5/12/2007

Just. Stop. It.

One popular trend that has been annoying the hell out of me for quite some time is the resurgence of roller derby. I find its very existence to be an incredible joke, and I recoil every time I see a poster advertising a bunch of scantily-clad butch girls on wheels.

My knee-jerk reaction to this pseudo sport comes from the idea that it is somehow an empowering feminist movement. The women involved in roller derby have convinced themselves that this is some sort of grrrl power statement, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

I mean, a bunch of girls dress up in fishnets and catholic school girl skirts, skate around in circles, and try to bash the hell out of one another while a bunch of dudes swill cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and whoop from the sidelines.

Most roller derby "fans" are middle-aged boys who come for the promise of watching girls rough up one another. The sex-and-violence combo is just a new twist on the pop culture bitch fight.

Columnist Mike Seate of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review agrees. After writing a critical roller derby article, he was inundated by hate mail. He "just didn't get it" he was told--didn't see the power and promise of all this female empowerment zipping around the oval. But that wasn't the problem at all....he got it. He got it all too well:

"When I took in a modern roller derby bout in California a while back, the audience was mostly male and smiled at all the exposed female flesh. It brought to mind a visit to Daytona Beach where an entertainment promoter insisted I write a detailed, sympathetic feature on something called "Foxxy Boxxing." This, along with "Nude Cole-Slaw Wrasslin'" contests had made the promoter a very wealthy man. These "sports," if you will, also made many of the guys in Daytona very happy."

Seate's assessment of roller derby falls nicely into line with the origins of the so-called sport. The first derby was organized in 1935 by a sports promoter named Leo A. Seltzer. His intent was actually kind of cool--to skate 57,000 laps, equaling the distance across the United States. Ergo, the term "derby."

These early efforts were co-ed, with teams composed of one man and one woman. Two years later, a journalist by the name of Damon Runyon commented that roller derby's highlights were the collisions. So the game was changed to single-sex, with men and women alternating time on the rink. Rather than working in tandem, the skaters' roles shifted to offensive and defensive.

The "evolution" of roller derby continued into the seventies, where that generation took their cues from professional wrestling. This is where the goofy names and blustering talk originated, and the time frame that is being regenerated today.

During this period, roller derby was televised. It was further popularized by the film "Kansas City Bomber," starring the sexpot Raquel Welch.

While roller derby participants attempt to meld the kitsch of pro wrestling and the sex kitten appeal of Welch, in reality they tend to fall into two categories: the butch girls who enjoy a good contact sport, and the attention-whore girls who like the little costumes and the tattooed boys on the sidelines.

In either case, most of these chicks aren't people that I would necessarily want to see "scantily-clad." Let's face it: roller derby attracts some big girls.

Suffice to say that the titillating aspect of roller derby is lost on me. The girls who come to it from the side of "I want to parade around in a short skirt and have guys look up my skirt when I fall" strike me as women who, if given the chance, would feel the need to validate themselves by swinging around a pole. Except that no one is willing to proffer their dollar bills for the g-string collection.


A friend told me that trying to write an article about why roller derby annoys me would be like authoring a piece akin to "man, I'm so sick of that Huey Lewis!" And in a way, he's right. So how did this resurgence come about?

Like everything else, I blame misplaced irony. Roller derby was, at best, a fringe sport even in its heyday. This lack of popularity makes it an ideal framework for the Fatty Page crowd, a reference to the overweight girls who mistakenly identify their own bodies to the curves of '50s fetish model Bettie Page.

But I also blame a bizarrely twisted take on feminism at the root of this resurgence. Roller derby girls classify their activities as risk-taking, challenging, and some sort of fuck-you to the 'establishment.' While they vehemently argue that there are no overt sex-as-a-weapon elements, every roller derby team makes mention of its extensive use of fishnets, knee-socks, hotpants and tiny tops. Oh, and beating the hell out of other girls.


To me, this is just juvenile pussy power..."Hey, I need attention. I'm going to direct your attention to my vagina and then be offended when you notice. That's mine. MINE. Now back to my vagina."

I mean, roller derby hasn't exactly been endorsed by Gloria Steinem and plastered to the cover of Ms. magazine.

I stumbled across a fellow blogger's take on roller derby, and found some indominable truths in her words. Words that the roller derby girls found and came back to mock her as a "frigid spinster." Go go girl power!

"The “sport” is only nominally about skating....it’s actually about...sex. That’s right, sex, only not real sex, such as the kind we could all be having if Hugh Hefner hadn’t ruined it for everybody, but phony sex as defined by the horndog ideology of the pornocracy. The roller derby is an example of...a non-penetrative, G-rated, but nevertheless two-dimensional, stereotypical, and bogus picture of female sexuality generated from an amorphous plasma of cultural misogyny. It’s kindergarten burlesque."

So if you want to skate around in a sexualized version of kids' clothing while grubby dudes howl, that is surely your prerogative. But don't try to tart it up and call it something that it's not. Because tits and ass and girl fights do not a movement make.

29 comments:

flailing forward said...

As a "revel in the retardedness" kind of guy, when it comes to "tits and ass and girl fights", Flailing likey. Yes, highly mobile attack babes are just fine as long as I don't get hurt. I admit that I've never been to a roller derby and I'm operating under the assumption that all of the girls would be hottt (or at least hawt.)

However, I am more intrigued by the Foxxy Boxxing and Nude Cole Slaw Wrasslin'. Maybe you could do a couple of follow-up posts.

Aspeth said...

(reaches out and slaps Flailing)

flailing forward said...

Oww!!

Leigh said...

OMG I am AGAIN laughing my ass off here....


Hope you had a great vaca!

My grandfather used to take me to Saturday Night Roller Derby in Fort Worth, TX, back in the mid-seventies. (I was 10) The first round was always the women, followed by the men. The one thing I remember is that on one of the women's teams, there was a woman that was at LEAST 250 pounds. Her name was TINY. :) They had white shirts and numbers like football players, and her number was, I kid you not, 747. And BIG SURPRISE...she ALWAYS won, and was the crowd favorite.

My grandfather LOVED it. But the women had on a full uniform just like the men. He liked watching everyone knock each other out I guess. I liked the food. I do not know what point I am trying to make. It just reminded me of Tiny, my favorite #747.

Aspeth said...

Leigh, I'm beyond amused that you've got some first-hand knowledge, particularly since it involves Tiny as #747.

I have to say...Sat Night Roller Derby in Fort Worth paints quite a picture. Or movie. Or something.

Thanks for sharing this story. It's going to have me laughing all night!

Akubi said...

Have you seen Scooby Doo's venusian ice floe?

Dumbfounded said...

Oh Aspeth, Aspeth, Aspeth...

Where do I even begin? You really don't get it.

Roller Derby is as American as apple pie! Second only to beach volleyball.

http://www.phun.org/specials/beach_volleyball/beach_volleyball_02.jpg

Aspeth said...

dumbfounded...you're obviously missing the exponential size of the asses involved here...

Dumbfounded said...

Aspeth, In a way you are promoting the sport of roller derby! Here are the Google ads on the top of your page:

Roller Derby Tickets
Roller Skating
Roller Girls
Roller Wear
And *drumroll*....my favorite....Big Easy Rollergirls!

flailing forward said...

Yay for volleyball, dumbfounded!

But honestly Aspeth, what's next? Are you going to try to tell us that the GLOW wrestlers weren't a huge leap forward for ladies everywhere? It's ladies like these who showed that the fairer sex could rap just as well as the menfolk. And let's not forget the American Gladiator babez, the Baywatch ladies, and of course Ashley Simpson who paved the way in the fields of gladiating, lifeguarding, and lip-syncing, all areas traditionally dominated by males. Aspeth, we will NOT let you whitewash history!!


Not related, but David Hasselhoff drunk and losing the battle against a hamburger.

Aspeth said...

lol, dumbfounded. That's *awesome* Maybe we can all take a groups haterz outing to the roller derby. Leigh can call the plays!

Aspeth said...

Big. Easy. Rollergirls.

Pretty much says it all.

Aspeth said...

flailing...that hasselhoff video is just sad. You're killing my buzz here.

Dumbfounded said...

Aspeth, Count me in for the haterz derby day!

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/191/461902455_4b0933c0d1.jpg?v=0

http://www.uncoolkids.com/pics/Oct17.Oct23/derby.jpg

Schnapps said...

Haterz derby day? I may fly down for that. :> I think it may be a good excuse to use up some vacation time :>

Aspeth said...

glad to see you're holding up with the gnarly work schedule :)

Schnapps said...

Holding up, yes. Thriving, no :>

Did I mention I have a dentist appointment tomorrow? Its for a cleaning, but I skipped November's cleaning because of wisdom tooth surgery. I doubt that tomorrow will be fun.

Combine that with a standard, boring meeting tomorrow morning and a phone likely ringing off the hook, and my day is set.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I guess you were the odd man out when it came to being picked for your kick ball team. You will never have any idea how much work and dedication goes into roller derby. I'm usually sad for miserable people and want to help them through whatever child hood issue they've been through, but you'll just be that miserable old bitch on the corner with her 9 cats grumbling about mystery people breaking into her house. Yeah-that's you.

Aspeth said...

LOL...yeah, you know all about me!!! Go ahead and squeeze your fat ass into some shorts and roller skates and get some validation from PBR-swilling h.s. graduates. You're not going to get it here.

Pu$$y_Pow3r said...

Well... to each their own. The main thing I find disappointing about this rant was that you seem to push the steriotype of womans' beauty being found only in the shape of super models or barbie dolls when you say:
"... lack of popularity makes it an ideal framework for the Fatty Page crowd, a reference to the overweight girls who mistakenly identify their own bodies to the curves of '50s fetish model Bettie Page."

Pity. Big girls are absolutely every bit as beautiful as people such as yourself seem to think twiggy super models are. And no dear... I'm NOT a 'big girl'. I do have many friends who are and they are GORGEOUS. I am sorry that you can't see beyond your own brainwashed haze of society's standards.

On a side note; I admire those woman who don't care what others say or think. They do as they please and make no apologies for it. And the reference to 'pole dancers'? Who is the smart one in that scenario? The man who gives his cash quite willingly to a woman just for the privilage to LOOK at her, or the woman who takes home the cash? Those woman are in total control. Quite admirable.

If people want to pay to see girls play roller derby (something the girls work hard at and LOVE to do), then where is the problem? You say it is about sex. Could it be that the girls and spectators just have a good time? And if the girls like the attention... so what? Everyone has something they do for attention. After all, why do you write this blog?

You speak of the psychology of Roller Derby as though you are Sigmund Freud himself. Like him, you have little or no understanding of the actual subject, but still everything returns to sex. Reads to me as though you are the one with the obsession. Care for a cigar?

Anonymous said...

theres alot of dedication going into any sport not everyone playing trys to "shove there fat ass in some shorts" were actually there to play a bad ass sport it just seems ur quite the loser not finding anything better to write about, ur lame rollerderby is not about"sex" its a real contact sport,in which u have no guts ,u should try it some time .then youll really know what its about ,because ur clueless

Anonymous said...

Just curious, have you ever actually been to a bout?

There's that old saying, "Don't knock it 'til you try it." So are you a tryer or a knocker?

Renee said...

Even as someone who is involved in roller derby, I had to laugh at your blog.

I'm not going to even begin to chastise you for your views...I actually found myself agreeing with some of what you said.

Whatever sport, hobby, scene you are invloved in, there are people like whom you described. There is no avoiding it.

But don't misunderstand, there are many who skate for the love of the sport (which can be very trying if you are not in decent shape).

I will admit, the girls who are more interested in looking like a hot roller girl disgust me...but to each her own. We all have our own reasons and motivations for doing things.
I also would agree with you that this is not a female empowerment for me...I've just always been into rollerskating and being strong and fit. This is just a way for me to enjoy myself while away from kids/work with some really great girls (and guys).
I would also like to point out that there are numerous male leagues poppin up...and that will be a test. If it is a sport whose fans are purely based on horny middle aged men drinking PBR, and not esteemed as a genuine sport-Roller Derby will die.

Let's see what happens.

In the mean time, check out a game...it might not be what you think.

Kiki Mojo said...

Wow, it's a shame you didn't really research this before your post. As a new member of the WFTDA, I just endured a grueling three-day tryout that had everything to do with athleticism and NOTHING to do with wearing sexy clothes, play-fighting, or showmanship. We had to make time trials, skate three-hour practices, do running and other endurance drills, as well as learn advanced skating skills. Yes, the typical derby uniform may be sexy. Yes, there may be rough play between women. But no, that is not what roller derby is about. The women who skate take this sport seriously, as a sport. It is the only sport I know of for women where a 20-year old college student can play alongside a 50-year old grandmother of three. It's about athleticism and women supporting women. Go check out a practice session or a bout to see how hard these women work--I think you'd be surprised.

Anonymous said...

You obviously have no idea what it takes to be involved in roller derby.....the dedication to your team and league and yes even our fans!!! Fuck you....you're the joke. You're a big fat loser who can only get it up when you're mom walks by. Its not our fault you're so pathetic.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

Yay for free publicity! It's too bad you didn't actually research the subject before you posted, but it's great to have extra advertising for Roller Derby. Keep up the good work:)

Anonymous said...

as much as i am all for your thoughts and views....you need to be better informed. i am sensing undertones of jealousy from this? perhaps you "cant" or maybe you tried out and got rejected? hhhmmmm, couldnt be a stripper either and wanted badly to do that too i see....oh yeah ~ let me guess, i got THAT all wrong right? WELL ~ thats what happens when someone that has no idea what the fuck they are talking about opens the hole in thier face....eeerrrr moves thier fingers to type ~ LOL and furthermore....i might have a "fat ass" BUT at least im beautiful....I can diet! ha ha ha ha thanks for amuzing me..... oh yeah...& HAVE A NICE DAY :)

*note to readers*
i do know proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation...i just choose not to use it...ha ha haha ;)

Zombitch said...

I am a homemaker, a mother, and a rollerderby girl.
I am more worried about skating my ass off on the track than trying to divert your attention to my vagina.
I also,am sorry for your obvious lack of skating ability and agility.
Why don't you pad up, go try it out...After you can't get your pads over your jeans and tear your ass out and break your face . Maybe then we can get some respect.

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