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Who would not think consent is rad?

About consent and rape culture in skateboarding.

Dr. Indigo Willing is a sociologist and the project leader, facilitator as one of the co-founders of Consent Is Rad, a internationally collaborative project focused on education and sharing the message about the importance of consent. We contacted her and not only gave the project a one pager for their “Break the Cycle” campaign in our issue 42, but a platform to say the things that must be said. Even if the campaign started some months ago, it’s still an important piece for the culture of skateboarding and this message doesn’t have an expiration date. So we did talk with Indigo and guess what? There was a lot to say!

Hey Indigo! Nice have a catch up! To get into the topic quickly: What do you think is the Status Quo of skateboarding when it comes to consent and rape culture?

If you told me when I first started skateboarding in 2012/2013 that talking about consent and rape culture would end up as an one pager in skateboard magazines I wouldn’t have believed you. There would have been no way that anybody would pay attention. Even in 2016, when Brian Anderson went into public with the fact he’s gay – things changed rapidly in skateboarding to a point now. Everybody seems to be a bit more transparent and honest. I think the biggest risk for skateboarders is to be a bit more authentic. So, it’s amazing that magazines like you, Free and Thrasher think that there is an issue to talk about and that you all take your stance.

What is Consent is Rad? And where the focus is set on?

Consent Is Rad is an international campaign and it emphasizes no naming, shaming, or blaming, but instead promoting education and conversation about consent in the skateboarding community. And, rather than stigmatizing skateboarding as having any particular problem with consent, rape or sexual harassment, we want to look at skateboarders like “How can skateboarders teach others and the world, how to be active and take action on something we feel strongly about.”

"For us it’s not only about calling people out, but calling people in – to educate people around you, how to be respectful to each other, even identifying what sexual harassment is."

How does taking the power look like?

For example, we ask skaters to take a picture of them holding a sign saying “consent is rad” in front of them. We have people who do artworks, people who do songs as writers and professional skateboarders and brands we work with – like we did with the people from WKND Skateboards for the “Break The Cycle” campaign. It´s about to light up a call-to-action. We have some good recourses in our community! But when it comes to the community, we are also very loyal persons, who maybe won’t say something if a friend does something bad. In general, but also when it comes to sexual harassment or abuse. This is the tricky part. So, for us it’s not only about calling people out, but calling people in – to educate people around you, how to be respectful to each other, even identifying what sexual harassment is. In the past, I watched a lot of “King of the road” episodes (laughs). It’s been hectic! But maybe good times weren’t good times for all people in there. So Consent Is Rad is the avenue for us skaters to show how we can get together, mobilizing to do something cool and keep each other safe.

Who are the people behind your campaign? Which kind of background do you guys have? Are there different focusses?

There is a number of co-founders. Some of my homies, people from “We Skate Queensland” and Pushing Boarders, who really helped us with launching Consent Is Rad at their conference in Malmö. The facilitating is down to me and I try to find people to collaborate and work with, but in general it’s an open, decentralized hub of people who want to be involved and do something.

So it’s open for everyone and people can just come up to you with an idea and you guys help them to realize it?

There are some parameters. The “no naming, shaming, or blaming” one is really strict – for victims and people who are accused. On that point, it’s about the protection of victims and survivors. We aren’t cancellers, we are campaigners and people who want to educate. Everyone can come to us, photographers, people who do artworks and we’d repost it or something, but we want to try to keep it international, because this is a global problem. Also we have people from all backgrounds, for example trans, Asian or non-binary people, because you’ll never get an authentic voice from one person representing everybody.

What was your motivation to start something like Consent Is Rad? Were there some conversations or other happenings that made you think “I have to do something”?

Originally I’m from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and there were some stories about skaters behaving really badly. There were stories about people being passed out and assaulted, people who didn’t understand consent. A local friend of us started talks and conversations about how to behave in a nice way and correct. So as this pushed us to do something and start “Consent Is Cool”. We did some posters and posted some videos about consent and after that I got invited to Pushing Boarders as a speaker. On this point we thought it would be right to evolve the thing and make it global.

"This is gonna a really bad idea that will make everybody run off or people really say that they can connect with that issue und think it’s important."

Why you went from “cool” to “rad”?

My friend Milli and me were just thinking about some names, because we wanted to use the terminology of the skate community to address the skate community.

I think “rad” is a good one for that! How did the launch at Pushing Boarders look like?

At first I said to the people doing the event: “This is gonna a really bad idea that will make everybody run off or people really say that they can connect with that issue und think it’s important.” And on top I asked them to connect us to people who would be supportive and post it on their Instagrams and stuff like that. So, we launched it at their academic panel that was called “Support Your Local Academic”, where people spoke about mental health, suicide prevention and all that important things. It was beautiful that the crowd was full of supportive people and we and the guys from Pushing Boarders asked them to take a photo with a sign saying “Consent Is Rad”. For example, that’s how Rick McCrank came on board!

He came to you guys after you spoke?

I just asked him if he’d mind if I’d take a photo of him holding the sign and if it would be okay and he just said, “Who wouldn’t think consent is rad?” (laughs). That’s the attitude we need! And all this helps to reach more people of the community.

So it’s nice to see it’s not only about the contest and free beers, but events like Pushing Boarders (big shoutout!) are important for our culture.

Absolutely. But it’s about the fun events, too. If someone asks us for stickers to hand out at Copenhagen Open, go for it! Have fun! Consent is not about sitting in the corner; it’s about normalizing it! (a moment of silence, then Indigo suddenly laughs very hard) I’m just thinking of a “King of the Road” sticker challenge with our stickers. Who knows?

As we talked about the launch, where you were speaking in front of a probably bit more open-minded audience. Did you speak in front of other audiences? And if you did, what kind of comments did you receive?

If you think about skating as a girl during a hot summer day in shorts and top, you’ll get a thousand of comments from topless guys how awful you are, that you are doing it just for the attention and even that you deserve it to get raped. But surprisingly, when we talk about the “Break The Cycle” campaign and Instagram as an audience, we only had to block two people. And that’s quite good in relation to the reach of the campaign! So it may be that people who were visiting Consent Is Rad already supported that message or skateboarding went to a point now. Especially working on that campaign with Thrasher, too, got us the biggest and a completely other audience like we had at Pushing Boarders. I mean, everyone follows it, even 12-year-old kids who just started skating.

Talking about hate comments, which are only one part of the daily hustle people who are not white and/or male must handle. What are the daily actions that enable rape culture?

We described what rape culture is in the “Break The Cycle” campaign. It can be anything, like jokes about anyone’s outfit, not respecting people the way the are or dress, blaming victims with saying that they were drunk or general searching the mistake at the victim’s side. Especially intoxicated people or passed out, like we already said within the campaign, can’t consent and of course they can’t say no. That’s why we give people resources like for example some on how to behave if a friend is accused of rape, because most of us don’t know!

""Who wouldn’t think consent is rad?”"

In some way, alcohol and other drugs are part of our culture. So it’s quite often that people get intoxicated.

Yes! And even if people are about having sex. We published a list on how to behave in this situtations. Because in the beginning it’s an enthusiastic consent. But you can go on checking in and just aks questions like “Do you enjoy it?” or “Do you want to go on?”. Let’s be real, who wants to have sex with someone who doesn’t enjoy it? Affirmative consent is really important! But it’s not only about having sex, it’s about interaction in general, too. If you like someone, just asked them if they feel the same and definitely don’t just send them weird naked pictures.

Let’s talk a bit more about “Break The Cycle”. Who did the process look like? Did you begin with working on it and the guys from WKND joined or did the people catch up with you?

After that incident happened, the guys from WKND came to the women skate community and asked what they can do, because they wanted be good allies. I guess the campaign was born from this moment and Consent Is Rad got contacted as a part of that. We didn’t create the campaign, but we collaborated. It´s really important for us to have brand managers and industry people working with us, because there have been a lot of moments were brand managers and other people defended people who did something bad.

So on the campaign there was a writing team with people from New York, Canada and people with different backgrounds and the process to bring it out was about 3 months. For us it was important, that it’s not ours, WKND’s or anybody’s voice, but the voice of the community. But we needed some like WKND to bring it out to the magazines, so WKND is definitely a good example how to be a good ally.

How does being not a good ally as brand look like?

From the brand side: If there are alligations to one of your riders, trying to just defend them and hide actions. If you are not open for conversations about the topic and just ignore an issue, you are doing bad.

After the release of the campaign. Did more people contact you to collaborate?

At this moment, people could and help the most with sharing the campaign on their Instagrams. So, we just wanted to focus on the current campaign. But as always, we are open to talks and hopefully the next step in the future will be talking to more people from the industry to see what we can do. But it should be more like these campaigns!

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