Burton owners discuss controversy over snowboards

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(Host) On Monday, the co-owners and founders of Burton – the snowboard manufacturer – responded to criticism of the graphics on some of their new boards.

Jake Burton Carpenter and Donna Carpenter said that for them, the controversy and stories in the media have been hurtful and out of line.

While the company had previously issued a statement defending artistic expression, this week the Carpenters provided more information on the history of the boards.

VPR’s Nina Keck reports.

(Keck) For several months, Burton has come under fire for their Love snowboards which feature scantily clad Playboy photos and their Primo line which feature cartoon graphics of self-mutilation. Donna Carpenter is co-owner of Burton with her husband Jake.

(Donna Carpenter) When I first saw the Primo board, I saw the peace sign and one finger had been cut off and underneath it says the word peace. And I thought wow that’s pretty cool; it’s an anti-war statement.

(Keck) She says she considered the graphics to be cartoonish and edgy, but nothing more. Jake Burton Carpenter says he and his wife approve every board the company makes. But he says the sport of snowboarding was founded on free expression and they don’t like to limit their artists’ freedom.

(Jake Burton Carpenter) "These graphics are made for young men, and young men do not want to ride a graphic that their parents are going to ride."

(Keck) Still both seem surprised and stung by the reaction the boards have gotten in Vermont.

(Donna Carpenter) "When I first heard about the Love board – I heard the idea that we were putting Playboy centerfolds on the boards and I said, you know, ‘no way.’ And honestly, I was totally prepared to fly off the handle.

(Keck) But Donna Carpenter says once she saw the boards – which have vintage Playboy images from 30 years ago, she felt relieved. They were tasteful, she thought, and had a sense of humor.

(Donna Carpenter) The young women that I speak to are not offended by these images at all. They’re really not. I’ve actually had women in the U.S. but also around the world who are buying these boards because they think the images are beautiful."

(Keck) Carpenter does volunteer work for a number of women’s organizations in the state. She says she doesn’t believe the photographs objectify women or promote violence toward them.

She says there’s a generational divide among women today and what they consider to be pornographic. And while she understands that some parents may be concerned, she says it’s up to them to educate their children about what they deem appropriate.

(Donna Carpenter) "I have a lot of sympathy for parents who are trying to raise kids in society today – we are raising three teenage boys. So we can really relate to parents who are concerned about what their kids are exposed to. But that’s not Burton’s responsibility when we didn’t find the images offensive. You know, we can’t be responsible for everybody who might think something’s offensive."

(Keck) When asked if the company would create boards like these in the future, Jake Burton Carpenter says ‘yes.’

(Jake Burton-Carpenter) There might be some moms out there that are part of this, that aren’t going to buy a Burton for their kid. But we’ve never been the brand that builds our graphics about what mom wants. And that was a conscious decision that we made years ago… we make the product and design the product for the person who’s going to use it."

(Keck) For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck

(Host): And we should mention that Donna Carpenter is a member of the VPR Board.


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