Derby Dames and Femme Fatales: An Analysis of Roller Derby Empowerment for the Feminist Cause

Derby Dames and Femme Fatales: An Analysis of Roller Derby Empowerment for the Feminist Cause

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With the help of performers such as Drew Barrymore and Oscar winner Ellen Page, roller derby as a pastime and athletic competition is becoming more than a bizarre occurrence. In its original form, roller derby was an “endurance competition where skaters traveled the equivalent of a trip between Los Angeles and New York.” As time went on, roller derby “evolved into a violent contact sport often involving fake fighting. But after nearly dying out in the nineties, derby has been making a comeback.” (Cohen and Barbee). As its popularity increases, some people, most commonly feminists, are finding reasons to criticize roller derby. However are there judgments well-founded? Instead of denouncing roller derby, should they actually be supporting it? An analysis of roller derby reveals that feminist ideals are generally supported through the athleticism, gender roles, participation reasons, and lifestyles of roller derby athletes. 
It is a widely known fact that feminists support gender equality. Just like men, women are capable of competing in a highly athletic sport. The legitimacy of athleticism in roller derby reinforces this prominent feminist belief. However, some traditional feminists are under the impression that roller derby is far too violent to ever be considered a legitimate sport. While their assumption may have been true in the past, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) has worked to professionalize roller derby. There are strict rules and legal hit zones designed to protect skater safety. For example, “a skater may not be hit in the following locations: above the shoulders, the back of the torso, back of the buttocks, . . . back of the thigh, [or] below mid-thigh” (WFTDA, “Rules” 4.22). While the current rule se...


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...en’s Flat Track Roller Derby: Gender, Psychoanalysis, and Meaning.” lsu.edu. Louisiana State U, May 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Parnavelas, Ellen. The Roller Derby Athlete. New York. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
Peoria Push Derby Dames. “Team Survey." Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2014.
Rosecrans, Mary. “Fan Interview." Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2014.
Wehrman, Michael M. "Response to Cohen: Separating Sport from Sexuality in Women's Roller Derby." Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal 21.1 (2012): 71-78. ProQuest. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. 
WFTDA. "Roller Derby Demographics: Results from the Third Annual Comprehensive Data Collection on Skaters and Fans." WFTDA.com. World Flat Track Derby Association, Mar. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
 WFTDA. "The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby."WFTDA.com. Women's Flat Track Association, 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

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