We went to a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby meet last Saturday night with almost no preconceived ideas. It was delightful.
I first heard about the revival of Roller Derby in an article titled Revolution on Eight Wheels by Diane “Lady Hulk” Williams – the Lady Hulk part is very important, it turns out – in which she talked about going to a match thinking it might be exploitation and falling in love with the sport and the team. After going to one game, it seems easy to do.
I am fascinated by the way our culture is changing – especially in regard to women and minorities – and I am fascinated by the way that change is reflected back into the culture by our public stories, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know, technically, that Joss Whedon wrote Buffy so it could be called non-public, but Buffy ran for seven season because it resonated with society’s changing image of women. So going to a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby match? game? roll-off? seemed right up my alley. It was in Oakland and we went with Courtney Gonzalez.
Courtney , Michele, and I met for dinner at a local pizzeria called Pizzaiolo – although calling Pizzaiolo a pizzeria is a little like calling a Bentley a car – and then went over to the Oakland Convention Center to see the B.A.D.’s – B.ay A.rea D.erby girls – All Star team, The Golden Girls, play the Austin Texecutioners _whose colors are black and blood – as part of a Roller Derby tournament. Dinner was slower than I expected and I was getting agitated that we would be too late but we ended up getting to the game just in time. I had expected that we would walk into a packed house and not even be able to see the track.
It turns out that Flat Track Women’s Roller derby is not packing in the crowds…yet. But it will. It has everything, sexily dressed women, real hard-driving athletic competition, high scoring, and a warm family outing sort of atmosphere. Oh! and it is very casual: for example, each player, of course, has a number, but the numbers have no rhyme or reason. The San Francisco numbers are 11, 101, 666, 1619,16, Ohh, 170c, and so on. And each player has a stage name? porn name? Some of my favorites were Astronaughty, Ivy Profane, Huck Sinn, and Aunti Christ on the San Francisco team and Lucille Brawl, The Killa Sal Monella, Belle Starr – her number is 1889, the year of Belle Starr’s death – and Vicious Van GoGo on the Austin team.
The persona of Women’s Roller Derby – flat track, atleast – is of tough, maybe even nasty, women. It is anything but. Maybe because the teams are owned by the players, which means women, or maybe it is for some other reason, but the atmosphere is nonthreatening. Very nonthreatening in a counter culture way. It is as if they pretended to be tough to hide their tender, vulnerable, welcoming selves. But the games are rough and tough. Women get knocked down, they get hurt, they get knocked out of the game.
Scoring is based on – very roughly – a jammer starting behind the scrum – for lack of a better name – fighting through the scrum, going around the track and catching up with the scrum, and then getting one point for each opposing player the jammer passes. Here are a few shots:
The Golden girls won by a landslide – the first time they have beaten the Austin Team.