Los Angeles Localism Rears Its Ugly Head

  Justice Ginsburg by    Elle

Justice Ginsburg by Elle

I dissent.

Los Angeles surfers have found yet another reason to be pissed off this week.

After I dared to bring up race and gender politics in my reporting on a recent incident at Venice Pier, the notorious nastiness of localism has displayed itself – proving each one of the points made in the article by way of digital tirades and threats.

The piece in question discusses the ways in which bias may have influenced a surf school owner’s attack of a black woman in the lineup. Responses have ranged from denial of video evidence to cries of unethical journalism.

A few responses were well-reasoned: need I have included the word “black” in the headline when the crime could have been motivated by a range of other factors? Shouldn’t the language have been more specific than “spends free time harassing black surfer?” Many have concluded that the headline was designed to be inflammatory. My bottom line remains telling the story that rings true for the women targeted.

That sort of discussion, while difficult, is productive. Regrettably, it was drowned out by another line of criticism as soon as the Dogtown crowd caught wind of my story. Angry male surfers, many of them friends with the aggressor named in the article, flooded to Sea Maven’s page, tagged one another, and unleashed their wounded egos:

“Pull up to the Venice pier tomorrow and get slapped, you fucken wierdo [sic],” one wrote. (That comment has since been deleted by Instagram for violating community guidelines.)

“Fuck this mag that isn’t her spot, man or women that’s how the lineup works.”

“You either are a local there and respected there, or you don’t surf there at all, it’s that simple.”

“Pulling leashes and burning people is part of surfing a spot that is localized. The only way you can repent for the trouble you caused Wagner is by publicly apologizing and then don’t surf ever again.” Also, “I hate you so much.”

Their local surf publication, Shacked Mag, chimed in with a long string of incoherent paragraphs in the comments section which questioned my sources for the article and the bases for my claims. While a journalist is by no means obligated to reveal sources, I drummed up patience from the depths of my soul to explain that my sources were direct statements from involved parties, as is self-evident in the article. I’d finally given up on responding when Shacked chimed in on yet another comment thread, one wherein I’d encouraged a complaining Venice resident to write an article sharing their perspective on localism.

“We attempt [sic] to have a respectful educate [sic] discussion…she is incapable if such once she is unable to back up what she has stated…And by the way, we have uncovered a lot of info on this that proves your blog is full of lies. We have be [sic] polite and respectful, in all our comments (you have not). We also are educated as well.”

While it’s tempting to repeat more of this baffling exchange, I must now turn to their rebuttal – which I could, and should, have gone my whole life without reading. My piece, according to them, is factually inaccurate, poorly written, and “states that this was a race-motivated assault…to earn sympathy views and shares (in order to make money off the ads run on the site).” It goes further to say that “all involved have a history of certain behaviors,” apparently insinuating that the woman targeted was somehow at fault for the leash pull in question.

Upon reading this, I took a deep breath, went for a walk to enjoy the views of snow-capped San Gabriel mountains, and tried to refocus on my Constitutional Law final. Try as I might, I could not stifle the urge to point out the hypocrisy, the baselessness, the condescension, and the utter lack of reason employed by the anonymous Shacked writers. For twenty-four hours I was berated by their comments, circular arguments, and constant returns to the same questions for which answers had already been offered. Attempts to end the conversation (“I’m going surfing; goodbye”) were met with still more repeated questions (“Where are you go surf at?”). A final plea to “give it a rest or get blocked” yielded the same: demands that I produce proof for statements I had not in any way made.

These anonymous men spent an entire twenty-four hours bullying me from behind a screen, while their jeering fans congratulated them for “putting me in my place.”

I can now rest my case that localized Los Angeles surf culture reeks of misogyny and racial hostility.

On one hand, I’m ashamed to have been sucked into the vortex of surf media’s self-serving, perpetual jousting match. On the other, I believe that introducing a direct voice of dissent is one effective way to challenge this narrative.

The overarching theme is not provocation, against which my defense is clearly lacking – but rather attempts at suppression, silencing, and intimidation. I will not be intimidated by empty displays of fragile masculinity. I will surf wherever I damn well please, knowing that these men are cowards who probably wouldn’t dare to attack a white woman in the light of day. I will loudly, and perhaps messily, defend the rights of black women to be free from harassment when asserting belonging in waves. And when someone pulls my leash, literally or figuratively, I will gladly put them on blast.

Wagner Lima, Shacked Magazine, and Venice cronies, you’ve been served. Now kindly [expletive] off.

Molly Lockwood1 Comment