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Chipping Away Gender Stereotypes

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Among collegiate sports, football and basketball tend to be the big draws. But for a balance of utility and tradition, the Berkeley logging team is hard to beat.

Logging sports evolved from the work skills of lumberjacks of yore. Today’s events range from historic techniques such as chopping and crosscut sawing, to the use of modern tools such as chainsaws, with some axe throwing and log rolling in between. It’s all about speed: winners in most events are the fastest at each task. “All of the skills we learn will come in really handy for the forestry jobs we’ll hopefully have in the future,” says forestry student Allison Chambers, one of the Berkeley team’s two captains. On the job, professional foresters still need to remove the occasional hazardous tree in areas where machinery is not permitted, and to break down logs to clear blocked paths.

At Berkeley, logging has become women’s work. Eight of the Bears’ twelve most regular team members are female. This may be a reflection of the forestry major at Berkeley, also mostly female at present and the source of most team members. “It’s more about skill than size and strength,” Chambers says.

The team practices atop Grizzly Peak, where their chopping and bucking also benefit the environment. “We help out with invasive species removal by cutting eucalyptus trees, and in return, the University lets us use the wood we take out. Eventually we go back and plant redwood,” Chambers says. “It’s a good excuse to get out there in the woods.”

-Kathleen M. Wong

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