Not so fast, Rollergirls
After reading last week’s cover article about the MN Rollergirls derby league, I felt compelled to point out a few things to anyone else who read it, and/or is thinking of attending about or becoming a member.
I’ve been an avid roller skater for 30 years and was enthusiastic about joining the league when it was first starting up. In their propaganda they claimed to be a democratic organization where players had a hand in the decision-making process regarding all aspects of the league. Practice was fun, tough, and I met some fabulous people; some not so.
quickly for me the fun began to dwindle as the façade unfurled. What
I thought was going to be an intramural, good time to get some exercise, burn
off some stress and socialize, turned into a drama-filled, bureaucratic, overtime,
burn-out, let-down drag. Let me count just a few of the ways:
Style over substance. Right off the bat, for example, if press were attending
practice, we were told to “look sexy.” It seemed to be an encouraged
expectation/priority. Some of us raised eyebrows at each other, some were oblivious,
some ate it up. My team voted out my choice of “Bombsquad” for a
name, opting for a more suggestive “Bombshells.” Our uniform idea
of orange coveralls was transformed into a mini-dress, for which I received
a scathing threat/letter from a team in NYC, calling us “lame-ass Minnesotans”
for (unknowingly) “copying” their outfits. The drama continues …
Myself and others—namely those players with differing opinions than the
horde, who weren’t afraid to use their voices—were singled out,
branded as “negative” and subjected to overzealous verbal and physical
harassment—by founding members. Frustrations stemmed from double standards:
rules laid out by the founders who were the only ones who could bend or break
them to their advantage without penalty—whereas anyone else could get
reprimanded, screamed at at close range, bullied or face the threat of being
kicked out. In a group of all women, this atmosphere of suppressing communication
was appalling to me. So was the behavior: disrespectful, unwarranted, unfair—considering
the amount of personal time, money, energy and creativity we were contributing
for their cause.
As far as sponsorship and charities go, I don’t remember being in on the
decision to go ahead with corporate sponsorship—at the “coming-out”
faux-bout at First Avenue, PABST buttons were tossed out and we were told to
put them on. Free beer was given to players, which some “girls”
consumed before hitting the floor. Legitimate sport, my exploited ass! When
you’re gonna rake in thousands of dollars per event, is corporate sponsorship
even necessary, or desirable? What are the ramifications?
and is it just me, or is there a strange contradiction, or uncanny conflict
of interest, in scantily-clad “girls” fueled by PABST beating each
other up in front of children for money, then turning around and patting themselves
on the back for giving a little bit of it to the Sexual Violence Center? Ugh.
What happened to the rest of the money, however much it was, always remained
a mystery on the whole.
And Dwight Hobbes, what’s up with the “you can’t have something
like this without attracting guys who stand around and drool at the ladies,
harboring X-rated aspirations” observation? Isn’t that a little
like “she was asking for it, dressed that way”? But this IS exactly
what the league is pandering to: perpetuating a stereotype of sexual objectification
for attention and profit. (This is Minneapolis, Dwight, most likely there are
women drooling, too.)
The writer and league contend this is “family-friendly” stuff. If
people bring their kids, they’ll make more money!
Call me old-fashioned, but I would think twice before taking youngsters to an
event where beer swilling droolers with X-rated aspirations witness pre-game
entertainment involving, oh say, two “girls” doing a clumsy comedy/skate
dance routine (oops!) falling and stripping each other down to bras and panties,
where fighting and cussing inevitably occur.
To say “this is not the rigged 50s TV version, or for that matter, A &
E’s reality series ‘Rollergirl’” is a crock.
Lots of fighting is practiced and pre-planned, and sorry, I haven’t tuned
in to the teevee show, but there was more catty, junior high-ish, stupid competitive
drama than a producer could dream for. You couldn’t write stuff this ridiculous.
It could have been done with real style and savvy. Half-way through the season
I didn’t have a shred of respect for the founders; morale seemed weak.
When I witnessed a founding member taunt and threaten an injured player, who
responded in front of a 1,000-plus crowd by decking her in the face, dropping
her to her knees in real tears, I knew I had to quit. Because that moment gave
me more satisfaction that I’d had with the “sport” in a good
while, something was wrong. I was turning into a monster, too. And in this full
contact game, a certain level of trust was necessary. There wasn’t any.
So the league disenchanted and lost some exceptional players and dynamic personalities.
Their loss. Before shelling out your “working stiff” hard-earned
dough for this spectacle, may I suggest staying home and renting the ’70s
film “Kansas City Bomber” starring Raquel Welch, where you will
see not much has changed, or give the ticket price directly to a charity of
your own choosing, or just send it to me so I can pay off that long-overdue
sprained ankle emergency room bill! Later Skater.
Auralee Likes, aka Bloody Valentine, ex-captain of the Atomic BSs
Dwight Hobbes responds: Auralee Likes doesn’t sound like a very
happy camper. She is certainly entitled to speak her piece. I stand by my research,
and wish her well.