Exploits on Exploitation
The first thing you can’t help but notice at a roller derby bout is that everyone is having the time of their life. It’s infectious. The skaters are jazzed, the crowd is pumped, the announcers are energized. Even your grandma, who you only brought along because your mother guilt tripped you with that line about not spending enough time with her before she’s dead (seriously, Mom, that old woman will live forever because gin is a great preservative, plus, she still slaughters her own goats for food, I’ve seen her do it, Mom, it’s terrifying!) even she’s hollering profanities and having a great time. So it came as a bit of a surprise when the W.C. took his brother to a bout (yes, the W.C. refers to himself in the third person) and the first thing he said was, “Isn’t this a little…exploitative?”.
“No,” I replied, without even really thinking about it. But the comment stuck in my head, and rattled around like the engine rod in my mothers Aerostar minivan, and later I recalled that the first time I talked to my brother about derby he made a similar comment about it being sexist.
“Wait, what?” My mind said to me when it remembered this.
“What is it, mind?” I replied.
“Your brother seems to think all-girl roller derby is sexist and exploitative.”
“That’s weird, Mind. Because here’s what I think about derby:
There’s roughly thirty bad-ass-bitches out there on the track wailing on each other and skating their guts out for something they love. Are they scantily clad? A bit, but so is an Olympic gymnast. In fact, if you pay attention, they have more gear covering them than your average high school swim team. Do some of them have curves? Sure they do. There’s room for every body type at derby, and that’s certainly part of the appeal: inclusiveness. You can be the most awkward nerd in the real world, but if you can strap on some skates and rail another girl, you have a place here.
And lets remember that they are, in fact, women. And guess what women have?
“The power to ruin my weekend with an antiquing ‘vacation’?”
You really don’t go to derby much, do you, random male stereotype that I invented for the purpose of this illustration? Boobs. Women have boobs. Who doesn’t love boobs? The answer is nobody. Even gay men love boobs. Go ask one. I’ll wait. And so what if they want to wear a push-up bra when they’re going to be performing in front of thousands of people at a bout. It makes them feel good to look good. And that’s empowering.
You see, that’s the thing about derby: it’s empowering. Those beauties of the banked track worked their tails off to earn their spot on those teams. They shed blood, sweat and tears (and I mean all of those literally) for the sport that they love. And if they want to celebrate the fact that they are women and this is what they’ve accomplished, who are we to cry exploitation?
Let’s talk about that word for a sec: exploitation. The word “exploitation” implies a villain. That there’s some Machiavellian archetype sitting behind an oak desk twirling his moustache in the shadows. It also implies that everyone is being tricked. That the ladies are being tricked into performing and the audience is being tricked by the performance. But guess who’s in charge of the TXRD league? The members. That’s right, the same ladies you see wailing on each other also have the business acumen to run their league. Attractive and acumen? Attracumen? New derby name? Dibs!
Roller derby is empowering because it gives women the chance to be a part of a team that is part of a league that lets them show the world that girls can kick just as much ass as anybody. And girl power is infections. If you don’t believe me, just sit in the stands for one bout. I’d pick any one of those girls over my dude-bro college roommate any day. Because how boring is your life if you can’t find the joy in their joy. They take to that track and do exactly what they want to do and nobody can make them do an ounce more. Because that track belongs to them. They put on makeup and fishnets and punch other girls and guess what? They would do it even if there was nobody else there. They do it because they love it. And we’re all lucky enough that they want to let us be a part of it too when we watch a bout.
Oh, and the sexist thing? Sorry man, sometimes boys don’t get to play with the girls. Take solace in the fact that the world is your urinal because you can pee standing up. While you do that, I’m gonna go hang out with these rollergirls and have some fun.”
Thanks for reading these random thoughts from the W.C.! Let us know what your opinion is and sound off in the comments below!