Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hip Check Against the Machine

Nothing makes me prouder than playing my best. I love the feeling I get driving home from a bout, win or lose, when I know I just rocked it. When taking off my uniform, I survey my numerous bruises, smeared makeup, and the impressions of other skater's derby numbers marking my arms and get a big, grin on my face. I'm proud as hell I play roller derby, and I even prouder I do it well. What is the point of doing anything you love if you ain't gonna go all out? For me, derby is a sport...a non-traditional, stick-it-to-the-gender-roles sport. Everything else about it-the personal reward, social statement, community outreach-is icing on the cake. I love my sport with every ounce of my soul, but I am damn sure tired of justifying it.

Roller derby is perpetually being portrayed as a woman's form of therapy, or an extreme way for the fairer sex to take out their pent up aggression. Assumptions are made about derby names and outfits, and skaters themselves say they are a “different person” when they put on skates. Our roller derby names are viewed and described as alter egos and we jokingly refer to it being someone else when were on the track giving gut wrenching hits.

Roller derby is an all-female sport, run by us and for us. Not to mention, it is a sport, y'all, an incredibly challenging feat of athleticism. Why does derby have to be anything other than what it is? Why do we have to constantly justify our reasons for playing derby? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?!

Women are complicated. We are a broad spectrum of many parts, ranging from caring and gentle to die-hard killing machines. Our society has ranked us below men, not because there are fewer of us, but because we are seen as less than men. The women's rights movement is far from over, and frankly to me has really just begun. Every day, as women, we have to prove ourselves worthy. We are supposed to be like Kelly Rippa: working women with the ability to make an excellent home cooked meal, skinny, and always perfect looking. Go against the norm of the everywoman and you are forced to explain yourself.

Roller derby is a symbol of all that is incredible about women. I am not just referring to the athletic ability of skaters, I am also talking about the organization of leagues: bout production, pr, uniform design, recruiting, training, etc. We literally do it all, which really just mirrors our work and family lives as well. We do EVERYTHING.

So, why do we call roller derby our therapy? Why is Miller Lightnin' suppose to be my alter ego, instead of an extension of who I am? Is skating the one thing keeping me off the clock tower? Frankly, it's insulting when asked to justify why I play a sport just because it isn't traditional and it involves contact. You need to know why I do something I love? Easy answer, bro: because I LOVE IT.

Roller derby is one of the many parts of me that makes me the awesome person I am. I am not who I am because of derby, but I am a better person for being a part of Greensboro Roller Derby (my league, in particular, rules really hard). Miller Lightnin' isn't my “alter ego,” it is a part of me I didn't know was there. I am Susan, Susie, Miller Lightnin, loyal friend, sister, granddaughter, feminist, student, teacher, believer, writer, child, adult, daughter, and teammate. I am woman, hear me roar.

So, sisters, remember. When asked why you play derby, don't immediately feel like you have to justify your reasons. In life, as a woman, you have two options: feed the patriarchal machine or challenge it. Feel free to choose the latter.

XOXO Miller Lightnin'  

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