Today is the day I come out against the roller derby.
Actually, today’s the day I come out against the patriarchy’s having codified female expression to fit its narrow definition of femininity, and the fact that this wrecks the roller derby. It wrecks everything else, too, of course; see the blaming archive for more information.
Oh, I know, I know. My previous remarks on the subject were pretty gung-ho in its favor. I believe I may have muttered something about “fun,” and how there are worse things, blamely-speaking, than chicks in little skirts skating in circles and pretending at intervals to beat each other up. “Yay, roller derby!” about sums up my old attitude.
Following a second jaunt to the rink, I stand by my statement that patriarchy perpetrates vastly more egregious crimes against humanity than the Texas Rollergirls. Nevertheless, the naugahyde charm of brawling, enwheeled womanhood has, for this spinster aunt, lost its cheapo luster. It now seems probable that I initially overlooked, in my zeal to soak up a bit of non-blaming fun of a spring Sabbath’s eve, certain of the show’s unseemlier aspects. Such as the looming leitmotifs of dudely prurience, puerile irony, and the general vapidity attending the proceedings.
Take, for example, that, despite the Rollergirls’ impressive skaterly talents, the “sport” is only nominally about skating. You have already guessed what it’s actually about, but I’ll tell you anyway: sex. That’s right, sex, only not real sex, such as the kind we could all be having if Hugh Hefner hadn’t ruined it for everybody, but phony sex as defined by the horndog ideology of the pornocracy. The roller derby is an example of what you might, if you were me, call “proto-porn”—a non-penetrative, G-rated, but nevertheless two-dimensional, stereotypical, and bogus picture of female sexuality generated from an amorphous plasma of cultural misogyny. It’s kindergarten burlesque.
The Texas Rollergirls are packaged as raunchy lumps of lower-class hetero feminine fun for an audience whose expectations adhere to a pre-programmed narrative affirming one of patriarchy’s most beloved bogus dichotomies, the bogus virgin-whore dichotomy (at the virgin end of the spectrum, proto-porn figures include Barbie, Wonder Woman, and Miss America). No matter how much fun the skaters are having—and it looks like they’re having quite lot of it—the fact remains that anytime a bunch of women change their names to “Lucille Brawl” or “Apoca Lippz,” squeeze into purple hot pants and set about grabbing each other in front of a crowd that’s paid $12 a head to see the sex class on wheels, patriarchy takes over. It dictates that women can’t own this experience, since according to patriarchal code, women on a stage are by their very nature commodities to be consumed in a purely sexual context by male voyeurs. Hence the glamorshots of the skaters on the website, the Playboyesque biographies, the plaid-skirt-and-white-cotton-underwear capitulation to juvenile male fantasy. Whoever these women are in real life, and regardless of their stature as genuine athletes, for the purposes of roller derby fan consumption, they are all of a type: loose-moraled proto-whores.
Look, I get that this is all supposed to be ironic riffing on vintage iconographic kitsch (for example, there’s a trailer trash team called the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers led by one Loosetooth Lulu; their uniform is daisy dukes). I get that a “bout” is really a Bakelite armature from which loosely dangles the vaguely scripted melodrama of a fantasy Bad Girl rumble. I get that it’s comical when fake bad girls sock each other.
I’m just wondering, on accounta its super-conformist hootchie-cootchie dude-pleasin’ veneer, whether this is kitsch worth preserving.
Because—all patriarchy-blaming aside—here’s my main complaint about the roller derby: it’s inane.
This is the intellectual pinnacle to which the spectacle rises: if you happen to spill your beer, and your misfortune is discovered by the announcers, a loud chappie in a suit made of Kool-Aide wrappers immediately infests your personal space and screams into a microphone, “Hey everybody, this guy spilled his beer! Shame!” He then leads the crowd in a chant. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Whereupon the the women resume racing around in circles, and the announcers observe pointedly that there haven’t been many fights yet tonight, so immediately Pussy Velour “takes out” Loosetooth Lulu and they kind of pretend to hit each other. For crying out loud.
Must all entertainment contain some sort of genuine spiritually or intellectually enbiggening element?
Yes, as a matter of fact, it must.
By the way, the Texas Rollergirls are not the league featured on the reality show.