Temple women skateboarders smash gender biases

A freshman started a women’s skateboarding club to create a space for her peers to feel comfortable learning to skate.

Freshman undeclared major Olivia Chiaravalli, freshman environmental science major Grace Krueger and sophomore public health major Sarah McHugh (left to right) are members of “Skate Kitchen,” a women-only skateboarding club on campus. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

From coasting down 13th Street to practicing kickflips at the skate spot at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, many student skateboarders treat Main Campus as their skate park.

But freshman environmental science major Grace Krueger noticed something similar about these skateboarders.

“[There are] a lot of guys,” Krueger said of Columbia Plaza, the unofficial skate park of Main Campus. “I don’t think I’ve seen one girl there.”

Grace Krueger, a freshman environmental science major, started a female skateboarding collective on campus to provide a space for cisgender, transgender and nonbinary women to skate and grow their community. | ALEX PATERSON-JONES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Krueger set out to change that dynamic by bringing a women’s skateboarding club to Main Campus. Skate Kitchen is a collective space for cisgender, transgender and nonbinary women to practice skateboarding together both on campus and throughout the city streets.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with the skate community that is mostly male, I want this to be a place for you,” Krueger said. “Skate Kitchen is for people that feel alienated or not welcome, or who just want to start skating to meet people.”

The club allows women to band together in a male-dominated sport.

Less than 24 percent of skateboarders are female, according to skateboarding blog Skate Review. More women are starting to participate in the sport, but professional female skaters experience substantial inequalities in pay and sponsorship opportunities compared to male professional skateboarders, Vice Sports reported in April 2017.

The term “skate kitchen” originates from the title of a 2018 feature film about a women’s skateboarding crew of the same name. Nina Moran, a member of the crew, said the group coined the phrase by spinning a sexist joke about “the woman’s place is in the kitchen, so we skate in the kitchen,” during a December 2017 TEDx Teen talk.

Olivia Chiarvalli, a freshman undeclared major, performs a skateboarding trick at Columbia Plaza, Temple’s unofficial skate park. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“Once you have another girl in the skate park with you, however, it changes the whole dynamic,”  Moran also said in the talk. “It feels like you have back up.”

“It’s kind of groovy,” Krueger said of the term. “We’re whipping up recipes. We’re creating while skating.”

Krueger started posting flyers for the club in October and said she was shocked at the immediate response from students.

Carolyn Frank, a freshman Tyler School of Art student, saw the flyer and texted Krueger, “Teach me how to skate.”

Frank said she has little skating experience but is excited to practice with the club.

Other Skate Kitchen members are new to skateboarding, including Krueger, who started skateboarding last June. Sophomore public health major Sarah McHugh got back into skateboarding last July after attending a skateboard camp as a kid.

“I won an award because I was the only girl there,” McHugh said. “My prize was a record with a man painted on it saying, ‘You go, girl.’”

But what these women lack in experience, they make up for with grit — even when collecting wounds filled with gravel along the way.

Skate Kitchen is a new all-women skateboarding club at Temple University. The club skates in Temple’s unofficial skate park, Columbia Plaza, and throughout the city. | ALEX PATERSON-JONES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During the first Skate Kitchen meeting last month, participants compared their skateboarding injuries. Krueger had a scraped knee that kept splitting open, and McHugh told a story of driving herself to a drug store to bandage up her bleeding hand.

Club members don’t let the injuries deter them from skateboarding, though.

“It’s very freeing,” Krueger said. “When I’m skating downtown, tiny little girls look at me, and it’s like I’m planting the seed in their mind that they can do it too, that it’s not just for boys. That makes me happy.”

For Krueger, Temple’s Skate Kitchen is a place to inspire women to connect and skate.

“It’s good to meet other skaters,” she said. “It’s also to bring together a community of people that might not feel comfortable, or just who are looking for people who are more like themselves.”

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