A project by Amira Hartmann
University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf
Prof. Anja Vormann
Alma and Lior live in Jerusalem and study at the Bezalel Academy of Arts. Both wanted to start skateboarding at a young age, but they didn’t really start until their early twenties. The interview is about their experiences in this culture and their attitude towards skateboarding in Israel and in general.
The project by Amira Hartmann explores sociological structures within subcultures, or better put, within corresponding cultures and deals with the role of gender and the position of women in male dominated spaces. The work created in Israel is part of a larger project that, in photographs, texts and interviews, examines the urban space, subcultures, and their mutual influence on each other.
In today’s Western World, which is characterized by neoliberalism and capitalism, subcultures are instrumentalized for commercial purposes to such an extent that they are hardly perceived as counter-movements. The fact is, however, that they take place in parallel in urban space and have an enormous influence on the development of a city. What is particularly striking is that in many of the subcultures female members are strongly underrepresented. This may be due to the fact that in subcultures frequent occurring patterns of heteronormative society are mirrored and patriarchal structures are adopted. To further explore these realities and make the structures visible the project aims to present an unfiltered representation of female positions in the subcultural context without a commercial background.
Amira: Thank you for making time for this conversation! You live and study in Jerusalem at Bezalel and in your free time you both go skating. When did you first get in touch with the skate subculture?
Alma: I think both of us tried it when we were young and gave up very quickly.
Amira: Why did you gave up so quickly?
Alma: Uhm, in my case it was like I used to go with my dad, which I told you about. And when he passed, my mother didn’t want me to go and she was scared all the time. Uhm, it’s a scary sport and I understand that. She didn’t want to come with me. Also, there’s like an intimidating atmosphere at first when you just arrive at a skatepark with the stats around and stuff.
Lior: It’s interesting – I really wanted to do skateboarding when I was really young. Like, at third grade I already remember that I asked for a skate at some roller-skating store or from a tolly shop, I don’t know. But it wasn’t – it’s weird, it wasn’t for girls at my times. Like, I was dancing and it was all my life and when I was in eighth grade I decided to buy some penny. But I thought I will ride pink skate. The colour will be pink cause it wouldn’t say I’m not a girl or something. Like, it’s pink and I’m still a girl and I skate. And I felt like people would judge me and people did judge me a little bit when I came to school with skate.
And then I just started to surf. And like one year ago, two years ago, I decided to go back to skate. But real skate, that I wanted all my life but didn’t get it.
Amira: So you chose the pink skates because you thought that people would judge you less if it’s a girl’s color.
Lior: Yea, that was the point.
Alma: I remember I was such a tomboy and when I was like six, no seven years old like my first interaction with a skateboard was an accident. My dad used to find some things on the street and bring it home because he was like oh this is a real free state this is good this I should bring to my kids. So he found a bunch of skateboards all the time, I don’t know how. And I remember when I went to my best male friends when I was seven we went toy shopping for a kid’s birthday and this kid only wanted girls toys.
And they bought him a skate and then for my birthday I told the boys oh I want a skate too for my birthday and they bought me like a bracelet shit or something. So sad like it was so weird for me. So we switched gifts, me and the boy.
Amira: You did? So you must’ve been happy afterwards.
Amira: And you said that you stopped skating when your dad passed away. When did you start skating again and why?
Alma: Oh uhm. I only started I think when I got out of the army. When I left it, my only friend from high school that wasn’t in the army – he also got out – he skated a lot and also my sister’s boyfriend, he was so good. I remember when I signed up for Bezalel after I got out of the army, I thought like maybe I should take some Photos of skaters. I always liked this culture. They dress so cool. And I went with my
sister’s boyfriend and I realized that all his friends are nice. Like thirty year old men that are supposed to be scary and do crazy tricks and fall all the time and swear are like the nicest people. And they keep asking for photos and they encouraged me to try it and they said yes you can grind and this and you can do a flip and you can do all the stuff. And I was so excited. So I just started going with them. First for taking photos and I would ride on their boards and return to take photos. And that’s how it like came back when I was nineteen years old.
Amira: So you figured out that the skate scene here is quite friendly and open.
Alma: Yes, it’s surprising, it’s always so surprising. Like each park I go, I expect to find like the most creeps and creatures and I’m still usually very impressed of the people.
Amira: Did you make bad experiences sometimes because you are a woman or because of your sexual orientation? Or is it really like a safe space for you?
Lior: I think like this park.
Alma: This specific park is.
Lior: No uhm, I’m very disappointed that I don’t look like all of the boys that are skating so good. And for me like all my life I wanted to do that and I didn’t skate because of all the it’s-not-for-girls and I feel like a little bit sad now like.
Alma: There’s a lot of jealousy.
Lior: Yea I’m jealous.
Alma: It’s hard.
Lior: It’s a lot of jealousy. The reason that I’m not as good as them is just because I didn’t start earlier just because I’m a girl. Just because my parents sent me to dance and like all the girls did. I don’t know like a lot of times I feel like such a weak and small girl in the middle of the park. I’m a little bit afraid and I’m like – I didn’t have some rude experiences with like rude skaters or, but…
Alma: I think the fact that we feel small in the park or weak is firstly because of our skills that are not the same level. And a lot of time people want to do crazy stuff and we’re just in the way because we don’t know where to be.
Lior: Yea I’m just in the way all the time.
Alma: Yea I feel like all the time I come in someone’s way. But I think men wouldn’t feel – even if I saw some men that started when they were my age and suck as me they still feel more comfortable in the park. I think men usually feel more comfortable in space. Like I saw them cutting people and doing crazy shit although they don’t have the skills for it and throwing accidentally a skateboard at someone and they
are like so chill. And I’m always like sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to be here I will walk away. I will skate away. And that’s I think is more interior, it’s more because of what we expect. We expect them to be aggressive towards us or feel like this isn’t our place in some way. But it’s not that they lead this pressure on us.
Amira: So what you said or what I learned is that it’s still a very male dominated subculture or scene and I think that this is why men or boys feel so much more comfortable in it. And I keep trying to figure out why this is such a male dominated subculture. And it is obviously changing for the better, I think.
Amira: Step by step. But I would like to ask you why you think that it is like this. Do you have any ideas or assumptions?
Lior: I don’t know I think like for now it just is what it is.
Alma: Because of what it was firstly. Because of what like it was ten years ago.
Lior: Yea, I think it can change.
Alma: I also think a lot of girls are skating and not go to the skatepark like I did for a lot of years. Like I didn’t want to walk alone ever. Not because of fearing – like fearing men but as fear in embarrassment. I didn’t thought that they would sexually harass me or something. I just thought that I would embarrass myself and look like a poser and like nobody will help me and people will be annoyed that I take up space.
Because the idea of a skatepark is the lack of space. And that’s why I think like even men that start very late that they feel more confident and do more progress than we do. Like I have a friend that started at the same time I did, when he was twenty something. And he is way better than me because he found friends easily and was confident from the beginning and – it’s jealousy. Like I’m saying good for him, yea of course, it’s not that like – it’s just, uhm, I think it’s a lot of how we grow as women. Not only as skaters.
Like as women we are most of the time like don’t want to take a lot of notice.
Amira: Yea. Is there something you would like to tell your younger selves? From the perspective you have now?
Lior: Ah nice question.
Alma: Of course to keep it.
Lior: Oh fuck it!
Lior: I was so careful about not to look like a tomboy lesbian. I don’t know like all the things that’s normal for a skategirl.
Alma: You’re a lesbian anyway laughs
Lior: No but I could be like so good and skate cause I wanted it when I was younger. And now I started so late and I feel bad for that.
Alma: Like fomo inside. For me it’s like weird that although I was already playing soccer and doing a lot of boy stuff I still feared it because of like I didn’t want to walk alone. That’s the thing. You need to like feel confident and have friends. And thoughts like if I fall then somebody will help me and like I really… also – fuck it. Now I can walk alone all the time. I walk alone to the skatepark. And I know that if I fall then somebody else will help me. Because I help people.
Lior: I think something that has changed…
I don’t know, I think not only in Israel. But the skatepark is like a new thing. It was like one, two skateparks in an area and…
Alma: …now there’s one in every city.
Lior: Now in every city! And what I want to say about that is that when my age group – when we like to go skating we skate in the street. And parents are more afraid about their girls than boys. So now there’s classes, there’s skate classes. And I see a lot of young girls in classes. And it’s very organised and they skate and the parents sit and watch them.
Alma: Yea I wished I had that.
Lior: It’s different. Because it wasn’t in my city. It’s new, the skateparks.
Alma: I feel like parents will be more comfortable, even your parents, to send you to a class than…
Lior: Yea for sure. …Than let me be alone in the street.
Alma: With a bunch of sixteen years old kids. Boys.
Amira: So that’s a great development, right?
Lior: Yea. That’s something very important.
Alma: Yea. I’m so glad it’s happening. I’m glad for the kids but I’m just very pissed for myself though. It’s hard.
Lior: It’s always very fast forward. Uhm. Like just the thing – a couple uhm hundred years ago, lesbian wasn’t a thing.
Alma: Now things go very quickly.
Lior: Yea, but like when I was young, skate girls was super underground and like now it’s all the TikTok girls are skate girls.
Alma: That’s right.
Amira: Yea, it’s a very like popular subculture.
Lior and Alma: Yea!
Alma: It’s actually fun that like I saw a bunch of TikToks when I started skating. And I saw all these girls that just started and they post their progress every day and like a bunch of people were always gonna say like posers but a lot didn’t. And I saw it a lot that during the Covid that a lot of girls started skating and it was amazing to see it. Like all my TikTok was a bunch of girls skating with masks. Because they had nothing to do.
Amira: Yea that’s great. Because they had time to maybe.
Alma: Yea you do something with yourself.
That worked great with Corona.
Amira: Yea maybe just one last question. But of course you can talk more about your experiences or whatever you want to. How would you describe the skate subculture in Israel in general maybe compared to other cities? Because you told me about the film Skate Kitchen which takes place in New York.
Which I think is a very different environment.
Alma: Very different for sure.
Amira: So maybe what are your thoughts about that?
Alma: I think something that’s cute about going to skateparks in Israel is like I see a bunch of nerdy guys and skinny guys and guys that don’t like… that probably are social anxious like my brother is very social anxious and goes very popular at the park. And that is something that is so cute about like Israeli skaters. I never like, I don’t know. I keep looking at them and see like not fuckboys you know. Abroad it’s more fuckboys. Like I’m a skater I hit on girls and everybody loves me. And here they’re like underrated. Really underrated.
Lior: Yea all of them are like really cute. They’re cute inside.
Alma: Yes, they have a good heart.
Amira: That’s cute
Lior: I can’t say all the.
Alma: Yea we can’t exaggerate but I think like from our experience.
Lior: Like our friends.
Alma: Our best male friends are skaters.
Lior: They are like uhm (something in Israeli)
Alma: Emotionally developed. I don’t know. They have emotional intelligence.
Amira: Yea they reflect on themselves?
Alma: Yea they’re so like anxious about talking with girls and stuff. And it’s like so cute because then you see them at the park and they do crazy stuff and you’re like how are you scared of any-thing. After you just did that. That’s how I feel mostly.
Amira: Yea. That’s great.
Alma: And I think something that is also fun to see in Israel is like different cultures in the skatepark. Because like in my city we have maybe a lot of Russian population. But in other cities it can be a lot of Ethiopians. And it’s like so fun because the fact that most of my population is Russian doesn’t mean that my park is Russian at all. My park is so mixed because people come from any city, really… because all the cities here are close so you see like a mixture when you come to the park and like wow, this is not the population of my city. This is so cute to see like we travel parks and then we see people that travel. Like we saw once the person that we saw the evening before in one city – we saw him in a different city the next day.
Amira: So you travel a lot to get to different skateparks?
Lior: Not a lot, but we travel.
Alma: We travel.
Lior: Not a lot but laughs
Alma: Like before I met Lior I was only at my skatepark in Rishon LeZion and after then we tried all the bunch of skateparks. So it’s fun.
Amira: That’s cool.
Lior: Now there’s different skateparks.
Alma: Yea, they built another one in Jerusalem today.
Amira: Yea, you told me about it earlier, right?
Lior: Yea, I told you but I didn’t know that today is the opening.
Amira: Oh, it’s today!
Lior: Yea, so it’s like a lot of different skateparks.
Amira: And you told me that this one is a skatepark where a lot of classes for girls take place?
Lior: Yea, they begun here. The girls skate group.
And now, I think, I don’t know. The leaders uhm…
Alma: The founders!
Lior: The founders, I think like they don’t live here anymore. They live in Tel Aviv now.
Alma: A lot of people move from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Lior: Yea I saw them a couple of times in Tel Aviv, uhm, but like it started here and like a lot of girls start here. When we was in Raanana, the skatepark in my city. So one young kid asked us if we’re from Jerusalem.
Alma: It happens to me all the time.
Lior: And I was like. How do you know like I’m not but I live in Jerusalem how do you know and he said like all the older girls thats skaters they’re from Jerusalem.
Amira: No, really?
Alma: No, it happens to me all the time, like in my city too. I was born and lived in Rishon LeZion all my life and now I’m in Jerusalem but I skated before I moved to Jerusalem and he just assumes like… And also I like been meaning to say that I just remembered that the community isn’t as guarded as we think. Like I’m in a Whatsapp group that has a lot of boys laughs apparently, obviously but like I keep seeing them saying does anybody need a fresh pair of sneakers that are not my size or does somebody need a board now and these things are expensive, like… or somebody sends a message, there’s a girl that wants to start skating. And instead of people being like snaps another one like another boy or a girl because people think like skaters always keep saying about people who don’t skate good posers but now instead they’re like oh I have this board or the wheels or I have a complete deck that she can have. And they don’t know this girl and like it is giving up on something that is sentimental. You had this deck for a bunch of years and now you’re giving it just so some kid could start skating, doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl. So I’m always like amazed by it like I think to myself maybe instead of buying a skate I should say that I’m new and they will give me one. Because it’s so unexpected.
Amira: Yea. So there’s a lot of solidarity in the community here.
Alma: Yea. They’re into helping new people skate because they know how good it does to them.
Amira: That’s beautiful.
Alma: It is. Although it will make the park more crowded.
(Amira: Okay, thank you so much!)
(Lior: We have to pee.)