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November 26, 2008

Burton Founders Defend Their Boards

Burton_2 Ken Picard sat down for an interview with Jake Burton Carpenter and Donna Carpenter at the Burton HQ in Burlington this week to talk about the controversy over their "Love" and "Primo" boards. We've published his extensive Q&A this week, and put it on the cover of the paper .

Here it is online. An excerpt:

SD: Why go public now?
DONNA: Because I think the boards were distorted and misrepresented. When you hear this statement that "Burton promotes self-mutilation and pornography," maybe you don't read the whole article. Maybe you're only catching it here and there, and you think, "Wow! This Vermont company is throwing X-rated images and teaching kids how to cut themselves." That's awful.

JAKE: I don't want to get personal with you, but I presumed the Vermont media would lose interest. And they didn't. 

SD: Because we're still getting letters from readers expressing very strong emotions.
DONNA: We also realized  . . . that all of a sudden, anybody who ever had a grudge against snowboarders . . . or against Burton or was upset about what kids are exposed to today, all of a sudden they had a way to vent . . . But I really felt like their anger is misdirected.

Since we don't have comments enabled on our stories, you can use this blog post to share any thoughts you might not already have shared about this issue, and this week's interview...

The Carpenters are living in a bubble. Their arguments are articulate, well-rehearsed, and wrong. The teenage girl I know who is a recovering cutter has asked me how she is supposed to get the compulsion out of her head when it's everywhere around her.... To assume that their critics are against Burton or snowboarding is to trivialize their concerns, and to try to marginalize objectors by calling them a small misguided group is blind to the many of us who simply haven't spoken up before now. The Burtons should ask themselves why all those womens' groups Donna's been so involved with aren't running to Burton's defense... it's because, unfortunately, Burton is wrong.

Last years love series was awesome and it's sad to see this pathetic turn its taken. If they were going to have a centerfold theme why aren't the girls snowboard chicks wearing nothing but snowboard boots and an old school Burton jacket or hiding partially behind mittens and a wrecked deck. Anyway... my only complaint about this line is that they are BORING and have tennis/golf country club chicks on them. Lame and so not snowboarding to me!

As for the Primo line. Yes, it's skateboard art. I get it but it sends a bad message and snowboarding is such a beautiful thing, why does self-mutilation have to be the theme of a line. There are so many harmonious, beautiful things that could be depicted instead.

I'm not saying I'll never buy a Burton board again but my new deck this year certainly won't be from either of these lines... maybe I'll get myself a Love board from last year before they decided on these dead graphics. I mean a tennis player... for REAL! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit!

The Carpenters are attempting to marginalize the critics of the Primo and Love boards. Jake says, "...what we heard from these groups didn’t seem to be organically grown from within these groups. It was more that they’d been contacted from outside individuals...and pressured into reacting..." What's an "outside" individual? I don't know anyone who was at the October protest, or who has written a letter to the media, who isn't a Vermont resident and who heard about the issue from another Vermonter, their friend.

Donna says there were preconditions the protesters made before they would sit down with Burton representatives. I haven't seen anything of the sort. The whole purpose to sitting down would be to make the case for the inapporpriatness of the designs. I would think they'd at least want to thank us for all the publicity we've given them!

I don't know where the Carpenters take their kids, or what they watch on TV, etc., but the real issue here is the values we exhibit to our children. If they see us treating the presence of the Primo and Love graphics as acceptable, then our children will view such as an acceptable part of the social fabric. If they see adults rejecting such graphics in public, that is what they will internalize. No, they won't verbalized that, but it sinks in none the less.

Just because such images are elsewhere in our society, does that make it acceptable to incorporate them in a company's product for the sake of profit?

-Randy Rowland

These overprotective parental types need to get over themselves. While I sympathize with cutters who have a mental illness or compulsion, seeing these graphics is not going to spark anyone to pick up a knife. This is the same attack as those against video games and raucous music in the '90's. This sort of alarmism has been going on for ages, yet there aren't sudden spikes of violence or self harm when a product like this comes out. Give your kids some credit, they aren't stupid enough to see this and think it's a good idea to chop off a finger or two.

This was about the dumbest response Jake and Donna could have come up with in terms of PR. The negative reaction to these two snowboard designs may have been extreme, but telling people that they are making a big deal out of nothing just makes them angrier. And the arguments they trotted out are pretty damn shoddy. The fact that the company markets snowboards to women does not mean it's incapable of putting sexist product on the market; comparing customer complaints about a product line to book burning is absurd. Top it all off with veiled threats about moving the company to a different state, and the result is a big "screw you" to a bunch of people who might conceivably have been Burton customers some day if they hadn't just been flipped the bird. Your cover graphic is all too appropriate.

Do you know what makes TIger Woods so successful? His seven step philosophy. He makes a great shot, he congratulates himself for seven steps walking down the fairway. "Great shot; Man, I rock; Nyah, Nyah; Nobody does it like me!!!!" When he makes a lousy shot, he kicks himself for seven steps walking down the fairway. "Duh; Whoa, look out groundhogs; That was about as sweet a shot as sucking on a lemon!!!!". Then he lets it go, good or bad, and prepares himself for the next shot. We've all had our seven steps, let it go. Cool or uncool, its done. Can the same be said for the economic injustices, the illegal wars? This is not about Jake or Donna or Burton Boards. Its about how we live in the world around us.

Those Burton boards really burn me up! You know what else gets my goat? All those drunks in Burlington on a Friday night. The recovering alcoholic I know asked me how he's supposed to get the compulsion out of his head when it's everywhere around him! What kind of example are we setting for our youngest? How are parents supposed to explain to the little children that they shouldn't drink when it all looks like so much FUN? Why, I was buying booze just the other day and there they were, children leering at the Vogue and Cosmo! Which reminds me, the sex-addict that I know asked me how he's supposed to get the compulsion out of his head when it's everywhere around him! All this sex and marketing! Even the compulsive shopper I know asked me how she's supposed to get the compulsion out of her head when it's everywhere around her! On the T.V., in the newspapers, on the interwebs!

The children, oh, the children! Best to poke their little eyes out now, 'fore they befall any harm!

I visited Burton Snowboard’s web site and looked up the “Love” boards – the same boards that a small & noisy band of demonstrators labeled as being porn. One can see just as much skin in a JC Penney or Land’s End catalog – do the demonstrator’s block that “porn” before it gets into their homes and corrupts their children? They need to get a life.

Wow... I thought Burton, Inc. just showed poor judgment in these two boards (especially the language of the porn board promo material... "women = thing boy club over head and drag back to cave for humpy humpy").

But reading the Burtons' response... wow... now I'll definitely stop buying their stuff and supporting them. Reads like "well, of course we've never been wrong, so let's just spend a moment figuring this thing out... who's to blame, etc."

Stupid. Don't they have enough money already? They have to help encourage more 19 year-old-boys to treat women as objects to chase down and force themselves on? Oh yeah, and the Burtons need more money so bad that they figured out how to cash in on mentally ill kids.

Corporate citizens of the year! Get a clue Burtons... we like our locally owned corporations to show a little responsibility.

Wow... I thought Burton, Inc. just showed poor judgment in these two boards (especially the language of the porn board promo material... "women = thing boy club over head and drag back to cave for humpy humpy").

But reading the Burtons' response... wow... now I'll definitely stop buying their stuff and supporting them. Reads like "well, of course we've never been wrong, so let's just spend a moment figuring this thing out... who's to blame, etc."

Stupid. Don't they have enough money already? They have to help encourage more 19 year-old-boys to treat women as objects to chase down and force themselves on? Oh yeah, and the Burtons need more money so bad that they figured out how to cash in on mentally ill kids.

Corporate citizens of the year! Get a clue Burtons... we like our locally owned corporations to show a little responsibility.

The City Council's reaction to this whole thing is the most disturbing for me. The market was/is working as it should. If people don't dig the boards, they don't buy them. If organizations feel they go against their mission, they dis-involve themselves with Burton...that is all happening. The troubling and destructive lesson is that 12 of the 13 city councillors and the mayor think they have the responsibility to weigh in, "officially" on private business, when no law has been broken.

If you follow this argument to a logical end you simply have public control on private business. Not a good sign for Burlington...

read the article here...

There has to be a far-right church whose leaders are pushing this anti-Burton agenda. Which church is it? Maybe when they're done with Burton they can find some ancient Budas carved into a mountain side they can blow up (whoops - never mind - the Taliban beat them to it)

JAKE: I don't want to get personal with you, but I presumed the Vermont media would lose interest. And they didn't.

Nice little touch of contempt there,sounds like Nixon.
Heard about these boards and my my reaction was,they must be desperate to boost sales and fallen in with some bad marketing people. Two words ; New Coke ,remember that marketing ploy ? Stupid move .

I'm not a snowboarder, and I'm certainly no Burton apologist...but WTF??? These boards are just harmlessly shocking adolescent countercultural art. Self-mutilation? I don't think so. Notice that *both* hands are left hands in the firecracker images. It's obviously an homage to 1980s skateboard art, e.g. the grotesque "Grim Ripper" deck. (I forget the manufacturer - G&S?)

Sure, there is a chance that the Primo images might be triggering to some self-injurers. However, everyday stuff is much more strongly triggering, e.g. TV ads for shaving products. My suspicion is that the images trigger the helpless fears of self-injurers' loved ones more than they trigger any actual self-injuring behaviors.

I'd also suspect that many people riding Primo boards will be adolescent boys of all ages who aren't treating women as anything but unattainable daydreams. The others probably will be alpha males who already treat women the way that the kings of the hill have done for generations upon generations. The caveman lingo in the promo material? It's obviously self-deprecating satire.

The board designs are distasteful to mainstream adults, which only adds to the cool factor for their target demographic. Twenty years from now, the kids riding these boards will be complaining about the next generation. In their superficially flippant rebuttals, the Carpenters demonstrate a keen understanding of generation gaps. This keeps them current, even if they arouse the ire of those who are culturally irrelevant.

I am so sick of this issue! Can't we move on already? I guess not so here is my advice to everyone involved:
1. Annoying self-important parents that think these boards are bad and that their pretentious little self-important brats shouldn't be expose to them - Don't buy the boards, do your jobs as parents (as it is not Burton's job) and raise responsible children. You can't shelter your kids from all the evils of the world, so suck it up and get to work.
2. Burton - Keep doing what you do. I haven't purchased one of your products in years, but that's mainly because you went corporate and I realized that BC skiing is where it is at.

I don't snowboard, but that doesn't make me culturally irrelevant (Malvern). Similarly, managing to procreate is about the most culturally relevant act one can partake of, and in this fairly twisted world, it strikes me that any degree of momma/poppa bear protectiveness is warranted as long as it doesn't alienate the children the parents are trying to set an example for.

Now, if you are a parent worthy of the title, you're not just going to hand your precious babe over to popular culture on a silver platter. You might even take a stand against the addiction-seated propaganda if you want your children to question what they will inevitably, at some pre-ordained ripe age, begin consuming. Most parents are aware that pop culture is not interested in the cerebral development of future well-adjusted society members but in monetary profit, and monetary profit alone. We all know this. The parents in question here are fighting against this corporate indifference, they are asking the Burton founders to rise above the typical indifference to at least engage in a compassionate dialogue, and the Burton founders, because they are secure in their profit margins, are saying (exactly): fuck you. This is to be expected. At least it would be if the Carpenters were not also parents with a kid in the exact demographic that these other, less money-beholden parents are expressing concerns about.

What sickens me about Donna Carpenter's response in particular is the juxtaposition of her initial resistance to the "tongue-in-cheek" boards with her final decision that she "can live with this." Clearly, she has other values that are not as valuable as profit, which is obviously her bottom line. Perhaps she didn't feel that she was, as a mother, "culturally relevant" enough to voice her initial concerns about these boards. Her words in the interview indicate a marginal decision-making role in the corporation, and perhaps, like many woman, she has allowed her own values to be waylaid by the speed of the male-conducted train she's riding. I'm sorry, but would Donna Carpenter have personally ordered the design of the boards that parents are up-in-arms about? No, but because she is convinced she's "culturally irrelevant" in the firm she represents, that is that last thing she wants to think about. Donna, we can learn to live with anything...if you could pick a motto, would that be yours? Donna Carpenter, mother, snowboarder, CEO, learning to live with it (and defend it afterwards)? Watch it or you'll stretch out your tongue on its way to your cheek.

Alright i would like to bring to the table the recently released movie Saw 5. Did anyone notice that at the end the man has to saw his hand in half? I heard no protest against such gruesome acts, and yet when a snowboard shows this it gets ripped apart. My father had said he didnt like the mutilated hand one...but he hadnt even seen it. I showed it to him and he was quite confused why their was so much of a fuss over that. Its a cartoon graphic, and so many worse things have been depicted in the media and on the internet I wonder why anyone even cares.

My second point questions why organizations would ever cut funding for the CHILL program!!!!! Burton recieves no money from the CHILL program, by cutting funding they are hurting the children not the company. For organizations all about the help this sems like a contradiction. Voicing their opinions is one thing, but hurting inner city children would seem to go against their mission statements.

My third point refers to a comment posted in seven days about young boot clad men riding on top of naked women, and how this promotes the degradation of women? If any of these protesters actually knew anything about riding, or had a passion for riding, they would understand the love and pride that is vested in every riders board. It is in no way a dishonor to be stamped on a snowboard. I have kept every board I've ever bought. These shred sticks are practically holy in the eyes of a true rider. No rider would ever intentionally hurt his or her board. I think that these people should try and understand the sport before the complete attack of it.

My fourth point is that I am only 16 here. I am outraged that these adults, with the power to protest things that need protesting, are wasting their time on a snowboard. If you ride one great, you love the board and you understand its meaning. If you see it on the hill, its for 20 seconds as you walk or ride by. These boards are in no way a massive exposure to the public. Ive talked to adults and fellow young riders...not one of them has shown displeausre in the release of either of these lines. Every female shredder ive spoken with has said that its just a classy naked woman on a board, its not offensive, its beautiful. For a state which allows naked people to walk around in front of our kids, why do we get angry over a snowboard that is only half naked? Fashon designers depict topless models all the time in their advertisements, but we never accuse them of being degrading.

What happened to the live and let live attitude of this state? On the mountain Ive ridden shirtless with 5 of my friends in the spring. Two of which were females. The people that inhabit the mountain dont care, they allow complete freedom of expression and individualism. Why dont we throw our protests against something that is neccesary, like nuclear bombs, slave trades, drugs, poverty, world hunger, unjust rulers, and dictaorships.

I plead with you fellow Vermonters and people of the hill, remember the live and let live attitude. Just let it be, let it live, let it fade, and move on.....Its all this 16 year old shredder can ask = /

and sorry about my spelling i typed this rahter quick and im sure my grammer and punctuation is way off = O

These do-good yuppies & angry theoretical feminists expect everyone to cater to what they see as offensive, but heaven forbid other people "act intolerant." They're using the EXACT same logic as the born-again fundamentalists who don't want to see public displays of affection between gay & lesbian couples: "It's just wrong," and "How am I supposed to teach my children proper values if I demonstrate tolerance of this behavior?" They're using the exact same kind of unsubstantiated claims and tenuous links; "gay behavior leads to child molesting," and "Playboy leads to date rape," sound equally absurd to my ears. And the hand images? Leading to self-mutilation? Give me a fucking break.

The initial protest web-site prompted folks to "call up stores and ask them to BAN these boards." That's not dialogue, that's the brown-shirt tactics of which the ever so "tolerant," Left is perfectly capable, and the irony of the Left finally aligning itself with the Right over something as innocuous as Playboy is palpable!

There's several European countries I can think of that show soft-core porn on normal T.V. stations. They have shows directed at pre-teens talking matter-of-factly about silly sexual things like "French-kissing," and showing how to put on condoms. Their advertising shows plenty of skin. Yet their children actually lose their virginity later in life, have fewer unwanted pregnancies and contract less STD's. Gee, I wonder why?

Maybe instead of freaking out about these dumb snowboards and teaching your children to ban, censor and act with intolerance, you should actually talk to your children about complex subjects, you know, like sex, and "violent," imagery.

The sixteen year old poster above certainly demonstrates more maturity and intelligence than most of the adults I've read thus far.

I love these designs. I think Burton is hitting just the right nerve. Keep making edgy stuff and enjoy the controversy!

hey Burton its ok. Do what you like - you are right, free speech and all. But I will take my money elsewhere. Thanks for considering all the women who like to board. And your PR response was very badly handled. Well you reap what you sow.

How come Jeff Springer isn't chiming in here on Burton? As a key protest organizer he aught to be contributing something.

This protest has been about making people aware that Burton is producing these boards that diminish, not add to the enjoyment of snowboarding. The graphics are retrogressive - they harken back to the days when being a "playboy" was cool - now it's just old and crusty. The primo graphics are just plain sick.

It appears from the interviews that Burton is unlikely to admit the obvious - the boards were untested with the wider market (oops!), and are being rejected by a significant market segment (women, families).

So, families like mine (and their are many) can send a financial message to the company by refusing to buy anything Burton (or related brands like Analog, R.E.D, etc.). If enough money talks, Burton will adjust.

it's pretty clear from the article that burton doesn't have to worry about a few conservative-minded parents taking their snowboard spending elsewhere. huh. no wonder the carpenters aren't concerned about being politically correct and kissing arses.

i envy that; if i could afford to do it, i would tell those folks to find something better to do with their time, as well. and i might not even be as polite about it.

OK Marketing done well
People need a cause
Sell at all cost
Being a wealthy citizen = responsibility
The pill is the one to be worried about = High
Reflections of society, selling at great $$
Explaining makes you sound guilty
Threats of Leaving
Listen to the boarders, give the people what they want
The good news is, dialogue has opened
Everyone live in peace, nude with all appendages ....

There's no way around it - Burton is off my list.


As the father of two lovely girls there's absolutely no way I'll be supporting a company that's not only done a back flip on their own policies never to use sex to sell boards (from a corporate statement issued only four years ago) but has just done something that's shown awfully bad taste.

It's a shame, I used to work for Burton and I took pride in the work I did. But companies can go too far. Burton, in my estimation, has crossed that line. Their inability to see it just shows how out of touch they have become.

Though I bought from them because they're locally employing people, and have always made a well constructed product, I'm tempted to grab all of my Burton gear. Grab the gear I've purchased for my daughters, and other accessories I've amassed through the years and set it aflame on the sidewalk in front of the company store before I go shopping elsewhere.

Who knows, maybe I still will. I wouldn't be hurt if a few of those 'Love' and 'Primo' boards found their way into the pile as well.

I am so tired of people coming in and saying that great art such as this, is gonna be what causes people to go out and what? Stick there hand in a f-ing blender. Give me a dang break! If ya don't like the board, don't fricking buy it.
Personally i think they are great! And I have the stickers for these boards all over my stuff. I can't say my Three girls who all snowboard, and have seen them have said "wow, look what Burton is doing. Mom do we have a blender?" Please! You people bug the hell outta me with your criticism.
As a matter a fact, i think i want three, no better make it four of these boards:)
Oh one more thing. As far as the other board, same thing. Get over it! Besides, Burton does not only have a clientele of ten year old's. Plus i have seen skateboards with far more graphic images then these, and that has never seemed to be a problem. Why is everyone attacking Burton?

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