“Why don’t more girls do parkour?”
“I don’t understand why my girlfriend doesn’t want to come train with me…”
“I know a lot of girls who have tried parkour but for some reason they all quit after one or two sessions.”
Have you ever thought this to yourself while jamming – confused, sad, and lonely during the 20 minutes of despair between everyone actually training and convincing the jam it’s time to go to Chipotle?
And you thought this post was going to be about parkour…
If you have, you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that approximately 90%* of male parkour practitioners in America are in the dark about how to treat the handful of girls that are actively involved in their community. Since typical interactions currently range between “That was pretty good…for a girl” and “I’d marry that,” I’ve reached out to some of the USA’s top female practitioners to compile a list of the top six things parkour guys say or do that really needs to stop.
*Numbers based on totally legit samples I collected while not hitting on all the girls at the last parkour jam
#6. YouTube Comments
If you read that topic headline and said to yourself “Oh boy, here we go” then we’re in the same boat. Congratulations! Chances are you’re not part of the problem. If, on the other hand, you have no idea where I’m going with this…please, take a look at this picture.
At least they don’t seem to have an issue with commitment.
This is a screenshot of the comments section from Katie McDonnell’s super awesome 2013 compilation. Find anything unsettling about this? Besides the terrible grammar, that is…(it’s ok, they’re foreign)
How about the fact that it only took me four seconds of scrolling to find three straight comments on a parkour video that have almost nothing to do with parkour? Kinda weird, right? Well, if you’ve ever waded through the comments section of a female parkour video…no…it’s not. The blatant sexualization of female parkour athletes within the parkour community, while not unexpected, is pretty disheartening. Here’s a quote from one of the ladies I interviewed on how it feels as a woman to receive this type of comment on a video.
Comments on Parkour videos….Half of them are the ‘good for a girl’ type, and the rest are scattered with ‘I would date that/tap that’ or ‘she could be my girlfriend’, as if it was MY privilege. I just hate that most of the time the comments are never about the movement in a non condescending or sexually aggressive way. Not always, but most.”
There you go gentleman. Sexually charged online commentary mostly comes off as creepy and weird. Even in the parkour community (which apparently is a surprise to some people?). So if you were planning on using the comment section of YouTube for your next proposal I’d seriously consider some other possibilities.
Because nothing says love like Little Caesar’s.
So if comments like “Ur a hott pk gurl wanna bang” are out of the picture, how should a male parkour practitioner go about commenting on a female practitioner’s video? Say something nice about their movement, or say something bad about their movement, or offer suggestions on what could have been better, or tell them you liked the video. Try to avoid directly or indirectly mentioning your desire to date/marry/have sex with them…you know, like guys do with each other all the time. Or if you know them really, really, really well and are sure they won’t mind, feel free to leave a weirdly sexual comment. Because that’s pretty much the norm on most male parkour videos. Hurray for equality and friendship and stuff!
#5. You Should Really Train With [Insert Random Beginner Girl’s Name Here]
This one came up a lot in the message thread and I have to confess I didn’t even realize it was a thing until all my awesome parkour amigas brought it to my attention. If you’ve been training for a while you’ve probably had someone come up to you and tell you all about their friend who is amazing at parkour (despite the fact they have no videos and you’ve never heard of them) that you should totally train with. So you arrange a playdate, get stoked you’re gonna have a new training partner, then realize your friend’s definition of “awesome at parkour” is “has n00b-level proficiency at three vaults and can front handspring to his ass.”
Dude, trust me. He’s pretty much a pro.
I always hated when this happened to me but somehow never connected the dots and saw that this is what happens to girls in the parkour community literally ALL THE TIME. Like, it’s the norm. And it sucks. Want to know why? Here’s a handy little list of numbered bullet point things that will explain!
- Training with people that aren’t near your skill level can be fun sometimes, but it can also be super boring and unproductive for both parties if it happens constantly.
- Imagine how awesome it feels to progress at something you love. Getting better at parkour (or anything for that matter) is pretty sweet! So think of how great it must feel to have someone come up to you after an awesome session, ignore the fact you hit a bunch of new challenges, and suggest you train with a complete beginner. Then say some other stuff to subtly hint that you two are at the same skill level. It’s just douchey. Even if you don’t mean for it to be, it just is. Sorry.
- It’s douchey. SERIOUSLY.
Do you even jump bruh?!
To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this myself from time to time. But the first step to solving a problem is recognizing you have one. Or reading the actual problem if it’s one of those annoying Facebook “intelligence test” things. So I’ve packed up my wife-beaters and hair gel and decided to say goodbye to my chauvinist, Jersey Shore-Guido-parkour doppelganger. You should too! That’s not to say you can’t give girls suggestions on people to train with…just know that you should base those suggestions off personal training styles and experience instead of sex. Because it’s annoying and offensive if you don’t 🙂
#4. Come Train!
Training parkour with girls is awesome for pretty much the same reasons training with guys is awesome – it’s fun to jump around with people, there are lots of new ideas that get thrown around, and you generally leave a spot looking at it a little differently than you did before.
…and this is your brain on a new spot.
Depending on their background, girls can also bring to the table some super cool challenges that most guys wouldn’t ever think of. Some of the coolest, weirdest challenges I’ve ever done were found by girls with crazy flexibility or finger strength or climbing tech (I swear I’m not speaking in euphemisms…)
So where am I going with this? What could possibly be bad about inviting the girls in your community to come train? Well my friend, the problem lies not in the invitation but in the fact that many times it’s followed up by a whole lotta ignorin’. It’s well and good to invite girls to training sessions, heck, I’d even suggest it! But if you do, don’t say hello then ignore them until it’s time to grab dinner. There are tons of cool things guys and girls of all skill levels can work on together. Get creative and find some challenges you can all try. And this doesn’t just go for girls…if there are new people/older people/younger people/aliens at your session go out of your way to find some things you can work on together. Just make sure it’s a challenge that’s tough for everyone involved!
Otherwise you’ll end up being this guy…and no one wants to be this guy.
Since this problem is pretty easy to understand and (hopefully) to remedy, I’m going to save some words and move on to the next one! Cue…
#3. Bringing Girlfriends to Parkour Jams
If you’re as dedicated to (read: unhealthily obsessed with) parkour as I am, you probably want your significant other to be too. And if she’s not, hey, you’ll settle for dragging her to jams and training sessions so she can meet your friends and (hopefully) develop a mild interest in jumping around via diffusion.
I just can’t believe you don’t want to devote your entire life to this sport I do.
The next thing that usually happens in this scenario is the loving boyfriend drops his girlfriend off with the girl(s) at the jam and goes off to do his own thing. That’s cool, right? I mean, girls like to hang out and it’s probably less intimidating for her to learn from her own species…plus now I can actually train instead of wasting 45 minutes trying to teach her precisions! It’s a win/win situation!
Except for everyone that isn’t you. Your girlfriend (who was only marginally interested in learning parkour in the first place) is now alone and surrounded by a bunch of jacked women who are making her feel like a noob. On top of that, the ladies you left her with now feel obligated to stop training and teach your girlfriend (who, mind you, still doesn’t really care). So basically, it sucks. To illustrate the level of frustration and suckage that this situation causes, here’s another quote from one of the ladies I interviewed…
You want me to stop what I am doing and focus my energy in teaching someone who, to put it plainly, doesn’t care or take it that seriously. I teach a fuckton during the week, when I get to train I want to train… If I am going to stop to teach, she’d better actually be interested. And second, you are completely capable of teaching her. Women aren’t aliens. You brought her along… she clearly doesn’t want to be here… you deal with it. Stop making it my job to get her involved just because I am also a woman.”
You heard it here, folks. While getting your girlfriend involved in parkour is undoubtedly awesome, treating the female parkour community like a weird adult babysitting club is not. So if you plan on bringing your girlfriend to the next jam, be prepared to actually spend time with her and help her learn stuff. Once she’s gotten to know people a little and actually wants to train it’s a different story. But until then, treat your girlfriend like a person please *gasp* and not a coat you can drop off with the other girls at the jam.
#2. That Was Pretty Good…For A Girl
Here’s another one that should be pretty self-explanatory. Telling anyone that they’re good and then qualifying it is depressing, degrading, and douchey (plus a bunch of other words that start with the letter ‘d’). Saying it to girls in the parkour community needs to stop being seen by dudes as an acceptable kind of backhanded compliment.
But racial jokes are still ok, right? RIGHT?!
So what should guys say instead? We went through this with the YouTube comments…stop obsessing over the fact that girls do, in fact, train parkour and focus on addressing the actual movement. If something is good, say it’s good! If it’s not so good, offer constructive criticism or just stay quiet…because a lot of those social quirks we learned in pre-school (if you don’t have anything good to say then don’t say anything at all) still apply as adults.
Before I move on to number one, let’s talk about one more semi-related thing guys 100% need to stop bringing up in comments and conversation; how masculine/feminine certain practitioners in the community look. I’m not talking about when they’re moving around and training. I’m purely talking about physical appearance. Here’s a quote from an awesome traceuse that identifies and explains this problem…
Traceurs criticize parkour girls for looking butch…It’s actually something that I’ve heard and seen many, MANY times- on Facebook and in person…Those kinds of opinions should be kept to yourself. There have been entire discussions on this topic in a giant parkour group on fb with lots of male AND female members. (A guy posted a question asking whether or not the other guys would want to date a parkour girl and an overwhelming amount of the argument had to do with how “butch” they looked)”
Seriously guys? This is what it’s come to? This doesn’t even have anything to do with parkour, it’s just a matter of common decency. Complimenting a girl for “not looking as butch as other parkour girls” is not a compliment. It’s a two-sided insult. Having an opinion on who you find attractive or unattractive in the community is fine. What isn’t fine is blasting that opinion on social media in an offensive and degrading way. So please, just think before you say or post things and realize that what you say has the ability to effect other people. This is pre-K stuff. And for that matter, so is…
#1. Do You Need Some Help?…Want Me To Spot You?
We’ve come to it at last. This is probably the most common problem I’ve seen and one that was consistently brought up by every girl I interviewed. Yup, I’m talking about using teaching/mentoring/advice/spotting to awkwardly approach and hit on any girl that has tried or expressed any remote interest in parkour EVER.
It’s so common I didn’t even have to make a new meme for it…
Teaching people and helping them progress is a noble pursuit, and one that many of us find our way to at one point or another. But if you’ve ever been to a parkour jam with a girl, you’ll realize it’s also an interest that 95% of the male practitioners within a hundred foot radius instantly develop as soon as they see her try a jump. I mean, seriously, I’ve seen guys that didn’t even train walk off the street and give girls tips on movements. It’s like the scene in Spirited Away when all the little dust spiders come out of the woodworks to steal Chihiro’s shoes.
Pictured here: guys at a parkour jam rushing to help that one girl over there with her frontflip
What’s annoying about this? We’re gonna need another set of numbered bullet things…
- Most girls don’t need/want help to the extent it’s offered. Sometimes people like to just try things on their own. One of my awesome traceuse friends put it best: “If there is a guy doing a jump he isn’t getting, most of the time guys don’t go up to him and give him advice. But if there is a girl, guys feel quite free to come up and give their unsolicited opinions.” Sometimes people need to figure stuff out on their own or try stuff a few times before nailing it perfectly. Give girls the same opportunity to learn from their own mistakes that you’d give guys.
- A lot of times, guys will give advice on things that have nothing to do with what the girl is training at the time. Again, I’ll let the ladies speak for themselves here...”I also hate it when guys ask “hey, do you know how to do a [insert some move or trick]” and if you say “no” they interrupt whatever you’re doing and try to teach you how to do it- while insisting to *spot* you of course because it’s never not creepy. Again, I don’t see this EVER happen with guys. Like dude, I don’t care to learn an arabian just now. I was going to fucking do this precision.” Got it?
- If you bring up “spotting” a girl for a jump before she explicitly asks you for a spot, you’re probably being a creep. I’ve seen and heard about guys trying to cop a feel WAY too many times for this to stay unmentioned. It’s disgusting and inappropriate. Even if you teach for a living and a girl has asked you for some advice on a move and you are confident that a spot would be the best way for her to learn…only bring it up as one possible option. And please do it in a not-sketchy way. We’d all appreciate it. If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure if you should spot her or not…let her bring it up. It’s just better that way.
- Getting advice or beta on a challenge can be awesome, but if it’s happening constantly and from all angles, you’ll never have a chance to train. If you’re a dude and you feel you have a piece of advice for a girl, let her know and walk away. Same way you’d do it for another dude. Then go do your own thing. If she wants more help she can ask for it. That way everyone will get to train!
You should strive to be this guy in all jam-related situations.
Long story short, it can be tough to be a lady in a sport that (right now) is heavily dominated by lots of hormonally-charged teenage boys. So if you’re a dude and you do parkour, be accommodating. Try to avoid doing any of these six things and be confident in the knowledge that you’re not being a creepy jerk. Women have some awesome knowledge and skills to bring to the table and it’s a big part of our responsibility as guys in the community to make sure it’s easy for them to get involved. If you’re a sick ass traceuse, keep on trucking! Together, I think we can make this article obsolete in two or three years 🙂
And if you’re a lady who’s interested in starting parkour, don’t let this article scare you! While there are a lot of guys in every community who fit into these stereotypes there are also a lot who don’t. Like anywhere else, you’ll find some good and some bad. Just know that the parkour community is one of openness, acceptance, and equality and we’re all trying our best to keep it that way!
For more funny parkour memes check out my buddies over at https://www.facebook.com/parkourmemes?fref=ts 🙂