Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sexy vs Tough: The Battle for Roller Derby's Self Image

Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid and some mean kid at school was teasing you about your unpierced ears, your lame hair or your unimpressive makeup skills?

This girl sure doesn't.

Whenever that happened, your mom was there to tell you that you were special, all that matters is what is inside of you and you just have to believe in yourself and be happy with who you are.  And then your dad came in right behind her explaining how the temple, the jaw and the neck are knockout points, followed by an demonstration of how to throw a punch straight from the shoulder for maximum face-damage potential.

Those dueling approaches to the same problem are very much still at war today within the hearts and minds of the rollergirls of today.  On bout day, you're going into a hostile situation and you know a large group of people will be watching you.  Your mom's contribution to your brain wants to project confidence and self-esteem to the crowd, which manifests itself by dressing to look sexy.  Your dad's contribution to your brain wants to project the image of a warrior to the enemy combatants you are about to face, which manifests it self by dressing to look tough.  The result of this internal struggle?  Well, see for yourself...


In this corner, we have hotpants, false eyelashes, short skirts, cleavage, visible panties, half-shirts and the omnipresent fishnet stockings.  We have team names that contain Dolls, Dames, Wenches, Hotties, Bombshells, Vixens, Angels, Belles, Tarts, Hookers, Beauty Queens, Damsels, Harem, and various other deliciously provocative words.  There are team photos that look like burlesque companies and individual player photos shot with such fantastic Playboy-esque values that sometimes I feel like *content deleted* inside *content really deleted* a gallon of WD-40 *content super-mega-deleted* with a waffle iron.


On the flip side, we have black leather, studded belts, camouflage, bandannas, warpaint, chains, skull tattoos, shaved heads, facial piercings and snarling expressions.  Team names here contain words like Bombers, Warriors, Assassins, Battalion, Regiment, Brawlers, Razors, Bruisers, Ninjas, Hellcats, Pistols, Killers, Renegades and many other words that describe the average Chuck Norris movie.  There are team photos that look like a group you would hire to launch a military coup on a medium-sized South American country and individual player photos that look like they should be a mug shot.

And some that actually ARE a mug shot!

So what does all this mean?  Well, there's no real conclusion here, just a general observation that female derby teams and players tend to choose an image that portrays sexiness, toughness or some sort of synergetic hybrid of the two like fishnet-and-camouflage clad Hooker Commandos.  If you happen to know any women who are attractive enough to draw a crowd of interested suitors and also tough enough to beat up the crowd of suitors and steal their wallets, we may have just the sport for them!


  1. My spouse and I were talking about why Derby is so great for the woman we work with in our league. We finally realized that it is the spearhead of the fourth wave of feminism. No longer is it an issue for dykes and prissy, breeder girls to be on the same team. We have rich girls, paycheck to paycheck girls, ugly (no, really. Let's not mince words), and jaw-droppingly beautiful, novice and pros.

    They are all strengthened by the team and the game and they can be whatever character they want to portray out there. The dichotomy seems to be a major part of the draw.

    Me, I just like to whistle and yell them off the track. Just the way I roll.

  2. I agree with chuym. I made a similar post when I was reflecting on roller derby earlier this year. As an athlete and a feminist-intellectual-type, I was bewildered that my teammates would come to practice in full makeup and get their sexy on for bouts. I stopped rolling my eyes when those same girls started knocking me down with ferocity.

    I've learned that roller derby and its skaters defy categorization, and I'm OK with that. In fact, I'm damn proud of that. Eat me, stereotypes.


  3. Agreed! Derby lets you be whatever the hell you want to be, and screw you if you don't like it. Viva la derby!

  4. Holy crap! That's me snarling up there in the Naptown shirt! To be fair I have to hide my overpowering sex appeal and animal magnetism with a mask of hostility. I'd never get anything done if I didn't scare the ladies away. It's a struggle being so attractive. I'd like everyone reading to know that the photo was taken by the most excellent Marc Lebryk.

  5. Katya Lookin,

    I want to pet your pretty hair.