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Roller Derby: Feminism at its finest

Jessica Cuffman • Feb 12, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Most stories you'll read about roller derby will be about "normal woman by day" and "alter ego by night."

That's fine and well and good, and very much the truth of the matter, so let's get that out of the way. We work at hospitals, and radio stations, water parks, tattoo shops, home improvement stores, schools, factories, and coffee shops.

We're sisters, wives and girlfriends, and mothers. Some of us are not.

We pay bills and taxes, go to the grocery store, do laundry and dishes and all those things women stereotypically and un-stereotypically do.

And yep, some nights, we lace up our skates, strap on our pads, buckle our helmets and beat the crap out of each other as we race around a 192-foot rink.

The list of what I love about roller derby seems endless, but here are a few reasons:

1) It makes me exercise. Rarely do I do so voluntarily otherwise. Run? Pshew. Give me a pair of skates and tell me to do suicides, sit-ups and pushups and I'll run you in circles AND BE HAPPY ABOUT IT.

2) It's a great stress reliever. Ask any roller girl why she plays derby, and her automatic response: Anger management. We're not generally angry people. But if I'm having a crappy day, I hit the floor with my skates and my best friends for two hours. When I go home drenched in sweat, muscles aching, hopefully with a fresh bruise or two brewing, whatever was bothering me before seems so much more insignificant.

3) Derby is the epitome of feminism.

Now, point three will most certainly stir up some discussion.

In my opinion, in my life experience and what I've studied and believe and know, it is absolutely true.

When I told my parents I was joining the roller derby team, they didn't question whether I would or if I could, or if a team even existed.

All they asked is how, when, and if my insurance would cover me if I got hurt. (It does.)

No one has ever asked me whether such a group of women could or does exist. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times recently featured stories about roller derby.

One skater and journalist in Portland, Maine, claims media miss the point when they write stories about roller derby by focusing on the "by day," and "by night" angle. Instead, she says they should focus on the fact that it's a $60 million global industry that more than 39,000 women pour their blood, sweat, hard earned cash and tears into every year.

She has a point.

But to me, the story is feminism. Camaraderie. Skater-owned and operated leagues across the country, across the world, that by their mere existence embrace and empower women to be just that — women. Strong, athletic, and beautiful in every way.

Which brings me to point four.

4) No where in my life have I ever been more immediately accepted than when I showed up at the rink and said I wanted to learn to play roller derby. These women accept me for who I am, as I am, and don't ask for anything but to give my all on the track.

I'd say they don't ask questions, but they do. Curious ones though, not critical.

Roller derby teams practice a culture of acceptance and grass roots organization that's in the players' best interest. We are your misfits, who have found a home. Freaks, geeks, and movie nerds.

Mustache fans. Tattooed arms, pierced noses and colored hair. Fans of fishnets and basketball shorts, sometimes at the same time. None of us are exactly the same. Except we're women who love to skate.

Before I was a journalist or a roller derby player, I was, and am, a feminist.

There's two reasons I've decided to name this blog "Bout time!"

In roller derby, we call our games "bouts." And I won't be able to resist the urge to include updates on our season and happenings from time to time at the end of each entry.

The other reason is it's 'bout time that feminism became an accepted fact of every day life. And as feminism lies at the root of roller derby and the social issues and news I'm most passionate about, the blog will touch on those topics from time to time, including, but not limited to, gay rights, gender issues, religious freedom, racial issues and other equality or inequality topics that pique my interest.

I figure it's 'bout time for me to share my thoughts.

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