In which my love of roller derby is cemented

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I previously mentioned that I've been watching Rollergirls on TV and was interested in seeing it for myself, since the league that they made the show about is local. Last night, Mark and I, along with The Princess and C-Man, went to check out the Texas Roller Derby Lonestar Rollergirls. (The name, I have learned, is important, because the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls are not the only roller derby game in town--there is another league, with a disconcerningly similar name, the Texas Rollergirls Rock N' Roller Derby. Why there are two leagues instead of one bigger league is a mystery I have yet to unravel.)

It was so. fucking. cool.

The bout was between the Holy Rollers and the Putas del Fuego. As anyone who has been watching the show knows, the bout between these two teams last year was a nailbiter, coming down to a one-point Holy Roller victory in the last seconds. So this was a bit of a grudge match, I guess. Between that and the publicity generated by the show, the place was packed packed packed. We got there about 20 minutes before the doors opened and the line was around the building. We ended up getting in by virtue of having pre-purchased tickets online, but the venue sold out and I'd guess there were 500-1000 people there. It was crowded enough that we couldn't get sufficient seats on the bleachers and I had to stand most of the evening. In two-hour hold cowboy boots. But it ruled so much that I don't care how badly my feet hurt today.

It took quite a long time for things to get started, so I had a while to scope out the crowd. It's a really interesting mix. There are the requisite young Lonestar-drinking hipsters, as would be expected, but also enough middle-aged people that they can't all be participants' parents, and a fair number of average looking folks, people with kids, etc. I'd been kind of worried that the vibe could be either hipsterer-than-thou or intimidating-drunk-WWF, or, worse, a strip club kind of thing, but none of these worries proved true. In general, the crowd seemed very respectful (though less so as the night wore on and people got drunker), excited, and in to having a good time. People had obvious awe for the women skating, and not in an exploitative way.

When things finally did get started, it became clear that TXRD has found the perfect balance between a really fun good time and serious competition. These girls are not fucking around; this isn't Jello wrestling. They are impressive on their skates, and they would be no matter how they dressed. While part of it is definitely about theater and spectacle, there's also an honest athleticism that I really wasn't expecting. Puta Chingona didn't just trash talk the crowd and wear a backless shirt, she also skated circles around her opponents and scored probably 30 points by herself. It was nothing but amazing to see this super-thin, very pretty, quite young woman kicking ass and taking names like that. Puta captain Chola is a similar case. She's hot. Hot hot hot. Looks like Salma Hayek hot. She wears pleather pants with her name embroidered on the ass. She also fucking rocks the rink, and is obviously way more concerned about how her team is doing than she is about how many fans are drooling over her. That's what I mean. On the surface, it all looks very sex-positive and post-feminist, but in truth, TXRD was one of the most feminist things I've seen in a long while. Women run the show, and they are obviously doing it not for the sake of being on display, but for the love of doing it. And it's not just the skaters in the rink, either--the whole thing seems to be run by the players. They're taking tickets, they're selling t-shirts, they're running around keeping things organized. They're making the rules and I hope they're making a profit (given the crowd, they have to be). It's fantastic.

But back to the bout. It was very much not a repeat of last year's close battle. This year, the Putas outclass the Holy Rollers by quite a lot. Part of this must be due to injury. Holy Roller star Miss Conduct (left--and she seriously is a star; people were having their picture taken with her all over the place) is out with an injury, as is co-captain Punky Bruiser. The Holy Rollers were very dependant on their amazing captain, Smarty Pants and what seemed to be a bunch of newbies. And it showed. As bad-ass a skater as Smarty Pants is, the Holy Rollers still lost by like 30+ points.

So let's talk about how they dress. Yep, they are sexified. The Holy Rollers schtick is that they are Catholic school girls, and they all wear tiny plaid skirts and white shirts, modified as the players see fit with garters, fishnets, visable bras, whatever. The Putas tend towards black and flame logos, but they're similarly tarted up. They show their briefs often, and tend to have things written on them. And, given the propensity in this group for piercings and tattoos, yeah, they look a little bit like the Suicide Girls. But they're not. For one thing, this is sport, not porn, and it's clear when you watch it that the sport comes before the tarting. Secondly, the tarting isn't mandatory. The Putas have a new team member, Bones, who chooses not to play the tart game and skates in pants and a tank top, and nobody stopped cheering because they couldn't see her ass. I also have to love that all bodies really do seem to be accepted here. There's a wide variance, from very small girls to girls by size and above, and nobody, teams or crowd, seems to differentiate between the two. It's not hard for me to see that as empowering.

What I saw last night wasn't alterna-girls parading in front of a male crowd for shallow accolades, dressed in uncomfortable clothing they didn't choose and trying to fit someone else's standard of beauty. What I saw were women who have created and are keeping control of their own thing, dressing in a way that amuses them and makes them feel attractive, and focusing more than anything on their sport and on their support of each other. And I feel damn good about that.

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Wow, it sounds really awesome. Your post inspired me to look into local matches, and it turns out Cleveland is forming it's own roller derby. Since I've always loved skating and liked rugby for the 1 semester I could fit it into my college schedule (not coincidentally the semester I was flunking a few classes), I put myself on their mailing list. As a potential skater. I figure I could always take myself off their mailing list later. Practice starts in March. We'll see what happens.

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