A Noticeable Imbalance
Several years ago I walked into a gymnasium in Brazil that was rented out for a regional parkour jam. It was my first introduction to the parkour community, and I couldn’t wait to start training. It didn’t take me long to realize that parkour is a male-dominated discipline. At least 14 out of every 15 parkour athletes were men. (That’s me being generous with my ratio.)
I recently went to an event at a parkour gym in the USA. Same thing. This all-too-common situation begs the question:
Where are all the parkour women?
I took a good look at the parkour community and talked with some men and women who have been practicing parkour for a while. This helped me draw a few conclusions. They may not apply to everyone, but they certainly play a role in this dilemma.
Three Reasons for the Scarcity of Women in Parkour
1. Gender roles discourage women from practicing any sport or discipline viewed as “extreme” or “male-oriented” by society.
Think about it. Parkour is a discipline that spread around the world largely thanks to YouTube. How many videos of parkour women have you seen on YouTube? On a different note, how many parkour videos have you seen that feature irresponsible, dangerous or even simply advanced-level movements that appear extreme to the casual viewer? Exactly.
2. Women and Men have different physical strengths and cognitive tendencies.
When either party doesn’t understand this, it leads women to feel inferior or weak. This makes some women stop practicing parkour and even prevents them from starting in the first place. I believe women are capable of accomplishing anything in parkour, but they have to realize that they are built differently than men.
3. The absence of women in parkour is intimidating to many women who want to begin.
I was the only woman in my training group for a long time, so I’m familiar with the feeling of isolation. Even when you are with good friends, there are just certain challenges that men can never understand. I was lucky to have my husband teach me the basics. Still, training was a lot more comfortable and enjoyable after a few other girls joined the group.
Will we ever see more women practicing the amazing, rewarding discipline that is parkour? Maybe. I guess we just need to wait and see.
Check out this article and other blog posts about women and parkour on my blog Flow Like a Woman.