Reinventing a Paradigm: Guest post by Roarshock TessPosted in Project Blog by Juvie
First, a disclaimer. Roller derby, contrary to popular belief, is not a group of butch lesbians who drink all day, listen to punk music, and slide tackle each other on the track. We are athletes. Strong, smart, diverse, and forces to be reckoned with on and off the track. I happen to be a social worker, who loves cooking elk steak and listening to Biggie Smalls. Derby girls are all shapes, sizes, creeds, sexual orientations, and come from all different professions, religions, and political parties. Some are moms! Some are not! Some are lesbians! Some are straight! What unites us all is our female identity and our deep passion for the sport.
I do definitely fall into one stereotype though. I watched Whip-It and wanted to play roller derby so bad. I had just graduated from college and felt that all-encompassing sensation of having just been jettisoned into the great unknown with no direction and a ‘now what’ kind of feeling. I minored in women’s studies but, despite all of the feminist scholarly work I had done, I still did not feel empowered or powerful. Living in a patriarchal society still overwhelmed me, and I struggled daily with overwhelming anxiety and depression about how messed up the world is for women and minorities. Thank you feminist lens!
I grew up wanting so badly to play football. My parents, friends, and teachers talked me out of it saying, “You’ll get hurt,” and, “Girls don’t play football.” So I tried volleyball, basketball, soccer, track and field, weight lifting, and theater. I discovered two things: I am TERRIBLE at activities where balls are involved, and I excel in activities where balls are not involved. Still, I craved something more physical and aggressive. Weight lifting was closer than anything else, but still not quite my passion. Theater fulfilled the team paradigm that I craved, but wasn’t physical in the least, unless you count chorus line mobs and swing dancing.
A friend of mine played derby and I knew immediately I wanted to get involved. I went to my first practice two years ago this July, where I actually met Juvie Hall for the first time (She pushed me down on accident. I was starstruck.) and knew from the first moment I stepped onto the track that I had found a new home. A women’s full contact sport! It was aggressive and challenging and sweaty and SO MUCH FUN. The rest is history.
I have never been a part of something so profound and so life-changing. Never in my life have I been in a place where every body type, every skill set, every possible ‘kind’ of woman was accepted and celebrated. That includes the countless women’s studies classes, seminars, and events I had attended. Even in feminist circles there is still an expectation that you will have a certain belief set and it’s distasteful if you are not ‘feminist enough’.
For women everywhere who have been generationally searching and fighting for equality in a men’s world, we have finally discovered that what we needed to do to achieve this has been inside us all along. Instead of trying tirelessly to be equal to men in a world they created, we needed to create our own world, our own paradigm, and own it. This is what roller derby has given us.
Juvie’s project explores this concept beautifully. Women all over the world are confirming what we have all discovered individually: playing roller derby gives us the strength, confidence, courage, and drive to accomplish anything we set our minds to. The sport that WE have created–we the skaters, we the women–has become one of THE most powerful avenues for female empowerment in the 21st century.
In supporting this project, you are helping to share this message with everyone who may or may not know what roller derby is doing in communities all over the world. We need to support this message and share with other young women and girls that there is something out there for them, that the world can be their oyster, too. And that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to. Imagine what an amazing place the world will be when all women feel this kind of empowerment.
Roarshock Tess skates for the illustrious Guns ‘N’ Rollers in Portland, Oregon, as well as Rose City Rollers’ regional travel team, The Axles of Annihilation.