A few weeks ago, over Sunday dinner, my mom asked me why I was suddenly so obsessed about Roller Derby. At the time, the best I could muster was “It’s strong women going fast, and that’s awesome.” Which is true, but is only a fraction of why I find it interesting.
After a long talk with Paul the other night, and also after reading this post, I finally came to a better articulation: It’s a (predominantly 20-40 year old, predominantly white) group of women defining their own ferocity — and to an extent, their own sexuality — for themselves, for their consumption, as opposed to the exclusive consumption of men. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Derby is aimed directly at women, to the exclusion of men, but at its very core, it’s more about the skaters themselves, as well as their interactions with each other, and less about the people consuming the entertainment (Buddy and former Head Derby Ref Iggy Slop confirms that the philosophy is “By the skaters, for the skaters”).
It’s about women putting on the closest thing to superhero gear we have in the real world — right down to wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes — but they’re designing it themselves to be badass on their own terms. It’s no surprise that while there’s certainly no shortage of miniskirts on the track, practicality comes first; a jammer has to be able to skate ridiculously fast in her outfit, and a blocker has to be able to check somebody off the track without her boobs popping out. It’s just so outstanding to see awesome, badass outfits designed for actual physical contact, instead of. Well. You know. It’s seeing the difference, firsthand, between how male-dominated media conglomerates define how empowered women should look, and how one group of empowered women choose to define themselves. (Yes, I know superhero comics != roller derby: fantasy, magic, superpowers, stockholders, selling to a wide audience. I get it. But. As a lifelong reader of comics, and as a lifelong fan of badass women in both fantasy and real settings, the parallel’s impossible for me to miss.)
Another thing that I love is that the players are of all shapes and sizes and ages: skaters like Javelin prove that you don’t have to be tiny to skate super fast, and skaters like Over-EZ prove that you don’t have to be in your twenties to still play hard. Roller derby is fast-paced, it’s empowering, it’s played with skill and strategy and no shortage of attitude. It’s a sport conceived for, played exclusively by, and owned by women, and intended not just for women’s entertainment, but for everybody’s. It’s just plain awesome.