And loved it!
Somewhere a few months ago I had read an article about how roller derby was growing in the US and how the resurgence of roller derby has been connected to third-wave feminism--a sport organized by women for women athletes, and a sport that combines toughness, athleticism and femininity. I found that link--roller derby and feminism--to be interesting. But for my part, I mainly love anything having to do with the '50s and '60s. Roller derby was at its cultural peak during those decades, so I was interested in its resurgence. I love anything retro.
So last week while visiting my family in Pennsylvania Jana was reading the paper about local events coming up. And she noted that the Eerie Roller Girls where having a double-header bout in a few days and would I like to go? You bet, I said. And so it was that Jana and I, along with my two sons and three nephews, all went to our first roller derby.
It was a double-header. In the first match the Eerie Roller Girls took on the Queen City Roller Girls from Buffalo, NY. The second match had the B-squad from the Eerie Roller Girls going against the J-Town Roller Girls from Johnstown, PA.
Prior to the bouts we took the time to familiarize ourselves with the rules. But it took us awhile to understand everything that was going on, the various rules and strategies involved. But by the second bout we started to really get the hang of it. I found myself, at one point, screaming at the lead jammer to call the jam before the other jammer reached the pack. You know, the stuff you yell at a roller derby match.
I can't say how much our teenage sons and nephews liked the event. The main word they used to describe the evening was "interesting." Jana and I loved it. We're officially roller derby fans.
Now the burning questions you are probably wanting to ask is was event a show or a sport? And were the women scantily or provocatively clothed?
Regarding being a show, when some people think of roller derby they think of something like professional wrestling. And I think some roller derbies are like that.
But what we saw was a sport, associated with the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
Regarding clothing, while there were some feminine flourishes to the basic team uniform it wasn't, speaking as a man, an ogling sort of experience. The whole thing was very different and unique and had a campy, theatrical flair, but we experienced it as a sporting event. Those women were competing as athletes. There was an injury (and emergency medical people were on hand like you see at a football game). And beyond skating ability, strength and cardiovascular stamina were really, really important. If a jammer was too fatigued to get through blocks that team was in deep trouble.
As for roller derby being the quintessential feminist sport I don't know, as a man, if I can say. But we do know this: roller derby is a full contact sport (like football) that is also a female sport. Roller derby isn't a female version (and therefore a lesser version in the eyes of some) of what was originally a male sport. Roller derby is a female contact sport. Roller derby doesn't imitate the guys. So if men want to play roller derby, and male roller derby leagues are starting up, they are going to have to follow the lead of the roller girls.
If a guy wants to play roller derby, and it looks like a ton of fun, he's going to have to learn to block and jam like a roller derby girl.
At one point during the double-header I looked at some of the little girls in attendance cheering on their favorite roller girl.
I leaned over to Jana and said, "If I were a little girl I bet this would be pretty empowering and inspiring."
And if you looked at the faces of those little girls, they seemed to agree.
|Eerie Roller Girls taking on the Queen City Rollers|