Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Men's Roller Derby: Oh My!

I am so excited that men's roller derby leagues are becoming a conversation in the world of derby. The more people that play roller derby, the better. I truly believe in roller derby world domination, and that the benefits of playing the sport can positively influence all people.

Full disclosure, though: men's roller derby brings out the skeptical feminist in me. I am slightly wary of a potential take over. Roller derby was male-dominated at times during its long history, but the modern incarnation of it has been all about female empowerment. Roller derby is the one place in my life where I am not treated as a second class citizen because of my gender. Roller derby empowers my female force, has increased my sisterhood, and has freed me from the burden of self-body hatred.

When roller derby began in the 20s, it was played by men. Female skaters were added to the sport later as a way to sell tickets. No one could have guessed then how roller derby would evolve into the feminist movement it is today.

Modern roller derby is not just a sport, it is a feminist movement.

I need the men who are creating leagues for themselves to say that out loud. To believe it. Do they truly know the world they are entering? Are they entering it with the full knowledge of their male privilege? Do they know that to women who skate, this means a whole lot more than just hitting one another and wearing cute outfits?

Are these male leagues prepared to embrace and make room in the sport for male-to-female transgender skaters? Do they truly know what a sport created for, by, and with all women means to us? As women?

I say yes. But then again, I am a hopeful, trusting, heart on her sleeve feminist who truly wants a massive social change in terms of gender and sexuality equality. This is what I bleed for.

I am in full support of men's roller derby leagues, and look forward to witnessing my first male derby bout in the upcoming season. All I ask is for these leagues to mention the elephant in the room-the big, giant feminist elephant in the room that is just double checking your intentions.

Sorry guys, thousands of years of sexism and lack of equal treatment will do that to people.

Lookin' forward to seeing you on the flat track, gentlemen.


Miller Lightnin'  


  1. I am a man who plays and loves derby. One of the things that drew me to roller derby was the fact that it felt inclusive. I remember arriving at my first practice feeling anxious and wondering if I would fit in. It didn’t take very long for me to feel comfortable. I believe this is because roller derby attracts good people. Until I read your article, the topic of men taking over the sport never occurred to me. The thought that anyone would think that men could, would, or would want to take over derby is kind of horrifying. Without the wonderful, strong, and passionate women of roller derby it simply doesn’t exist. I have yet to see a men’s team that was not influenced heavily by a women’s team is some very important way.
    According to the “Roller Derby Worldwide” website there are 1033 Women's Flat Track leagues and only 97 Men's Flat Track leagues. With numbers like that I feel safe in saying that men won’t be taking over the sport.

    1. Thanks for your response Bdoy! Much appreciated. It would be greatly appreciated on my end if you brought this conversation to your team. I look forward to skating with you in the future. Sincerely, Miller Lightnin'

  2. I thought this was a really interesting post on the subject. I am working on a documentary about men's derby and it covers a lot of the things you bring up. The film is called This Is How I Roll and follows the story of some of the first men's teams that started up, and some of the obstacles they had to face. It took a long time for them to gain the full respect of some of the women's teams around them, and they did it with a lot of hard work and being true to the essence of the sport. Like Bdog says above, it is a very inclusive sport, which is one of the things that makes it so great. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

    Kat Vecchio
    Dir. This Is How I Roll

    1. Hey Kat! Lookin forward to your documentary. I hope that it contains conversations about the feminist movement roller derby empowers and that the men who are interviewed in the documentary do discuss male privilege and subjects of that matter. Modern day roller derby is one of the first (if not only?) movements/sports/etc. that was created for and by women. Usually it is "female athletes", "WNBA", etc. This is the first case I know of where something had to be distinguished by "men's" ala "men's roller derby". I fully welcome men to derby, as I would welcome any gender identity to the sport I so deeply love. Keep my league updated on your documentaries progress! Thanks for your input. Sincerely, Miller Lightnin'