Let Women in Outdoor Films Be Jackasses

Avra Saslow, Clare Hamilton, and Delilah Cupp are jackasses—and I mean that as the highest compliment. In the new short film Girls Gotta Eat Dirt, from indie apparel brand Ripton and Co., the three roommates/best friends/mountain-biking partners based in Boulder, Colorado, crush the trails of Silverton, in the state’s southwest. Giddy and gleeful, they ride each others’ wheels as they skid around corners and pop manuals. They give each other shit. They laugh it off when they go ass over handlebars. They are crusty and irreverent and carefree.

It’s simply beautiful. “’Cause why can’t we be jackasses?” says my editor (who’s also a woman), as we gush about how this video gives us goose bumps. “We are jackasses.” 

The spirit of the jackass was perhaps best typified by the eponymous 2000 MTV reality show, whose cast consisted of nine young men doing outrageous stunts—like attempting to skateboard down a ramp of six treadmills—and pulling pranks on each other. In its most positive connotation, the word jackass refers to someone who pushes the boundaries of human physical capabilities for the sake of having a good time.

It’s no coincidence that Jackass’s cast consisted entirely of men. Women in the outdoors being portrayed this way isn’t unheard of, but it is rare. Women-centric action-sport vids are often #inspirational sizzle reels, filled with glamour shots of toned bodies and interview prompts like “How does it feel to be a woman in a man’s world?” Sometimes they’re grouped in the frame with their supportive spouses and families. Other times, pictured alongside other badass women, they ponder how to make their sport more inclusive. In these films, incredible women athletes get their time in the sun, but they are routinely positioned as outsiders breaking into spaces that hold little room for them. To make that space, not only do they have to crush hard, they also have to be model spokespeople for the largest questions that face their sport and society. Stoke films like these do serve an important purpose, though: they ignite a drive to fight for the space we deserve. But in them, like everywhere else, women—particularly women of color—are too often saddled with expectations that our society simply doesn’t have for men.

It’s not that Cupp, Hamilton, and Saslow aren’t good representatives for mountain biking. It’s that for at least these six minutes, they aren’t required to shoulder that responsibility. Girls Gotta Eat Dirt gives this trio the video treatment typically reserved for young dudes, who get to be crass and dirty and dumb while hanging off the sides of cliffs and dropping sick lines. To watch this film is to be filled with the pure joy of seeing women in muddy denim cutoffs alternate between ripping perfect berms—eyes laser focused, bikes a blur—and chugging beers. 

“Do you like riding with boys?” someone behind the camera at one point asks Cupp (who the other two insist goes by Donkey, despite her protests). “I love boys,” she says before cackling into Saslow’s shoulder. The implication: but not riding with them. 

“We just like to go fast,” Cupp says. And fast they go, kicking up a cloud of dust behind them.

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