Push & Frontside Betty

Does anyone remember “Frontside Betty” website and Push skateboard magazine? Both were created by Denise Williams in Halifax, Canada in the early 2000s. The world wide web was a gamechanger and Williams was motivated to reach other isolated womxn skateboarders, to shift the ratio of representation, and be a resource.

Denise wrote on her website:

“Once upon a time, I was a lonely girl skater in a big city. I went to the indoor park a few times a week, but there were never any other girls there and the guys seemed to want little to do with the girl in the corner teaching herself kickturns. As much as I loved skating, it was necessary to give myself a serious pep talk to get motivated to go back to the park each day. On the wall beside my desk there was a picture of Jessie Van that I’d torn out of a magazine, one of the few pictures of a female skater that I’d seen in print. Each time I needed motivation, I looked at that picture and it reminded me how much I enjoyed skateboarding, how much I had a right to be a skateboarder, and how it wasn’t worth it to let loneliness and lame people get I the way of that. I went back to the park” (D.W.).

In the April 2003 issue of Transworld, a short review of “Frontside Betty” was featured. It said, “A whole Web site devoted to females on skateboards? Yep. It’s pretty damn cool, too… Overall, there’s excellent pictures and coverage, a good links section and a Web forum to keep everyone in touch.” It was a kind gesture to acknowledge the website but amongst hundreds of pages of ads and articles featuring male professional skaters, it was buried. You had to be in the know!

Denise then launched Push in 2002, which was a fantastic free magazine in full-colour with a focus on womxn skateboarders, launched. The first edition was a supplement within International Longboarder magazine, featuring nine-year old Alexis Schempp on the cover, launching herself off the roof of a parked vehicle.  

Push offered well-written articles, as well as mock horoscopes, and hilarious jabs at the mainstream skate industry and dudes, both the pro skaters and those who submitted editorial “feedback.” For example, in the 6-page coverage of Slam City Jam 2002 by Rhianon Bader, the “boyzz” are offered a tiny blurb. “The boy skateboarders had a great showing this year, with Rodil Junior beating all the other boy skateboarders with his good skateboard tricks…” haha! There’s a wee photo of Eric Koston – inspired to try a flip trick after witnessing Lauren Perkins compete.

Cover photos by: Bryce Kanights & Patty Segovia

The magazine folded after four issues, but it made an impact, introducing readers to the latest ripping skaters and legends like Peggy Oki. Push provided in-depth coverage of contest results, product reviews, and sponsor updates. Flipping through the pages you’ll see ads for Cherry Skateboards, Nikita clothing, Rookie skateboards, and features on Villa Villa Cola, the All-Girls Skate Jam, Gallaz Skate Jam, Slam City Jam, etc.

Williams also contributed an article for Concrete Wave magazine (Winter 2002) on the progress of womxn in skateboarding and coined the idea that we had created a “scene within a scene,” or “subculture within a subculture.” She explained how it was difficult to generalize the universal experience of a skateboarder, and the same goes for womxn, but “the truth remains, however, that the divisions are out there, whether they exist in your scene or not. And they’re discouraging girls who want to skate.”

Williams’ contributions meant so much to my friends and I. In my thesis paper, I explained: “I was skating at Jarry in Montréal with five other girls when the [Push] Spring 2003 edition was distributed to us by a friend. We pored over the 32 pages, discussing the interviews, product reviews, letters, mock horoscopes, and photos, and were inspired by what we saw because finally this was a magazine just for us that was not tainted by an outsiders’ conventional view of what it means to be ‘extreme’ and feminine.”

Thank you @lettergrade


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