Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Talk Derby to Me: Better to Get Knocked Down than Knocked Up

I liked Maya Rulz the first day of Roller Derby Boot Camp. That was before the third day of camp when she made us do “core exercises.” Imagine laying on your back, hands under your butt, and lifting your legs (primarily using your abdominal muscles) 6” off the ground for an extended period of time. With five-pound roller skates attached to each foot.

She also taught us the porn-star stretch, but unfortunately it’s not as fun as its name implies.

This is a typical Roller Derby warm-up. Recently I completed a week of Roller Derby Boot Camp to train for the Savannah Derby Devils open tryout. Many people have inquired about the sport itself; most are curious about the fascination it holds for me. When I speak of my Derby involvement, 9 out of 10 people have stated something along the lines of “You are the last person I would expect for that.”

Admittedly there is nothing about my outward personality that screams, “You know, I’ve always wanted to wear fishnet stockings and barrel into other women while wearing roller skates, knowing it is probable I will fall on my ass at any moment. What? There’s actually a sport for that? Sign me up!”

Roller Derby has made a huge comeback from its initial popularity in the 1970’s, and will become an even trendier phenomenon when the movie Whip It! hits theaters in October. Originally Roller Derby was staged for dramatic effect, like cage-fighting on wheels. Now it is a recognized sport and there are more than 70 Roller Derby leagues across the United States.

So what’s the appeal?

A. The team itself. I dare you to find another sport that shows the amount of diversity that Roller Derby does. The only rules are you have to be a girl (sorry boys) over the age of 18. Derby Girls come from all walks of life and are all ages, shapes, and sizes. Most sports require you to be a size 2 under the age of 30, and we all know SO many women fall into that category. In Derby it doesn’t matter how old you are, how tall you are, or how thin you are…you just have to be competent on skates and not be afraid to hit people. Big girls actually have the advantage. You should see the face of a petite size 2 when a 250 lb. girl on roller skates is coming towards them head-on. Classic.

B. The attraction of adopting an angry alter-ego. Roller Derby turns anyone into an instant super-hero; shy intellectual by day, sassy bad-ass by night. You have to mean business if you want to live up to a name like Fear Abby or Lizzy Gored’Em.

C. Dressing derby. You don’t have to whore it up completely if you don’t want to but its hard for a girl to not feel sexy in fishnets, knee socks, and elbow pads. Walking home from a Derby party a man actually purred at me. I was not aware men did that. Whistle, sure. Growl and grunt, no problem. But purring? Not the classiest compliment I have ever gotten but glad to know the outfit was deemed derby appropriate.

All these are valid reasons, but after surviving boot camp I realized the biggest reward derby offers is the life experience. It may not seem like it but Roller Derby is basically Feminism 101.

Take derby stance for example; derby stance is how you are required to skate in a bout. Shoulders over knees over balls of feet, like a linebacker. This way you are always ready for someone to hit you from any angle. Also if you fall you’ll fall on your knees which is a lot less painful than falling on your ass. Just take my word for it. Derby stance teaches women to be prepared for anything, to be ready at any moment to be hit by something that could take the air right out of their lungs.

Derby teaches women about true female camaraderie. About working together as a pack. About how to step out of your comfort zone, whether by wearing fishnets or by having your hips grabbed to be pushed into an opposing player. About how to feel powerful and sexy in your own skin, tattoos and all.

I block and you fall. You block and I fall. Now repeat. Sounds like the life story of every woman I know.

If you are the least bit intrigued I encourage you to show up and support your local derby team at their next bout. If nothing else, it’s a good idea for you to be able to recognize every woman in your city capable of kicking your ass. For more information visit the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

1 comment:

  1. And if you want to get further involved but don't like to skate, you could join our brand-new Jeerleading Squad: professional hecklers that STILL get to dress derby and get their own alter-ego derby name :)