want a naked chick on my board!” However, this time, the company involved chose to run with it, rather than rejecting it on the grounds of corporate responsibility, company image, or decency, or whatever else.