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Apr 13 2006

Derby, As Promised

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.

218 comments

3 pings

  1. TP

    And right you are, my dear. And it just makes me sad to think that almost any activity that involves women being looked at can be said to be ruined by the male gaze.

    There are certainly far worse things in this world.

  2. hedonistic

    Another word to add to my vocabulary: Protoporn.

  3. Sara

    Huh. I have successfully avoided roller derby my entire life. I had no idea they wore skirts. That’s pretty stupid.

    Of course, IMO, saying the skirts on roller girls are stupid is like saying the masks are stupid in wrestling or that the cherry on a chocolate sundae is fattening.

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that not only is today’s roller derby meant to be ironic, but that it’s meant to be an ironic take on how roller derby really once was back in the earlier part of the last century — real fights, real “trailer trash,” in other words, real poor, uneducated people (entirely women, of course) competing in a rink to make a living with no skills other than skating and brawling in a patriarchal society, largely for the amusement of men. In other words, today’s roller girls appear to be women making fun of other, more desperate women from bygone days, all in the name of fun and empowerment.

    I don’t really know the history of the “sport,” but I was told when young (back in the ’60s) that “those girls” were all “a bunch of tramps” without the slightest hint of irony. It seems that today’s derby is a cartoon-style exploitation of a more obviously exploitative set-up which once existed for real.

    Huh. Dizzy. Somebody get me a beer.

  4. Twisty

    Actually, roller derby started out with dudes. There were no fights. It was just a marathon. Who could skate the longest without dying, that sort of thing. Over time it morphed into wrestling-on-wheels, and women’s teams were added, but there were always dude teams. I notice that that particular element is missing from today’s incarnation. If roller derby were considered a sport even at the level of legitimacy of pro wrestling, there would be men doing it.

  5. Kelda

    … roller derbys really exist? Really? I’d always assumed that they were made up things that only happened in films.

    I’m not going to get the full effect of the blaming until I get over the fact that roller derbys are real. Wow.

  6. Annie

    Oh Twisty dear! I regret not having saved you the trouble and expense of making a 2nd trip to the roller derby. Even as a young lass in the 70s who spent countless hours watching roller derby whilst my grandparents snored, I’m afraid I understood the whole affair as a patriarchally sexualized hoax! Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that I was just the most perceptive 10 year old on the planet (clearly there’s little evidence of that now), but instead feast your eyes upon this, the user’s manual that told me what to think:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068795/

    Saw it when I was just a youngin’ –even before I was a little leg shaver– told me everything I needed to know about why roller derby and IWF events are really the same event, in the patriarchal sense. UGH!!!

  7. Annie

    Please also note that the really interesting take on roller beatings was the 1975 action sci-fi MALE TALE:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073631/

    remade for our “pleasure” in 2002:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073631/

    Ahhh, nothing like an early morning hurl to begin the day…

  8. finnsmotel

    So, you spilled your beer, eh?

  9. Sara

    Thanks, Twisty. I did not know that this was once a legitimate sport or that men had ever participated. I thought it had always been porn on wheels.

    Honestly, I’m not sure whether this new information makes me feel better or worse.

  10. finnsmotel

    “If roller derby were considered a sport even at the level of legitimacy of pro wrestling, there would be men doing it.”

    So true.

    Roller Derby is one of the few ‘sports’ or sporting events, where the women’s version of the sport outpaced the men’s version in popularity. So, you had to know it was more about sex than sport when that happened.

    Hey, generally speaking, I’m a big fan of kitsch, but in almost every case, if you dig too deep, you’ll find the ugly side. No doubt about it.

    But, I guess slagging the Derby is at least a nice change of pace… otherwise it would be all “genital mutilation” and “hetero sex is rape” all the time, eh?

  11. norbizness

    Well, it looks like about 46% of my entertainment has been declared non-cromulent.

  12. Mandos

    Argh! Finn, now you’re in for it. :)

    I like the word “enbiggening”. I’m a big fan of neologisms. They are intellectually enbiggening.

    Still, lots of things aren’t spiritually or intellectually enbiggening. Food isn’t. Not really. It’s enbiggening, but not spiritually or intellectually.

  13. Mandy

    Pardon my ignorance but, please, what is “noncromulent?”

  14. Twisty

    Mandos, Mandos, Mandos.

    You are wrong.

    Eating dinner is totally a spiritually enbiggening enterprise. Cooking it is an intellectual one.

    But in any event, I didn’t say every THING has to enbiggen. I just said entertainment ought to. Not that it does. Oh, no.

  15. Sylvanite

    Mandy, “cromulent” is from The Simpson’s.

    Miss Hoover: “It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”

    Norbizness is riffing on a Simpson’s episode. Miss Hoover was responding to Mrs. Krabappel’s statement that she had never heard the word “embiggens” before moving to Springfield. “Embiggens” was used in a classroom filmstrip about town founder Jebediah Springfield that Bart and Lisa’s classes (and their teachers, Miss Hoover and Mrs. Krabappel) were watching.

    I hope this makes narrative sense.

  16. Sylvanite

    Norbizness is riffing on a Simpsons episode. Specifically, he’s responding to Twisty’s use of the word “embiggens,” which was used on the Simpsons during a filmstrip shown to Bart and Lisa’s classes about town founder Jebediah Springfield.

    Mrs Krabappel (Bart’s teacher): “I never heard words liek “embiggens” before moving to Springfield.”

    Miss Hoover (Lisa’s teacher) : “I don’t know why not. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”

  17. stekatz

    I feel similarly about car racing. While I love the sound of a Porsche turbo whizzing over the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, or the Doppler scream of a Ferrari going flat out on the straight, the patriarchal posturing and the environmental destruction embedded in these events do not get lost on me.

    Oh, and there’s those Hooters girls that wander around the paddock.

    What’s a blamer gonna do?

    By the way Twisty, I’m thinking of having “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.” embroidered onto a set of sheets.

  18. c.

    I just think it sucks (yes, that is my intellectual take on the situation) that in one of the few sports where women get to be athletic and violent (men get to do that all the time), the women also have to be dressed in short skirts and fishnets. And that webpage! “Likes: smoking in the girls room.”
    Puhleeeze.
    It’s not funny when the only way you can get people to come and see your sport is if you’re wearing a short skirt and showing off your boobs. I vote for more women’s football. Can’t do a “Playboy” shot of a player when she’s wearing all those pads. Of course, I’m sure the website would have all the players pointing out how sexy and feminine they are. God forbid you are athletic and like to hit people (all in the name of competition, of course).
    Yet another case of men getting to have more fun than women. It started when I had to be a brownie instead of a boyscout (oooh, selling cookies. fun.), and it hasn’t stopped since.

  19. kreepyk

    At least RD has at least a veneer of sport attached. I got into verbal fisticuffs with hubby over not appreciating burlesque. Oy.

  20. Bunny

    Ahhh, kitsch. I have a worrisome soft-spot for kitsch. And while I realize that the spectacle of roller-girl derby and the vast majority of kitsch revival/maintenance is firmly fixed under the male gaze to serve the male gaze, I can’t help but want to hold on to it and mold it into something to call my own…to subvert it and twist it around, like the femme vs. the feminine.

    Why does the patriarchy get to own it all? The stranglehold that The Patriarchy has on “our” culture/society almost dictates that anything that occurs within it’s borders belongs solely to The Patriarchy, for it’s pleasure and purposes. Is there any concievable way to break outside and to effectively subvert it’s gaze? *brain fart* DER!

    *sighs*, the politics of pleasure…

  21. Twisty

    Bunny, patriarchy isn’t just some cultural movement or political party. It doesn’t just have a stranglehold, it’s the whole thing. It’s the fucking Matrix, man. There IS nothing else. And there’s no escape.

  22. Sylvanite

    Sorry about the double post. I thought I’d lost the first post. The second one is phrased so much better that I really do wish I’d lost the first post!

  23. lcgillies

    I am totally not amazed that a comment thread at Aunt Twisty’s gets from the Texas Rollergirls to the most fundamental questions of cultural and political existence in only 21 comments. (“It doesn’t just have a stranglehold, it’s the whole thing” sez Auntie.)

    As a young onion I learned about marxism. In those days I thought, along with Karl, that social relations, which appear to be intrinsic and permanent, are actually functions of economic relations, which in fact change through time—it’s a very important capability of the dominant group in their pursuit of permanence that they convince the rest of us that the world is unavoidably the way it is.

    I still stick by the economics, but the sociology? You have to wonder when every revolution you can learn about simply ends up as another dudocracy. Can we change the world? Yes. Will the dudes still come out on top? Very likely.

    But not necessarily…

  24. Bixi

    If the patriarchy is everything, then what accounts for you and your capacity to reason and argue so eloquently and persuasively against it? For real; I am hungry for the answer to this question. If all concepts and identities are born and constituted through a web of insurmountable power structures, then how…are we alive? It’s a post-struct question but it applies to (the brilliant) radical feminist thought (that I have found here and love) as well. By relentlessly calling out the cool clean knife of ideology that cuts through all, we ultimately discover that the knife has gotten to us, too — we have no agency, are not ourselves, are nowhere.

    How about separatism? Any hope there? But that is, I think, precisely the place at which the ironic kitchsters are born — they see that patriarchy’s everything (even permeating separatist worlds), so they’re like, hey, let’s have fun and “reclaim” things that are proven to be patriarchal and misogynist, since we can’t escape patriarchy, no matter what we do.

  25. zzz

    “Must all entertainment contain some sort of genuine spiritually or intellectually enbiggening element?

    Yes, as a matter of fact, it must.”

    Gak! Whatever for? To what basement of cultural stankitude would all this musty musting relegate the serene joys of Car Football??
    (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1858640896825067657)

  26. Sara

    Hey, at least female ice skaters don’t have to wear the little skirts for competitions anymore. This was the first winter olympics where they were allowed to wear pants (which are really unitards, but that’s what the men wear, too).

    I cling to shiny, sequined filaments of hope like this. Change is possible. It is! It is!

    I think I need another beer.

  27. vixenvangogo

    As someone who currently plays this sport, I respect your opinions but do disagree with them. I don’t have the scholarly background on this topic that you do, so pardon my “ignorance” in some or many places as you see fit.

    Camp is definitely a huge element in the current revival of roller derby. But no one forces us to wear short skirts, fishnets, low-cut shirts nor anything else slutty or revealing while we skate. Some of the girls playing choose to vamp it up, while others prefer more modest garb while playing the sport. Each player chooses her comfort level and what she feels okay in. No man is forcing us to look trashy. I can name several skaters who chose to wear fishnets on top of full-coverage opaque tights and knee-length skirts or shorts; as well as one who wore rufflebutts that covered her whole legs like pantaloons. Not everyone is showing skin but many of us are having fun and wearing fun things. Maybe those women who wear skimpier outfits get more press coverage, but there are women of all shapes, sizes, and levels of modesty skating out there during each bout.

    It does get hot while playing sports, and many of us choose skimpier outfits not just for “the male gaze” but also for comfort and practicality. Obviously wearing a burqua or a full-length dress would be unacceptable. Long jeans would limit our flexibility; wearing sweatpants or long spandex pants would cause some of us to overheat. We skate 3 20-minute periods at top speeds, dole out heavy hits and get hit constantly, and we do a lot of sweating. Shorts and skirts allow more freedom of movement in our legs, and airflow to keep us cooler.

    But why is it so horrible to wear something cute when playing a sport? Tennis players wear short dresses. Volleyball players practice their sport in bikini tops and short shorts. Somehow those outfits don’t take away from the legitmacy of their sports, yet fishnets make roller derby less of a sport?

    Roller derby is fun to play, but it’s an expensive hobby that takes a lot of time and practice. We pay out of our own pockets for rink rentals, skates, wheels, bearings, safety pads, helmets, and many other incrementals. We practice several times a week for a few hours at a time. On average, we make an investment of $100-$300 for skates, $50-100 for pads, $30 /month to practice, plus many other expenses. Selling tickets to our official games is a way to help cover expenses that we’d otherwise be strapped by. Our friends and families want to know what we’re so excited about and want to attend. It may be true that some play things up for “the male gaze” … there are many gay males in our audiences, as well as straight women.

    However, most of us would play it even if no one came to watch.

  28. TP

    I take it with a huge grain of salt whenever anyone gets all absolutist on me. Yeah, the Patriarchy is the air we breathe and the water we drink, but we are not mindless slaves of the Patriarchy. We have autonomy, even while many things we do are influenced. Blaming the Patriarchy is not an inherently patriarchal activity. Ignoring or resigning oneself to the Patriarchy is far more Patriarchal!

    The universe is in constant flux. Time is an illusion. I refuse to surrender my free will to those who can neither prove nor disprove that I have it.

    Maybe it’s male privilege talking. But I’m saying it for any woman who might like to hold on to her hope in a gradually improving world, not to assert that it’s all OK — because it ain’t.

  29. Drew

    As one that skates for roller derby, I am offended by a few remarks. First and foremost, this IS a SPORT! Take a person who cannot skate and throw them into a bunch of seasoned skaters, they won’t last! A person cannot score points when they are unstable and frequently on the ground! I say that everyone that claims this is not a sport, please go skate for at least a solid hour this week, at a brisk pace, then let me know how you feel. Keep in mind, our practices are two hours long, four times a week.

    As well as the ‘uneducated’ part. Most of the girls I know that play derby are college graduates. I also know many girls that graduated at the top of their college class. I for one am pursuing my nursing degree. As experience serves me, one cannot be ‘uneducated’ to get that degree and add to the mix raising two kids and working.

    As said by vixen, derby gets hot and you need to move around freely. It’s not possible to do that in a long Martha Stewart dress or jeans!

    I respect woman’s movement opinions, but please don’t hold yourself back by holding onto a constant grudge. If you want women to be treated equally then you have to be proactive about it, not constantly looking for the possible male chauvinist act in something trite.

    Just out of curiousity-what do you gals wear when you exercise?

  30. Puffin

    I am this close to just packing it all in. Not in a slash my wrists sense, not in a blow up myself and everyone I think I hate sense, not in a drive to Las Vegas and drink vodka tonics until I die sense. More like a move deep in to the forest, start talking to squirrels, and never come out again sense.

    That’s what a shitty day I’ve had thus far.

    But your post on Roller Derby has helped some, Twisty, and I thank you for that.

  31. finnsmotel

    Vixen and Drew working to block Twisty the jammer!

  32. Raunchy Lumps

    I blame you, Twisty, for not seeing this for what it is to alot of us – a feminist community. Our sport is no less real or significant because men don’t own or play it. For shame. Out of 108 flat track derby leagues in the U.S., you’d write off the entire sport after watching one? Food for thought – this is how WE roll…
    Rollergirls Out and Proud in Charm City
    by Eia Folk

    “I’ve never been a part of a community of women like this before,” said Elyse Miqueli (left) who goes by “Crazy Legs” on the rink, shown here with Aly Verdugo (“The Mexican Fury”) and Sara Sevier (“Nasty Trick”). (Photo: Eia Folk)

    As Baltimore’s queer community winds down after another holiday, many local lesbians are still asking Santa for the same old gift they never seem to receive – a lesbian community in Baltimore.

    Though Charm City is a city with its definitive queer hot spots, many women seeking a queer community find it difficult to locate one. Instead of the obvious bars and community centers, women are using more creative means for locating the Baltimore lesbian crowd.

    The city’s roller derby league, the Charm City Rollergirls, is one unlikely location many lesbians say welcomes the community-seeking queer girl.

    Although female roller derby teams have sprung up in almost every state throughout the nation since 2001, Charm City Rollergirls is Baltimore’s very own. True to its female collaborative skater-owned and operated reputation, women of all backgrounds, social statuses, and sexual orientations are not only tolerated but welcomed in this butt-kicking, high speed roller skating sport.

    In roller derby, two teams play each other for three 20-minute periods, which are further broken down into two-minute “jams.” Five members from each team skate during each jam, and one player on each team – known as a jammer – scores points for passing opposing players.

    Currently there are 43 women in the league who will be split into four teams with 10 to 11 on each team with a few alternates.

    Lesbians Find a Place
    Several queer athletes joined Charm City Rollergirls with an interest in finding a sense of belonging.

    Sarah Sevier, whose derby name is “Nasty Trick,” is a 22-year-old Tennessee native, currently attending Maryland Institute College of Art. Sevier joined the Rollergirls to compete in an equitable and accepting sport.

    “I originally became interested in derby because I learned it was a bunch of girls on skates kicking ass,” Sevier said. “I go to an art school where there are a lot of queer people.”

    Yet Sevier hasn’t found an LGBT place of choice and had negative experiences in the Baltimore lesbian community.

    “I’ve walked into places and felt completely like an outsider,” Sevier said. “I think mostly the bar settings seemed like the lesbians in Baltimore are pretty tight. There is a lot of gossip and drama. I only feel that way because I’ve never really been a part of it.”

    Sevier advises other lesbians who feel the same to seek out what she considers “positive, productive places” of acceptance, like The Creative Alliance and the Charm City Kitty Club. She also said that young women should become “active and political” in their local communities.

    The Charm City Rollergirls included in their bylaws of sportswomanship, which each player must sign, that no discrimination against another players’ sexuality, social or ethnic background is allowed.

    New Feminist Sport
    Aly Verdugo, who goes by the name “Mexican Fury” when she’s on skates, is a 20-year-old native of Los Angeles, California. She too came to Baltimore to attend MICA and join the Rollergirls. Through word of mouth, Verdugo discovered the league to be a “new feminist” sport.

    “We are one big collective of women making up a welcoming, open group of people. It is really hard sometimes finding a good place to fit in where you can hang out with 30-year-old moms but still not get discriminated against.”

    Reanna Scott, derby name “Lu Lu Spaceship,” is a 28-year-old Charm City Rollergirl and a native of Ventura, California. Scott considers the Rollergirls a feminist institution because it is the first and only all-girl sport, untouched by a male-dominated team or league.

    “I don’t ever want to be compared to men’s teams,” Scott explained. “Everyone is a woman who is involved [in roller derby]. It’s so exciting because it is in alignment with my life, which is filled with female things. Everything I do is intentionally supporting women.”

    Scott also met older women in the Charm City Rollergirls who are established in Baltimore.

    “Instantly I became more comfortable here,” Scott explained, “because I could walk down the street and see my girls. I’ll be on my bike and see a Rollergirl – it’s a secret gang! Anywhere you go in Baltimore you see a Rollergirl because there are over 60 of us. They’re all like totally independent and have awesome jobs and [they are] friendly. They have your back.”

    A Community of Women
    Elyse Miqueli, who goes by “Crazy Legs,” is a 24-year-old Baltimore resident. She has a tattoo spanning her arm from shoulder to elbow with an image of a Barbie doll complete with waist and bust measurements. It reads: “be the woman you are and not the doll you’re sold.”

    “I’ve never been a part of a community of women like this before,” Miqueli said. The Rollergirls gave her confidence in finding friends and a welcoming environment.

    Jodie Zisow, or “Pixie Rocket,” is a 29-year-old Baltimorean who sees herself as an organizer at heart.

    “The great thing about Baltimore, is that you can create whatever you want to see here,” Zisow said. “I’ve been an activist for a very long time. I prefer using more creative means like joining a roller derby team to meet other women. It’s affected me very much as a girl in the world.”

    The Charm City Rollergirls skate at Putty Hill Skateland, and their season starts in March.

    “We’re going to have bouts,” Sevier said. “What is important to all the queer girls in the league is that we have queer girls out their cheering for us. That would be the most exciting thing for us.

    “When you’re finding productive ways to express yourself, you find the most amazing people,” Sevier explained. “Charm City Rollergirls is an amazing way to express yourself. I’ve found some great girls here. Things like going to the bar really don’t go anywhere.”

    Learn more about the Charm City Rollergirls at http://www.charmcityrollergirls.com.

  33. texasrollergirl

    Dear Twisty:

    Fascinating blog! As a Texas Rollergirl in my fourth year, and our league’s representative to the national governing body for our sport, the Womens’ Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), I would like to lay a few relevant facts on this table. I won’t comment too much on the feminism/patriarchy issues you raise because I find them a bit tiresome, and don’t have a lot of time to argue on matters of opinion. The only comment I will offer on that topic is that the nationwide women’s flat track derby revival is probably one of the most significant positive events in the history of women, sports, and even feminism, which is already apparent to anyone who has seriously followed the history of the sport over the past 5 years. There is far too much history behind the national flat-track derby revival to explain everything here, but in terms of your blog article, you and your readers might find the following facts interesting:

    Texas Rollergirls has always been a grass-roots, skater-owned-and-operated endeavor that has always been in the hands of the women skaters. This “by-and-for-the-skaters” model is also used by almost every other flat-track league nationwide. Men hardly enter into it at all. Indeed, I would venture to say that AT LEAST half of the fanbase for flat-track rollerderby, nationwide, is made up of encouraging women — not salivating men.
    Flat track rollergirls are all ages, shapes and sizes. Many of us are mothers, and we come from very diverse careers and backgrounds. There is a wide diversity of body types and sexual orientations on the track, and each skater is allowed (and encouraged) to dress as conservatively or as provocatively as she wishes. So if nothing else, the flat track derby community is likely to be much MORE accepting and encouraging of female diversity than most other social environments.

    Flat track rollerderby has evolved into a legitimate sport (and as you correctly noted, not the sport you can see on A&E’s “Rollergirls”), and there is nothing whatsoever “fake” or pre-determined about it. We endure hours of very athletic training from 2 to 3 times a week under national champion speed-skating coaches, and some of our skaters train more frequently than that. Over the years we have developed a complex, highly structured game with very specific rules that are now being used by independent women’s flat-track leagues across the country. At last count there were almost one hundred DIY flat-track women’s rollerderby leagues in the U.S. alone, with newer leagues now being formed in Canada and Great Britain. The leagues that have been established the longest belong to a national organizing body, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which has annual business meetings and coordinates frequent interleague competition. This past February, twenty flat-track leagues around the nation sent their all-star teams to Tucson, Arizona, to compete in a very intense three-day tournament to crown the first national Flat Track Derby champions. Texas Rollergirls, in fact, took the championship trophy at that event, and I am proud to have been on that team. For those who doubt the legitimacy of the sport, I’d love to tell you all about the torn PCL ligament in my knee that I suffered during the last two games of the tournament, and the MRI’s to prove it, viewable at:

    http://www.bio.utexas.edu/faculty/jost/kneeanim.gif

    and

    http://www.bio.utexas.edu/faculty/jost/kneeanim2.gif

    Some guys might find that grisly series of images sexy, but I kind of doubt it.

    My main point here is that despite what the uninitiated observer may see at first glance, or think in their academia-and-beer induced stupor — flat-track rollerderby is all about the game, passionate athletic competition, and good camaraderie among female athletes with a common vision to create, manage, and play their own game, completely free from the primarily male-dominated world of sports. And so far, it has been a sensational success.

    The only other correction I have time to make here, has to do with your comment about spilling a beer at one of our bouts. The only reason our announcers publicly ridicule a person who spills a beer is not for entertainment purposes, but because a spilled fluid on the skating surface presents a very serious hazard to the athletes. By making good-natured fun of the audience member who spilled their beer on the track, we hope to preserve the safety of the skaters who are already at risk by playing this contact sport.

    Thank you for your interest in Texas Rollergirls, and I hope to see you at another bout soon.

    Kind regards,

    Manda Clair Jost, Ph.D.
    aka Derringer .44
    Honky Tonk Heartbreakers
    Texas Rollergirls Rock ‘n’ Rollerderby
    and National Representative to WFTDA

  34. Charles

    “Must all entertainment contain some sort of genuine spiritually or intellectually enbiggening element? Yes, as a matter of fact, it must.”

    I’m going to think about that awhile. At first I said “YES” but I’m not entirely sure.

  35. Pony

    So it’s just sport and you’re just having fun. Get away with you. Biggest splat of bullshit rationalizing I’ve heard since reading Libertarian pro-pornograpy and pro sex-with-children apologist bloggers.

  36. Pony

    TP

    Acknowledging the omnipresence of the enemy does not mean we acknowledge defeat.

    But we cannot think we’ve won the war just because we’ve won one battle, or beaten their ranks back for a time (to use their war analogy).

    The patriarchy is still here whether we’ve drubbed them once or four times on something, We are First Wave and Third Wave feminists fighting the same battles over and over. The patriarchy is still here wearing many disguises and playing many games.

  37. cassie

    One could of course argue (in the vein of Judith Butler) that derby participates in a form of parody. Through vamping it up at bouts, derby women show how unnatural, highly constructed, and performed femininity really is. In short, derby doesn’t participate in an objectification of femininity, but instead undermines the naturalness of femininity. I think that a lot of derby women are quite self-conscious about their performances as subversive acts.

  38. Bunny

    Twisty: Oh, I realize the “matrix” like nature of the Patriarchy, but having only lived a life as a white woman in the west, and while I don’t doubt that The Patriarchy’s omnipresence in much of the rest of the world, I just like to cover my ass when making sweeping statements by trying to stay culturally specific.

    That being said, good point. The Patriarchy doesn’t just have a stranglehold on our culture, it IS our culture. I blame this lapse in judgment on 7am and lack of a decent cup of ethically responsible coffee. Thank-you for the clarification.

    But now you’ve got me musing, if there’s no escape, what’s the point? Why not just roll-over (Gufaw!) and call ‘er quits? There has got to be something outside of the patriarchy, however minute, n’est pas?

    When I was a student, my fellow classmates loved to toss around Audre Lorde’s infamous “master’s tools” quote, but when querried as to what was outside of said master’s house, everyone came up blank. I realize there comes a point where the metaphor ceases to be useful, but I always found this troublesome.

    /end ramble

  39. joan of anarchy

    We live in a world where women are constantly stripped of their multifaceted individualities and strategically squashed into the whore/virgin dichotomy. I feel it’s a shame that Twisty has fallen into that same trap by strapping that scarlet letter W whore-label onto all rollergirls and roller derby as a whole.

  40. antelope

    I’m a consultant working from home. I own my place. I’m single and at the moment I’m even pet-free. I work in the non-profit sector, so the overwhelming majority of my client contacts are women. I don’t watch much tv & don’t take it seriously when I do. In other words, I have no male boss, boyfriend, landlord, cat, client, or manufactured role model that tells me what to do or how to look while doing it.

    Does that mean I’ve escaped the patriarchy? Not at all. But I do live one step removed from it & haven’t really been punished or had anyone try to reel me back into line. On some level I imagine this is because reacting to the women who drop out would only call attention to us and it’s better by far to ignore us in the hopes that dropping out doesn’t catch on.

    Is the patriarchy inside my brain? Yes, absolutely, but less and less all the time as I spend more & more hours not dealing with it.

    One thing I really like of what I’m hearing about Eve Ensler’s new piece, “The Good Body” is that she DOESN’T go on & on about how madison avenue & hollywood are to blame if women don’t like their bodies, which is a really tired message, and she DOESN’T go on and on about “10 ways to LOVE the skin you’re in” a la Oprah. She seems to mainly just be saying – what if they built a patriarchy and no women chose to play? Don’t fight it, don’t work at creating “alternative” imitations of it – just admit that you knew it was only a game all along and stop playing.

    I hope more of the mainstream types that pop culture seems to think speak for feminism will pick up this message & repeat it like crazy. It’s the closest thing we’ve got to a way out.

  41. Burrow Klown

    Good lord people. Pony said it best. Just because you enjoy it doesn’t mean it’s not a piece of the patriarchy. I too was stoked on joining the roller derby, and quit b/c of many of the things Twisty mentioned (as I mentioned back in the last roller derby thread). Although fake punches? I wish I would have had those.

    But recognizing the *cpmplete* sexualzation of the Derby depressed me and made me leave so i am off to sate my violent streak with Rugby and Water Polo.

    As for what I wear to workout either a swinmsuit or a t-shirt and shorts (NOT hot pants and definitely not skirts).

    Deal with it: Roller Derby is expressly patriarchal and that’s not to say that it’s not a sport, but that patriarchy doesn’t see it as a real sport or men would be doing it too.

  42. Christopher

    Okay, my question would be two-fold:

    First, what’s to be done? Is there a way to do the sport that isn’t part of the patriarchy? If so, what? Less skimpy clothing? No announcers? Don’t let men into the arena?

    And if there isn’t, if the choice is merely a dichotomy between dropping out of society and participating in patriarchy, then what’s the point of the criticism?

    If the only way not to help the patriarchy is not to play the sport, then doesn’t patriarchy blaming itself become confining, much like the patriarchy itself?

    And where does pro wrestling fit into all this?

  43. Kate

    Naw, naw naw now girls!

    Hold On one Damned minute there! Twisty! Put down that chablis and listen up.

    I understand all your laments here about roller derby, but frankly. I looked at the sites of these women and only a few, maybe even two or three out of the team are sexin’ it up for the camera.

    The rest are women seemingly of all ages and sizes. And about the other ones showing off their bodies, so…? Yes, I know, that probably IS for the male gaze, but does that malign all women who wish to participate?

    Now, lets not pick apart these women, let’s let them have their fun and NOT ascribe to their activities the accusation that they exist primarily and or exclusively for the male gaze. Is not doing that putting women in boxes and assigning value according to how much skin they show and their potential to arouse the male gaze?

    In fact, was it not on another thread that everyone agreed that no matter where a woman goes or what she does, she does it within the patriarchy? That the ‘male gaze’ is everywhere looking?

    By their dress don’t they assert ‘yeah we know you are out there, so here fool.’ Don’t they assert very clearly in their bios and their activities that the male gaze is in fact meaningless? If they all choose to skate topless because they liked being topless, would that in fact be liberation or be for the male gaze? Humm..what if women LIKED to go topless and decided that having to cover up had everything to do with men making the rules?

    Is that not a form of liberation to take the bondsman’s chains and laugh? Who decides that the male gaze is all important to a woman’s existance? The men? Or the women?

    Hugh Heffner owns his ‘bunnies’ who are nubile, delicate and sexual, made for the submission and pleasure of men. Women are forced to starve themselves, to deny their own pleasure for the pleasure of men, to make themselves frail and weak to deny the every growing assertion of women in our culture do they not?

    Or do you folks remember the thread about the mag article about women bloggers? WOmen who allowed themselves to be characterized as nothing more than another brand of Heffner heifer, in lingere, blogging about makeup and shoes? That was male controlled and damned offensive to any thinking woman. I don’t see that here.

    What I see is a campy, aggressive, in your face kind of sport that indeed, women should be allowed to participate in WITHOUT for god’s sake, other women with their hands on their hips and wagging their fingers at them and saying ‘shame, shame’.

    THe beer thing, well Twisty, of course its classless, but does feminism assign value by class these days? Or should I rephrase; I thought that feminism has gone beyond class these days.

    Also a look at the sites of these teams and it is clear to see that many of these women present themselves as they are, not as the patriarchy says they should be. I would also say that I can easily see that many are educated and even though I feel this shouldn’t need insertion, I will say it; many look like they harken from middle class or upper middle class backgrounds.

    Yes, oldtimer roller derby was a sport made for the patriarchy, but what wasn’t then? Was not everything a women did outside the home worthy of scorn and ridicule? Wasn’t ridiculing and hating them a part of the whole gig?

    Bad girls are bad girls no matter where they come, from isn’t that the old patriarchal rule? They must hide and feel shame for their sexuality, for their rebellion against the feminine rules of patriarchy and there’s always a gaggle of women around to say ‘tsk, tsk, look at those awful bad girls, how they keep us good women down.’ Bah! I say to that! Thou playest to the patriarchical hand with such speech.

    I hate to say this, but sorta sounds like a lot women who point at me and my profession because I work with men and wear dirty clothes all day. “Oh look at her, she wants to be like a man, she’s coopted to the other side.” or, “Oh, she must be a dike to do that work, I’m not like that.” No dumbass, I’m working here to stomp the lie that women can’t do this or that if they do, they have to be relegated to some class of ‘other’, cast off and soiled. So don’t tell me how liberated you are and then start spewing the sputum of the demon all over me.

    The patriarchy wants women to be this or that, good or bad, madonna or whores. That is the dehumanization of women, that they must be one thing or another ALL the time and there is no room for complexity or variety or calling the shots themselves — no room for having their own power.

    Hell, suited men cruise around in Harleys and play tough guy, worship wrestlers and sports stars who say ‘fuck off’ on a daily basis and I don’t see too many people saying, “No! He can’t get into the boardroom! He’s dirty! He’s bad! He-he-he likens unto a filthy no good sports hero, he watches and enjoys, “Orange County Chopper!”

    I say roll’em girls and get your degree and with your smarts and your attitude, we will be set free.

    Salu Twisty, drink up.

  44. Lauren

    Maybe, for extra controversy, we ought to write a post comparing roller derby with BSDM. Intrablamin’ for days!

  45. Pony

    So you’d be real proud would you Kate, to have your daughter do this? And have her look like this, and have men and some lesbians objectifying her? ‘Cause if you wouldn’t then tell us why it’s ok for some other mother’s daughter to do this.

    And don’t bother telling me this is a sport. If you want your daughter to be involved in sports, you send her to the gym to buiild muscle, get her running (or) for cardio, get her into established sports with training, goal setting, and accreditation. Maybe support her taking what she learned there, and the reputation she has established there, into a degree in kinesiology or physical therapy, for just two examples. That’s where she could take it, if she had gone this route, instead of selling pussy. Which is all that’s going on here. I don’t ok it, not for my daughter, not for yours. It happens, but not without acknowledgement of what’s really going on. Can the bullshit pretense and at least we could respect that much.

  46. kathy a

    oh, no — no more bdsm. please.

  47. Mr. Hell

    Wow! Sounds like the Patriarchy has you by the balls.

    I think that if you did some research into modern derby culture, you would find that most of the women involved are self-empowered, intelligent and successful.

    But you, much like the powerful white men you are worried about, can’t see past their skirts.

    That’s too bad.

    Mr. Hell, esq.

  48. Bunny

    Last time I checked, I know I have little control over who objectifies me. I could be walking down the street buck naked, or covered from head to toe in black, impenetrable fabric with an eye slit, and somewhere, somehow, some fucking cockhead will manage to objectify me.

    I, for one, am sick and fucking tired of having to second guess my self in order to ward off being objectified. No matter where I go or how I dress, I’m categorized by The Dude as either Fuckable or Not Fuckable. This doesn’t change if I don some roller skates and a mini skirt. The difference is at least when I slip my proverbial skates and skirt on, i know what I’m doing has the potential to be objectified, rather than assume that because I’m hiding under a baggy shirt, or whatever else is supposed to save my ass from The Dude’s assessment, I’m not playing into some Asshat’s rape fantasy.

  49. Brooklynite

    Selling pussy? It’s my understanding that almost all roller derby leagues are amateur projects — money from tickets and concessions goes to offset expenses, more or less. The women who do this do it in their free time, for fun.

    That’s what I’ve read, heard, and/or assumed, at least.

  50. Annie

    Lots of cool posts and good banter. I am left where I always seem to fall in these issues (exotic dancing,etc): while I appreciate the women who say they feel most empowered and in control over the auspices of patriarchy when they deliver the kind of “fake” goods we’re talking about here in this campy “racey” theater on wheels. OK, fine. I believe ‘em, but what sticks in my craw is that it’s even up for consideration. I mean, there’s no sport (that I know of) where the men dress like campy versions of fantasy men, perform some kind of athletic feat, and then start vacuuming to awaken some inner animal in women. And if such a thing existed no right-minded woman would find it more than mildly amusing…once…maybe twice when she took her mother along as a gag one Sunday afternoon. And you can’t turn the whole thing around and compare it to women going to Chippendales or any such revolting nonsense. It’s the horrible, bitter, shameful irony of the patriarchy. I’m not saying what I mean very well, but it does bother me that even some sexist event like a male revue is dependent on a HIGHLY discursive view of women.

    I like antelope’s comment best; it reflects a lot of the same refreshing perspective that seems to have emerged from postcolonial feminist theory. I understand that dropping out of the game comes with the problems of passive resistance (are you really resisting if Big Daddy doesn’t know it?), but maybe it’s a kind of transitional form of more radical resistance where women learn to become increasingly comfortable in their own skin. I honestly don’t know. Like most postmodern arguments, there doesn’t seem to be any rational ending or defined/correct way of viewing or solving these issues aside from exposing them, talking about them, and supporting the ideas we believe in when it counts…at the poles and in the economy.

  51. Annie

    I hate to “tweak” someone else’s post, but your irritation is one I share Bunny, so I want to say this: I agree about the issue of control and objectification to a certain extent, but I tend to believe that they think we are all fuckable under the right conditions. One of the most revolting patriarchal beliefs seems to be their over-arching ingrained (inbred) belief that whether or not they fuck us is really about them and not about us…whether they are clever or opportunistic, or just damned lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. THAT irritates the snot outta me! And in this light, can you see how other women might consider your sense of control suspicious? I don’t think it’s anything personal…well, certainly not from me. It just gives a lot of us the creeps that this shit is even out there as commodity.

  52. norbizness

    I too am against the forced selling of children into roving, gypsy-like bands of roller-derbyians… to apprentice in back-breaking, Shanghai Opera-style camps for years and years… and then be forced to ply their lascivious trade for leering Japanese businessmen.

    I’m sorry, I was just reverse-engineering some of the more ascetic, Puritanical posts to see what it is we must be talking about here.

  53. Annie

    One more thing…

    Not to be a post-o-holic here, but I couldn’t help re-reading Twisty’s original post doubling back on her original pronouncement that RD is fun. Ya know, the shit of it all is that it does look like loads of fun, right? I mean, I’d have an absolute blast whirling around like that at top speed and putting on a show…though probably I’d get bored with the show and just want to race. And I can imagine how it could be a hoot to be in the stands, one fist in the air and the other clutching a lager (hoping to hell that I didn’t spill it!). But there is something about the whole thing that makes it seem like the real nugget in Twisty’s post is that it’s the kind of thing you could do once or twice, as a skater or a spectator, and have a laugh or two. But making it a way of life? A habit? I dunno, maybe I am just getting old, but even at its kitschy best, I can’t imagine it being amusing on a regular basis. It’s surely one of those things where if you look just one second too long you’ll be pissed as all hell and blaming like a friggin’ maniac all over again.

  54. cassie

    The point about there not being a men’s version of roller derby is seems moot to me. Why would most men want to parody masculinity and destabilize it when it’s a dominant position? Of course women would be more prone to enact parody as gender subversion since they are the ones to be constricted by heteronormative femininity.

  55. Pony

    Hey Norbizness. Girls havin’ fun just needed your ball clanking approval to make sure no-one missed the point. Thanks for ringing in with that.

  56. KnifeGhost

    norbiz, if I may be permitted to pick up what you’re laying down, is it your contention that some previous posts offering blanket criticism of the roller-derby indulge in a bit of glorified slut-shaming?

    Now, I think a critical reading of the roller-derby is, like every other cultural practice, useful and necessary. But, again, I think any feminism (or any intellectual pursuit generally) that ignores or denies the experiences of the people participating in that practice fails in its project and loses any liberatory potential it has. There is a lot of valid critism that we can make of rhe roller derby, but we have to recognize that the women who participate in it do so for valid reasons, and that they have every right to do so.

    And regarding patriarchy and its ubiquity… Partiarchy is everywhere, but it isn’t everything. If you look for patriarchy, you’ll find it always and everywhere. The next step is to look for the cracks — they’ll start to become more and more visible, and when you find them, they can be pried open. Solutions aren’t found by staring at the problem. Identifying the problem is important and necessary, but at some point it’s necessary step back from it and look for gaps.

    Oh, and Lauren, behave. Don’t you remember what happened last time you got clever?

  57. Annie

    I guess that’s just my point,Cassie. It can’t happen in reverse to any effect that would make it worthwhile.

  58. norbizness

    Pony: Honestly, I don’t know why more comments and more ideas roller-derby leagues aren’t submitted for my approval first.

    Knife Ghost: Basically. Or one could re-read comments #27 and 31. They seem to have been written by autonomous human beings who have made this recreational choice, and yet somehow didn’t offer a full-throated, simpering apologeia for male privilege like some elbow-padded Barbi Benton.

  59. Pony

    “Slut shaming”?

    None of these young women deserves to be called a slut. How dare you? It’s not the women; it’s the patriarchy.

    And this is my last post on the topic of Feminism 101.

  60. cassie

    I remain unconvinced that parody can’t be worthwhile just because men don’t generally parody masculinity. I think that if a parody of heteronormative femininity (by drag queens, by derby women, and so on) works to denaturalize femininity it logically follows that the very same subversive act of parody would also work to denaturalize masculinity (since one can’t ultimately define femininity/masculinity except for in relation to one another). I think, overall, that the problem I see in the original blog is not in its claims about the male gaze and the role of spectacle (in other words, in the issues it takes with the audience), because, as numerous others have noted, no matter how the female body is represented it remains objectified, but rather that the post doesn’t “blame the patriarchy” as it were, but instead blames the women involved in what could be read as a “subversive bodily act.”

  61. Pony

    Cassie I didn’t read Twisty’s post as blaming the women. Not at all. And just because we are objectified wherever we go, that doesn’t mean we can pretend we don’t know what’s going on with the Hooters girls or the roller girls. Yes they willingly do this. Doubley sad. So we can see what’s going down with Brittany, Paris and the Misses Simpson but not here? Selective blaming.

    I’ve worked supporting my sisters in the sex-trade. Those women knew what they were doing too, but they didn’t pretend it was some kind of brave radical feminist act or fun fun fun.

  62. ufoolive

    “Deal with it: Roller Derby is expressly patriarchal and that’s not to say that it’s not a sport, but that patriarchy doesn’t see it as a real sport or men would be doing it too.”

    I hope the irony of this sentence wasn’t lost on everyone else. Roller derby is expressly patriarchal yet the patriarchy doesn’t acknowledge it?

    Most of you have completely missed the point of roller derby…it is a CELEBRATION of women! What could possibly be more anti-patriarchal? Our league’s very mission statement is “promoting the physical and mental strength and independent spirit of women.” We are a registered non-profit organization, run by the skaters, for the skaters. Our blood, sweat, & tears drive this endeavor…it has nothing to do with “selling pussy.” Why should skaters be punished for celebrating our beauty? I like to dress up in short skirts & fishnets to skate, but I certainly don’t do it for any man, not even my husband. I dress up for myself and for my teammates, because it is fun & I like to take part in celebrating our bodies. This is not a sport of super models; we are real women, in all shapes & sizes, and we have never felt so empowered and gorgeous. We are strong athletes; we practice hard, cross-train, & lift at the gym just like any other athletes. Since when do we need to look at what men are doing to validate what WOMEN are doing?? You people have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I would be damn proud to have my daughter play roller derby if she so chooses.

  63. Ana Bollocks

    >If roller derby were considered a sport even at the level of legitimacy of pro wrestling, there would be men doing it. – Twisty

    >patriarchy doesn’t see it as a real sport or men would be doing it too. – Burrow Klown

    You are exposing your ignorance here. Men are not *allowed* to participate, except as referees, mascots, and other sorts of support staff. With very rare exception (I don’t know of any currently operating), the leagues are women-owned and women-run. WFTDA, the governing body of the sport, is made up of representatives from leagues around the country. Members voted that leagues had to have only female skaters to be considered for inclusion in the national association, and that ownership had to be at least 67% female. In most cases, ownership is 100% female.

    Leaving the lack of research aside for the moment, frankly, I do not understand how you can call yourself feminists in one breath and then insist that a sport is less legitimate because men do not participate in it in the next.

    >Biggest splat of bullshit rationalizing I’ve heard since reading Libertarian pro-pornograpy and pro sex-with-children apologist bloggers. – Pony

    The fact that you are comparing women skating in skirts to defenders of child rape speaks for itself, I think.

    >So you’d be real proud would you Kate, to have your daughter do this?… And don’t bother telling me this is a sport. If you want your daughter to be involved in sports, you send her to the gym to buiild muscle, get her running (or) for cardio, get her into established sports with training, goal setting, and accreditation. – Pony

    Funny, because in order to be a better skater, I go to the gym to build muscle and do cardio, and then I skate at practices 2-4 times a week on top of that. Practices include sport-specific drills and skills evaluations, so there’s your training and goal setting. As for accreditation, as I said earlier, leagues are accredited by the sport’s governing body.

    Regarding people’s daughters…I’ll leave you with this bit of audience feedback from a survey we took:

    “We are sooooo grateful to bring our daughters to a female sport that is both fun and taken seriously by its participants. The broader spectrum of body-types, all cute in short skirts, but most importantly strong and serious about what they are doing is a conscientious choice we are making to support for our daughters.”

    Ana Bollocks
    Gotham Girls Roller Derby

  64. jami

    i wanted to like roller derby, too.

    but a male-run music blog showed me exactly why i wouldn’t. he had a post showing a fun night out he’d had. first, (male) musicians were pictured. note: their heads were included in the photographs.

    scrolling down, photos of roller derby asses. the women, undoubtedly hardcore feminists, had had their dear little heads cropped right out of the photos.

  65. cassie

    Since flat track derby leagues are “by the skaters, for the skaters,” by condemining their events as spectacles that create “proto-whores” I’m afraid that it does, ultimately, blame the skaters for somehow pandering to a masculinist gaze. As someone else noted, what would be the way for these leagues–who have expenses to pay like rink time, coaches, etc.–to sustain themselves without becoming subjected to a male gaze? If it is necessary for these leagues to have an audience in order to offset their costs how could they avoid this? Play for a female audience? I think many people in this conversation would agree that women, too, have been asked to objectify other women and to see the word through a dominant masculinist way of seeing, so there seems no way to avoid this objectification save for not playing at all, which seems far more limiting than playing does.

  66. ufoolive

    Jami – why would you let some jerk’s blog influence what you like & what you don’t? Try going to a bout & deciding for yourself.

  67. Kate

    Pony: “So you’d be real proud would you Kate, to have your daughter do this? And have her look like this, and have men and some lesbians objectifying her? ‘Cause if you wouldn’t then tell us why it’s ok for some other mother’s daughter to do this.”

    Well actually, I could see at least one of my daughters actually doing this for a bit of past time and making fun. I’d be pushing them to get into law school or something like I do now though, but no, I wouldn’t be all beside myself.

    Both of my daughters dress in the fashions of their peers which I haven’t necessarily liked over the years, but I did notice that their minds weren’t turned to mush with every belly top they wore. They were still just as sharp and articulate as ever. Now, mind you that doesn’t mean I haven’t made them fully aware of the sexism of the fashion industry. Nor does it mean that I will change my non-fashion clothing preferences anytime soon.

    I wonder if participating in roller derby would inhibit these women from wider social acceptance in he same way say?

    I don’t think this is all about feminism either. I see this largely as a class issue as well. Old hatred and class division serve well to keep women in compliance, “act like her and you won’t get to marry a nice boy (alpha breadwinner). That worked like a charm, but has been falling apart as of late. I see the roller derby as just another crack in the patriarchy facade as women do this, organize it on their own, like it and don’t give a hoot about how the men see them. They’d have to bar men at the door in order to lock out the ‘male gaze’ and that seems rather defeating, as in order to enjoy and participate in the sport, cash is required.

    They appear to have their own power and wish to engage in something for their own enjoyment. That it is not backpacking, kayaking or tennis, is certainly not for me to have a beef.

    And yes there is a stupid male version of this kind of thing, its ‘pro wrestling’, the great white po’ boy’s idol.

    ANd unlike stripping or prostitution, these women’s health is not great peril or left in the power and hands of a man. Nor am I convinced as much as it is argued here, that the women take up this entirely for the male gaze.

    Like Knife says very well: “I think any feminism (or any intellectual pursuit generally) that ignores or denies the experiences of the people participating in that practice fails in its project and loses any liberatory potential it has. There is a lot of valid critism that we can make of rhe roller derby, but we have to recognize that the women who participate in it do so for valid reasons, and that they have every right to do so.”

    I see a lot of shaming here. Don’t women get shame enough from the patriarchy?

  68. Pony

    It’s the defenders of pornography and child rape who support you. Roller girls isn’t about sex. It’s about pornography and rape. They are not the same thing, which you and Norbizness don’t seem to get. We’ve done this thread twice now, and I’m more sickendd by it than I can tell you. It’s one thing to have to explain to men why sex and rape are two different things, but to my sisters? Goodnight.

    Watch the video:

    http://www.pinkspage.com

  69. Ana Bollocks

    >It’s the defenders of pornography and child rape who support you. Roller girls isn’t about sex. It’s about pornography and rape. They are not the same thing, which you and Norbizness don’t seem to get. We’ve done this thread twice now, and I’m more sickendd by it than I can tell you. It’s one thing to have to explain to men why sex and rape are two different things, but to my sisters? Goodnight.

    Ummm… it seems to me that this post speaks for itself, too.

  70. VMC

    Props to Ana Bollocks, love the name. It sounds like kindof a dumb sport, but what the hell, aren’t they all? What I like is that women are running it how they damned-well-please–thanky– and are very disinclined to eat shit over it, too, judging from the comments left here by honest-to-goodness practitioners.

    I’d also observe how easy it is for patriarchy blaming, a study I am new to (yes, I’ve read the fucking FAQ), but enthusiastic about because Twisty makes learning fun, to yank the seekers off the patriarchs and point them at sisters in arms. Score one more for big white daddy!

    I haven’t spent much time in Austin, but don’t they have strip joints there? Why in the hell is a guy going to go watch Roller Derby when he can shove his F-350 right into the lot down at Scootchies where they wave their asses right over your bowl of peanuts?

    My guess is that Roller Derby might just be kinda fun, exciting. Like wrestling or something.

  71. KnifeGhost

    Pony: I’ll quote cassie, cause she did a damn good job.

    “Since flat track derby leagues are “by the skaters, for the skaters,” by condemining their events as spectacles that create “proto-whores” I’m afraid that it does, ultimately, blame the skaters for somehow pandering to a masculinist gaze.”

    Kate expanded on it very well. I didn’t call women who participate in roller-derbys “slut”. To make that claim is either incredibly disingenuous, or indicitave that I don’t need to spend time discussing this with you. You shamed them as if they were, and I called you on it. I’m glad to hear that you’ve worked in support of women who work in the sex industry. It’s hard and essential work. But if we are to assume that the roller-derby _is_ part of the sex industry (and I’m sure most skaters would take excetion to that) I don’t believe we can in good conscience shame them for it.

  72. Pony

    The only shaming done here which was directed toward people rather than the issue was not done by any regular poster to this blog.

  73. jaye

    Roller derby was broadcast on black and white television when I was a little bitch–er–child. (By bitch I mean, the child who always pointed out the social injustice and sexism of the time. I am not saying it like it is a bad thing. I once got into a huge argument with the aforementioned asshole father over whether Tampax® could increase its market share only if more thirteen year olds started their periods or if it was about brand loyality.) And I have wondered why it wasn’t as big today as it was then. Today we have the flimsy Formica® covered veneer of political correctness, but that will be easily fucked up with only a perfectly round ring of grape juice stain sat on the countertop.

    Which begs the question, if wrassling is bigger than roller derby, why is that? Both now are horrible sexist–card girls wore more years ago–and wrassling is more homoerotic–not that there is anything wrong with that, but Bubba don’t know how gay he really is–and both are full of naked human bodies shot full of plastic and ‘roids. Both involve alot of peroxide and violence.

    Not to derail this thread, but why isn’t roller derby as big as wrassling?

  74. Christopher

    See, here’s the thing… As far as I can tell, people seem to have two main problems with the roller derby.

    A. The women wear revealing costumes, presumably for the beneift of the male gaze.

    B. The women engage in spectator sports, which inherently objectify the participants.

    I guess MY problem is I still can’t see what the solution would be. Any sport is going to have problem B, and A, while problematic, doesn’t seem like that huge a deal to me.

    I mean, I have trouble seeing the connection between a skirt/tank top combo and child rape.

    Maybe it’s just me.

    Ultimately, I’m still a bit baffled as to what a sport would look like if it had an acceptable lack of patriarchy involved. Is it just a matter of the outfits being too sexualised? Or is the entire idea of spectator sports so inherently patriarchal that it should be abandoned? Or is it something else?

    Help me out here.

  75. jaye

    Oh, yeah and one more question. Since I have been knocked on my ass a time or two, can someone explain to me how they enjoy watching other people male, female, whatever, get knocked on their asses? Hmmm?

  76. scratchy888

    Anything can be sexualised.

    Most jobs are sleazy.

  77. Dr.Sue

    To me, the male analogue to roller derby would be the old Harlem Globetrotters. Until 1950, African Americans were not allowed to play in the NBA, and even after that it was more difficult for black players to play on good professional (lucrative) teams. So the Globetrotters incorporated comedy, camp, kitsch into their play, and drew a worldwide audience. They were serious, professional athletes without the same choices as white players, and they were also criticized for uncle-tomming.

  78. Annie

    I don’t know, though, Sue. I think the issue here is about the sexual kitsch and its by-products.

  79. B. Dagger Lee

    Hot Damn! Some damn fine dialectic going on in this joint. I wish joy to all in the thread above. You all dodge and weave and think on your feet, it gives me joy to read it. I am, as always, yr B. Dagger Lee

  80. Burrow Klown

    What seems to be going on here by all the roller derby enthusiaists is no deep analysis of the situation. We’re not saying that you’re horrible for enjoying it, but you’re also stating that this objectifictaion is not happening and that you dress up ‘for yourself.’ Did you ever sit down and think why that is, because it’s pretty engrained in all of us to dress up for others, and this is unconciously. I’ve had to take many a step back from things that I loved and analyse them and the results have not been pretty, but to ignore it by saying you feel empowered? That’s the same as saying sex work is empowering. Yeah, to who? Because seriously it’s just the same old patriarchal bullshit.

    You are exposing your ignorance here. Men are not *allowed* to participate, except as referees, mascots, and other sorts of support staff.

    No we’re pointing out that if it was considered a legitimate sport that there would also be men’s teams.

    I hope the irony of this sentence wasn’t lost on everyone else. Roller derby is expressly patriarchal yet the patriarchy doesn’t acknowledge it?

    Patriarchal in the way of look we can get women to dress in tight, teensy uniforms and beat each other up. Patriarchy thinks of it as a pseudo-sport for the reason stated above. (I’m not saying *I* don’t think it’s a sport, but that the patriarchy doesn’t.)

  81. Twisty

    Whups. Time once again for me to explain what I meant by all those words I wrote up there.

    To Texasrollergirl and everyone else who has somehow gotten the idea that I don’t think roller derby skaters are athletes: I never said that. I am, in fact, way in awe of your skaterly chops. As an aside, however, I feel I should point out that you don’t have to be an athlete to fuck up your knee. I got sideswiped by a pack of dogs in Barton Hills the other day while composing an Italian sonnet and have been hobbling around in a brace ever since. But I digress.

    The fact that Texas Rollergirls is grass-roots and skater-owned—which, by the way, I was happy to point out in my earlier post in defense of roller derby—is commendable, but it mitigates the derby’s ultimate capitulation to male prurience only to an infinitesimal degree. This is not, I emphasize, women’s fault. It’s because patriarchy always wins.

    To Vixenvangogo, who has somehow gotten the idea that I would prevent skaters from availing themselves of “slutty” attire: I do not impugn skaters for wearing whatever the fuck they want to wear. I impugn the social order that attaches misogynist connotations to such eminently practical sporting gear as fishnet stockings and Catholic school skirts.

    To Drew, who has somehow gotten the idea that I believe the skaters are “uneducated”: I never said that. I never intimated that. I have no reason to suspect that. Why do you think that?

    To Raunchy Lumps, who has somehow gotten the idea that I believe men need to play a sport for it to be legitimate: I never said that, either. What I said was that if roller derby were regarded by the general populus as a legitimate sport, men would have co-opted it by now, as they co-opt anything in which they see real value. I give as the reason that men have not co-opted it is that they see it as feminized. And in a patriarchal culture, “feminized” means less than human. Just so’s we’re clear, nothing would make me happier than if men ceased playing sports altogether.

    To joan of anarchy: I am not the one who sees skaters as proto-whores. I merely point out that, because of our beloved pornocracy, the male honkys who make the rules see you as proto-whores. You are shooting the messenger.

    To Norbizness: That’s the last time I let you babysit!

    To Kate, who has somehow gotten the idea that because I am a feminist I cannot also have an opinion on matters of taste: faugh! A spinster aunt has many facets, girlfriend.

    To anyone who has somehow gotten the idea that I think the skaters should hang it up: read for comprehension whydontcha.

    To anyone who uses the phrase “celebration of women,” in any context: please, save it for Sister MoonWing’s Unicorn Wicca Unbleached Cotton Tampon Blog.

  82. norbizness

    I can’t believe I accidentally let slip my Shanghai Rollergirl Surprise plan! I guess I’ll cancel that order of Gap Kids plaid miniskirts I was going to send to Ro-tel.

  83. Dr.Sue

    Annie, I do understand that the point at issue is the prurient male gaze, because, as Twisty has pointed out repeatedly, in the patriarchy, women are the sex class. My point about the Globetrotters is that in arenas ruled by white men (all arenas) members of the underclass (everyone else) are forced to get creative and do some pandering to do their work at all, and the result is that they are not taken seriously and are accused of being tools of the patriarchy. Of course they are. Who isn’t?

  84. Pony

    Has Norbizness been reading that book/seen that movie that has about as much to do with Japanese Geisha culture as roller derby does with sport?

  85. norbizness

    I’ve seen Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol a number of times. It was even the subject of my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Asian Studies. Which was strange, because I wasn’t enrolled at any university.

  86. Twisty

    Why has nobody brought up Amanda Beard and all those other Olympic athletes who have to pose for cheesecake shots in order to get any sports coverage? By which I mean, a woman can be an athlete and still owe her success to male prurience.

  87. Burrow Klown

    As usual Twisty says it best, but I wanted to add an addendum to my last post:

    I don’t blame you and I’m sure many people here do not. I (we) blame the patriarchy for coopting and commodifying women’s bodies. DO I think that roller derby in and of itself is bad? HELL NO! But am I uncritical of it b/c we do live in a patriarchy? Hell no.

  88. whyme63

    It’s one thing to project a message, or believe you are projecting a message, of strong women, sisterhood and community. It is another to get that message across. And (to me at least) they are not. Time to re-think the old marketing campaign, maybe.

    As it stands, regardless of what statement the participants think they are making, the majority of spectators are going to miss that point. I confess to missing it, myself. To me, the women in rollerderby overtly cater to the Patriarchy’s insatiable lust for sex and violence.

    I find the violence more distasteful even than the sex, by the way. Maybe I’m too old, at 42, to understand all this ironic culture stuff, but I take rollerderby at face value. And I greatly dislike what see. Because I simply cannot believe that women knocking the crap out of each other is ever good for our cause, or in anyway damaging to the patriarchy.

    That patriarchal lust for sex and violence extends far beyond what they may do to us directly–is also serves the Patriarchy when we do it to ourselves, or to each other. If we are busy demeaning ourselves or others in our same situation, they don’t have to waste their valuable time to demean us. Plus, we don’t have a chance to attack them. A double bonus for the Patriarchy.

  89. Pony

    Their achievement was debased.

    That was the worst, but it’s going, owing to women athletes who are as serious about their sport as are men about theirs, and demanding to be seen as such. I think women athletes are redefining amateur and professional sport.

  90. Vibrating Liz

    Dr.Sue’s point suddenly reminded me of John Sayles’s sad yet hilarious novel Pride of the Bimbos, about the cross-dressing circus sideshow softball team called the Brooklyn Bimbos and their midget shortstop hero, Pogo Burns. One of my favorite books ever.

    And, as usual, my beloved B Dagger Lee speaks for me. Reading this post and its comments has been the most fun I’ve had since…well clearly I need to get out more often.

  91. Pony

    My last post was in response to Twisty, to which I add; Beard didn’t owe her success to male prurience, but she may have lost credibility by thinking she did. See? The patriarchy will getcha coming and going.

  92. Sara

    Wow, so many things to say; so little time. First, yeah, what B. Dagger Lee wrote; this is a great discussion; thank you all. I am especially happy to see so many skaters here to say their pieces. My sole exposure to modern roller derby up to this point has been some program on NPR, and it probably won’t get a lot broader (no pun intended) for the same reason I know nothing about NASCAR, which is that sitting in one place watching people go ’round and ’round in circles (or ovals) is just not my favorite way to spend an hour, no matter how skillfully these people are conducting themselves or how amusingly they trick out themselves and their equipment. And no, I don’t think that modern day roller derby “girls” are uneducated sluts, though I do think they capitalize on that persistant image of derbyists from bygone eras, women who were often poor and uneducated and had far fewer choices than their modern counterparts, and that honestly this does not reflect well on today’s derbyists, as much fun as they might be having doing it.

    Somebody above asked the question, “What do you wear when you exercise?” Well, not much, you’re right, but also not a skirt or a raunchy fake name, and I don’t do it in an arena of paying observers. This is, admittedly, partly because no sane person would pay money to watch me exercise. This is also because I exercise for myself alone.

    Look, I was young and attractive once, too, roller skated on the beaches of Southern California in shorts and bathing suits for practicality and effect, and I totally understand both ironic clothing and dressing to attract a gaze — anybody’s gaze. It’s fun. Period. It is. I once wore short plaid skirts and ripped fishnets, too, but that was back in the early ’80s. (And, of course, back then the boys were doing it, too, at least where I was. No point to make here; just sayin’.) And I love, love, love both roller and ice skating, and I love watching people who are better at it than I can ever hope to be exhibit their skills. Doing it feels like flying. Watching it done spectacularly well takes my breath away. I love both so much that one of my biggest life goals at this moment, frivolously enough, is figuring out how to do it now that I only have one organic knee. I totally get that part, that love of a particular activity so much that you will go to great lengths to keep doing it, no matter who’s watching.

    What I don’t understand, even after all this talking, is how roller derby can be considered a sport, not purely a spectacle, when there’s so much crap loaded onto it. What I don’t enjoy understanding is why you have to load that much crap onto it to attract a paying audience.

    Compare and contrast with speed skating on ice. This is considered an authentic, legitimate sport. People of both genders (all genders?) participate. They work very, very hard to attain competition-level skill. They spend buckets of money on gear and training. They wear clothing designed for efficient physics, both as it applies to comfort and speed, clothing which happens to be dead sexy on a fine, athletic body of any size or shape. Sometimes participants get into snits on the ice, but I daresay this potential is not part of the attraction for either participant or audience member. Do you understand the difference?

    So look, I’m glad you’re having fun, derbyists. I also don’t believe that all forms of entertainment must be embiggening; good gad, if that were true, where would I tune the TV when I have insomnia and yoga doesn’t fix it? And I think there are lots of different paths to embiggenment. I just think you ought to own what you’re doing. It is not, as Twisty avers, a crime against humanity nor the worst possible thing anyone can do to other women. It is not its very own pillar of the patriarchy, though it does seem to me that it does as much to buttress the patriarchy as to break it down. It may even be character and community building. But it also isn’t all that noble an undertaking, from what I’ve seen. It does not grope for equality, celebrate the achievements of women or anybody else, or create what I would consider especially positive role models for young folks any more than Barbie or Bratz dolls or Disney cartoon princesses. And it could. It really could.

    Think women’s soccer. Think snowboarding and aerial ski jumping. Think even about women’s boxing, though personally I loathe violent sports. Now think about what you do.

    Legitimate sport? Really? Really?

    That’s all I have to say on this topic. Best wishes to all, and thanks again for a far more thought-provoking conversation than I ever would have expected.

  93. Mandos

    I’m still astonished at the existence of roller derby. I’m not sure it exists in any part of Canada where I’ve lived. I’m not sure if it exists here on the Plateau of Gorgoroth either.

  94. Brooklynite

    Sara, I don’t think that any of roller derby’s defenders would deny that it’s partly spectacle, or performance — hell, any sport that depends on a paying audience is going to have quite a bit of spectacle mixed in. What the derby folk are saying is that it is, among other things, a sport.

    Now, I’ve only ever been to one roller derby match, and it was a while ago, but my recollection is that the actual match was real. The two teams were really playing, really (mostly) following the rules of the game, really trying to win. That may have been a put-on, or I may be misremembering, but my memory seems to fit with what the folks who play have said here.

  95. Sara

    Uh, sorry, one more thing to say, and it’s an apology for bad English skills. First, I wrote “persistant” when I truly meant to write “persistent.” Second, somewhere toward the bottom of my spew I typed “It is not, as Twisty avers,…” when I should have written “As Twisty avers, it is not…”

    Speaking of reading for comprehension, well, writers who use correct spelling and word order sure do help in that endeavor. Sorry for the lapses.

    Now I’m really leaving. Of course, I blame the patriarchy once again for my shortness of available time, coming as it does on Good Friday, the mere occurrence of which coinciding with my schedule promises to make my day at work at the grocery store in a largely Christian community absolute hell. Now that’s irony.

  96. redneckmother

    Interesting thread. I’ve meant to jump in since yesterday. Because I’m sleep-deprived and on allergy meds, now’s the time.

    I went to the Texas Rollergirls’ first bout of the season, the one Twisty attended and declared to be fun. I showed up alone, planning to meet friends there. My overall impression of the derby audience and event was one of safety. From the moment I arrived to the end of the bout when I bid my friends goodbye and walked the block to my car, I was not harassed, leered at, followed, catcalled or pinched. For whatever reason (and I think we all know who to blame) this was a rare experience for me. I didn’t see any other women getting hassled, either, and I was watching for it.

    As for whether a parent would be proud of a derby daughter, I sat next to a couple with a video camera during the second half. They were cheering on their daughter. When I asked which skater was “theirs,” the mother pointed her out to me with what seemed an awful lot like parental pride.

    Would I have had a different experience at the next bout? Don’t know. Are the skaters currying favor with the patriarchy? I tend toward Dr. Sue’s H.G. p.o.v. on that one. Did the climate of ass-kicking women created by the skaters have anything to do with my lack of unwanted male attention? Don’t know, although I suspect as much. Bottom line: I felt safer and less targeted for being a woman at that roller derby bout than I have at some places I’ve worked, much less public events I’ve attended. For that alone, the derby was worth the price of my ticket.

  97. vera

    I have to admit, I rarely watch (or engage in, sadly) any sport. But Twisty’s post and these comments have got me wondering. What’s the difference between roller derby and the “ice dancing” I accidentally watched one evening on TV? (It was my husband’s fault; he kept turning it on.) Okay, the ice dancers weren’t beating each other up, though there were a few couples who looked like they wanted to. But it was clear to me (and my husband) that the rule about the costumes being “athletic” applied only to the men’s costumes. One woman was wearing a white sparkly string bikini top and a loincloth. She might as well have been naked. This was in the Olympics, folks.

    So how come it’s acceptable for ice dancers to parade around in costumes clearly intended to arouse something other than the audience’s appreciation for the sport — so acceptable that ice dancing is an Olympic event?

    Hmmm…. could it have something to do with class?

    And now, having re-read my first sentence, I’m going to get off my sorry un-athletic butt and go for a long walk.

  98. Pony

    Vera

    It’s not acceptable. I’ve been told this is changing but I don’t know at whose push. I don’t have a tv, but if I did I wouldn’t be watching ice-skating. As for other sports, I merely follow the news of how it’s changing and why, as feminist exercise.

  99. vera

    (Suspended in mid-walk) Wait a moment! I just recalled that one ice dancing couple nearly did come to blows, and the press was all a-twitter about it. The couple’s argument got lots of coverage, and I could have sworn that the reporters were a little disappointed when the two of them kissed and made up. I have a prediction: the next time ice dancing comes to an international stage, there will be a few couples staging make-believe altercations. That makes the sexy outfits even sexier, as we know.

  100. vera

    Pony, I may need to follow ice dancing now, as a feminist exercise. It will be painful, but necessary.

  101. Pony

    You’ll have to go back into the ‘sport’ archives then and begin with the fight between two women skaters about 15 years ago. I always wondered if it was staged.

  102. Annie

    Vera,

    I think ice dancing depends on a pretty high level of objectification, but that business about the “fighting” brings an interesting dimension to this fun banter we’ve been having. The “raunch” factor available via RD isn’t socially or culturally legitimated as “art,” and yet as a sport it depends on theater and an aesthetic that is an ironic hybrid of both art and sport. I can see how the skaters and RD enthusiasts can comfortably argue for their position as a resistant sub-culture. Still, I am uncomfortable with RD. It may be my personal aesthetic, but I suspect that it is a kind of generational feminist perspective that leaves me somewhat suspicious of RD as a parody or specialized form of resistance. It may well be that I am too damn anal in my response to “the gaze” and so unable to just appreciate it as a light-hearted form of entertainment for those who enjoy it. And yet, the fighting still bothers me, in that it plays to some awful construction of woman as inherently more wicked, base, and animal than man. That’s not quite it, but whatever it is that gnaws away at me, I find myself concerned over it. Perhaps one of the ironies of feminism is that its positive and productive effects is that it has created a culture of women who stand in defiance of its supposed norms, even as it claims to reject white, heteronormative culture and tradition.

  103. Annie

    Eww…bad Annie…bad sentence!

  104. Ron Sullivan

    OK, this is going to be tangled. It’s 10:30AM and I’m still in my bathrobe.

    Pony, are you talking about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? I’ve always thought of that as a mash of class and class-based style preferences. I mean, speaking of the trailer-trash note upthread. I’ve also thought (after seeing her use it once) that Harding’s bad technique in inhaling albuterol,* though it might not be the whole explanation, would be sufficient, so I’m applying Occam’s toothbrush.**

    So then I got to thinking about the what-if-it-were-your-daughter thing, and thinking, Daughter hell, what if it were your mother? And then thought of Chris C.’s mother, who actually lives in a trailer and he brags on that sometimes. And then thought of her in Rollerderby… and thought, Wow, she’d kick ass. She would! And I’d buy her a beer. Well, OK, if we were all younger and healthier. And then my mother — she’d kick ass too; she had a mighty right arm from years running a manual-crank cash register before they invented electric ones.

    And then after Sara’s #92, I got to thinking about something I asked (partly) on my own blog a while back, and got only one reply to and I’m not sure I buy that one. Compare and contrast: trailer-trash costumes/names/etc.; fem-drag; blackface.

    *asthma medication. That thing with the broken skate-lace was a classic albuterol panic.
    ** right there on the sink next to his razor.

  105. Ron Sullivan

    Hey, Twisty. “Proto-porn” (with hyphen) showed up today in a jump hed in the SF Chronicle’s entertainment section. Piece was about Bettie Page.

    Brace????!! Jeezus Christ, the fuck, brace? Can you at least use it to kick with? Holy shit.

    Yeah, get that Airstream. And I’m wondering if our RAV4 could pull a Bambi.

  106. Annie

    Ron, you are rapidly becomming one of my favorite people!

  107. Pony

    The names sound right. Ice skating registered even less for me then than now. One of them was kneecapped by the other, purposely apparently. High drama for months and months, at a time when I was working photog in a newsroom the only female with guys who were YES fucking titillated over it. That’s all it meant to them. Woo woo. Women scratching kicking and catfighting. It was I thought, completely in the same genre of porn where guys watch two women getting it on. Or pretending to. Anyway it certainly did waste a lot of trees.

    Yeeees. In some families it’s the mother who horrifies everyone. Ahem.

    Someone’s mother lives in a trailer? Oooh I’m so envious. I’d drag it out to the bush.

  108. zzz

    “Hmmm…. could it have something to do with class?”

    Gawd, are you kidding? What could be trashier than ice dancing fercrissake?

    But I wanted to add a semi-serious thread to this engaging palaver. To what extent does the increasing objectification of the athletic male body make similar ooh-ah shots of women’s bods OK? I’m thinking in particular of a fairly new ad campaign, for Gatorade I think, of which I’ve seen 2 installments:
    In the first, NBA player Kevin Garnett is “born” from a giant basketball and stands, glistening, in nothing but a pair of those longish shorts the kids wear these days, chugging his gatorade. He’s quite dishy.
    In the second, a vaguely-familiar women’s beach volleyball player whose name I don’t know does same except she pops out of a big volleyball and she’s wearing the kind of 2-piece bathing suit they play the volleyball in.
    Both bodies are eroticized fer sure. The volleyball player is showing more skin, but she’s actually wearing her “uniform,” whereas the basketball player is pointedly topless. Are these ads doing the same thing–or is KG an “athlete” while volleyballer is a “babe”? To add to the confusion, does it matter that he’s black (and there’s all kinds of fetishization attached to black masculinity) and she’s white?

    More generally, to what extent is “objectification,” whatever we mean by that, in itself a bad thing? Obviously, the context in which said objectification occurs says a lot about the political force of the act, but if we (if we can) set that aside for a moment, what’s so special about subjects anyway?

  109. Pony

    Oh and by the way, thank you Sara, Ron, Vera and all other terrific and erudite and thought provoking posters. As you may have noticed i’m not too cogent, but I do like to read such well structured and meaningful prose as I find here. Which is why. I’m here.

  110. Pony

    “Gawd, are you kidding? What could be trashier than ice dancing fercrissake?”

    Oh so excellent and true. Another theory drowns in the swamp of excuses for why RD isn’t porn.

  111. CafeSiren

    The Nancy-and-Tonya debacle was figure skating (single competitors, sex-segregated), not ice dancing (couples). And that one was indeed about class, among other things. But it was also, I think, about gender: before the whole knee-cracking incedent, Tonya (the “bad girl” from the wrong side of town) got roasted in the press for responding to a question about the rivalry between the two skaters with the comment “I’m gonna kick her ass.” Ladylike Nancy never responded.

    Of course, that might be a class thing, too.

    Having grown up only 5 miles from Tonya’s stomping grounds, and socio-economically right next door, I never did see why the press was making such a big deal about the trash-talking. But apparently, nice girls don’t do that. Who knew?

  112. Annie

    Hey zzz, interesting comment. Check out Susan Bordo’s “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body” and see if that adds anything to your thinking here. It’s a cool chapter from Male Body: A New Look at Men Public and Private (1999).

  113. thebewilderness

    So, I clicked the first link and saw the spike heels. Spike heels and rollerderby? I read the promotion for the bout in ‘sin city’ that claims the skaters are deadly. Deadly spike heel wearing rollerderby spectacle.
    I have no words to describe my despair.

  114. Annie

    bewilderness did you try clicking my links waaaaaay up thread? You might get a laugh (or a barf) to see 1970s Raquel Welch as a RD babe.

  115. augustina

    armchair feminists. the first criticize, the last to act. or wait.. do you act? given your ideologies regarding patriarchy, it seems that we should take the AA approach and call ourselves immobilized victims of society. do you think we could get disability benefits for being born a woman???? (although i don’t feel disabled.. but of course maybe i have *internalized* the patriarchy and am living in patriarchal oblivion).

    roller derby is an attempt at a concretization of feminism. disregard “celebration of women” and write it off for the hippies? what exactly is feminism supposed to be about? speaking of which, when was the last time you volunteered at your local abortion clinic? or is sex with a man also submitting to the patriarchy? armchair feminists/activists like you piss me off. you sit on your priveleged white ass and do nothing but talk shit. please explain to me how hating other women and hating yourself for being a woman have anything to do with feminism.

  116. Annie

    wow, augustina, I don’t want to say it, but I think you might be “hearing” things. I don’t think anyone here suggested a hatred for other women or any kind of self-loathing as you assert. I would also venture to guess that you’re talking out of turn in believing that the people here are not socially active in meaningful ways. Personally, I don’t volunteer at abortion clinics because I’ve got some personal issues (patriarchally driven? probably, but they are mine and I own them) that make it a complicated subject for me. So, I hope you aren’t saying that I am somehow less than concerned, interested, or involved with social justice or issues. YOU would be very much mistaken. I tend to work on small projects that may not seem world-rocking to you, but they mean a helluva a lot to say, the young ex-stripper in Oklahoma I met in an online forum, but never in person, whose boyfriend split three months into her pregnancy. She was on bedrest, without a job or a family or even a patriarchal church to come to her aid. I helped her…sent her diapers, formula, and all kinds of other crap. It doesn’t make me Mother Theresa, but it sure as hell doesn’t make me apathetic, ambivalent, or uninvolved. I don’t defend any group or any particular cause. I am interested in people, and I relate to women. I reach out to women, I help in the most practical ways that I can, but most of all I don’t judge them. So, what? I’m kicked out of the feminist club? I’m just as socially constructed as the next girl, but I bow to no one’s label. This blog probably has its own purposes through Twisty, but clearly the dialogues don’t always represent any one mindset or stated goal. Far as I can tell, Twisty’s life as a woman is far different than my own. But I respect her, I find her posts provocative and interesting,and I admire her tenacity. I read plenty of opinions here that are different and sometimes harsh compared to my own. Some people assault others’ opinions. Some say nothing. Some are apologists for positions I find problematic. And I am SURE that I say things that don’t work for other people here. I don’t know what you are hearing, but I am hearing the perfectly pleasant voices of dissonance that tell me that feminism is alive and well here, because women blog back and forth at and with each other. Men come too. I don’t mind when someone, even you hollers and thinks differently than me. When you learn to appreciate the banter in here you’ll know YOU have found feminism.

  117. Twisty

    Whoa, augustina, speaking of hate, why you hatin on a sister when you should be trying to heal her obvious pain?

  118. Burrow Klown

    Damn what is that again? “When you assume it makes and ass out of U.”

  119. Ron Sullivan

    Y’know, sometimes the attempts to defend something make me more suspicious of it than I started out. “Concretization of feminism”? Going around in circles in fishnet hose? Yeeeaaaah, sure.

  120. Ms Kate

    Knowing cousin Tanya and her really bad taste in men, I doubt it Pony.

    I’m quite frankly suprised that that loser of a father of hers didn’t just “happen” to turn up and have something to do with it. No matter, she seems to find her daddy-alikes to carry on with it.

    Kerrigan, for her part, was every bit the spoiled Boston suburban snob princess and played the pathos card wherever.

  121. Kate

    Twisty sayeth: “To Kate, who has somehow gotten the idea that because I am a feminist I cannot also have an opinion on matters of taste: faugh! A spinster aunt has many facets, girlfriend.”

    Ok, you can, you can. My interpretation of your lament about the beer spiller bashing was one of classism, but maybe that’s a classist interpretation that I interpret your interpretation of bad taste as an reference to classism.

  122. Ms Kate

    Isn’t the beer spiller humiliation, um, dare I say it, BDSM sort of stuff ala fratboy?

  123. Kate

    “Compare and contrast with speed skating on ice. This is considered an authentic, legitimate sport. People of both genders (all genders?) participate. They work very, very hard to attain competition-level skill. They spend buckets of money on gear and training. They wear clothing designed for efficient physics, both as it applies to comfort and speed, clothing which happens to be dead sexy on a fine, athletic body of any size or shape. Sometimes participants get into snits on the ice, but I daresay this potential is not part of the attraction for either participant or audience member. Do you understand the difference?”

    Yes, I certainly do, first and foremost is the ‘they spend buckets of money on gear and training.’ line. Exactly. Not all persons in our won’erful social system can afford to engage in whatever pursuit they feel and not be burdened with the concern of how to fund the associated expenses. Since this is a ‘sport’ that is funded and organized by regular folk, who by the virtue of being women, probably don’t have a lot of cash on hand, some way of bringing in an audience for the sake of getting their cash is a necessity.

    Now, I’m sure if these women were to bend a little more for the satisfaction of the patriarchy and do it the ‘guy’s way’, they’d probably get plenty of independent funding. Then I think you’d see a bit more Playboy and a lot less Player-Girl.

    I remember well the Tanya Harding and whatshername bash in the figure skating world and yes, although it was at first blush about a woman with poor judgement and a serious lack of impulse control, it was also very much about class. Which points up some interesting issues about class in our culture, which I think is the stinking creek that flows quietly under this conversation.

    From my empirical observation, which includes essentially living on and dealing with both sides of class (from upper middle to lowest low), I have observed that on the whole, the lower you go on the economic strata, the more there is violence in everyday interaction in American culture.

    I am not going to go to try to slog through why that is so, but that is what I have seen, time and again. Wrassling is hugely popular with po’ folks and roller derby was at one time as well. We have a very violent society and I think, those who have less access to education and who due to socio-economic causes, have less access to more acceptable forms of entertainment, tend to veer to the easily understood and visceral entertainment that ’bouts’ and matches portend. Now, let’s not get all on me about how not ALL poor people are violent, because I know they all aren’t, I’m living testiment to that, but what I don’t see are poor folks getting all in a tissy about violence the in their daily lives and entertainment.

    Sure, I don’t like it that hockey players are celebrated as much for their skill in skating as for their skill in checking, or that the IWF celebrates violence, albeit theatrically, and mysoginy as the core of their entertainment, or that people who attend stock car racing go there to see a ‘burnout’ as much as to see who wins.

    And if you go to the roller derby association site, you will see that they do in fact have very clear rules of engagement and it appears that the activity itself is a sport in that a competition between teams ensues, rewards are given for gaining certain goals, for which the highest gainer wins the bout. Also, a knowledge of an established set of rules is required and it seems that some level of athletic prowess is required to engage in it. I can tell you with confidence that i’d get killed if I tried it, with my jelly ankles, i can’t even skate.

    And puh-leeze Pony, bear with me here, why is it ok to demonize these women for what they wear while I still remember Gloria Steinem being toasted as so independent for showing up for a speaking engagement in heels and a leather mini-skirt?

    And again, a look at the Texas roller derby group and their individual shots shows that not all the women on the team feel the need to pose for the male gaze.

    And I highly doubt that pedos are going to be flocking to the roller derby to pick up new recuits. Last I knew, they like their women-er-children, young, naive and helpless. Far cry from these women.

    Augustina: You ain’t talking to me girl!

    To quote Twist: “Whoa, augustina, speaking of hate, why you hatin on a sister when you should be trying to heal her obvious pain?”

    Sure you can pick up the bat the patriarchy uses to swing at all of us collectively, but make sure you swing it at THEM, not your sistahs.

    See how shaming makes women just go nuts? I remember some godbag in the nineties saying that women weren’t feeling shame enough anymore and that shame needed to come back to save society. Yeah, get women to pull eachother’s hearts out and eat them for lunch.

    And no, roller derby is NOT doing that.

  124. witchy-woo

    Dearest Spinster Aunt Twisty Faster,

    I implore you to make a post about the connections betwixt the female condition and rape – under the patriarchy.

    The time has come, I fear, whence the two are, very apparently, inextricable. The fact remains: female = fuckable (under the patriarchy).
    If you, dear Aunt, of all people, can’t post – on your own blog! – about how you see modern day roller-fucking-derby (sorry-but-not) – as a patriarchial primer for all small girls everywhere well, I’m a bloke.
    (I’m not)

    This, surely, isn’t about women in sport….this, surely, isn’t about women in anything? Isn’t this about how the patriarchy corrupts visible, active women in control of themselves into being anything from sex toys to fuck holes to amuse men through it’s misogyny?

    Or maybe I misunderstood and am in need of the guidance of a spinster aunt….

  125. MzNicky

    “Someone’s mother lives in a trailer? Oooh I’m so envious.”

    Pony: Why?

  126. Kaka Mak

    I admit to getting snagged on Kate’s “If they all choose to skate topless because they liked being topless, would that in fact be liberation or be for the male gaze? Humm..what if women LIKED to go topless and decided that having to cover up had everything to do with men making the rules?”
    comment.

    This is a very good question.

  127. Pony

    MzNicky:

    It’s hers.
    It’s portable.

  128. Pony

    Kate: Spend some time at Feminist 101: The Pornography Rape Continuum. Without an understanding of how this continuum defines the patriarchy, we’re just blowing smoke.

    Briefest of primers:

    Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy (Free Press, 2005)

    How U.S. commercialism has mainstreamed pornography, popularized raunch images (and practices), and revived female ‘bimbo’ roles. This is a call to arms for women and girls who are being sold pseudo empowerment, phony liberation, and fake rebellion—instead of the real thing: freedom. A must-read for young women—and everyone else

    Catherine MacKinnon
    Andrea Dworkin
    Susan Brownmiller

  129. Pony

    More readings:

    Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views on Pornography by Diana E.H. Russell (Athena Series, Teachers College Press, New York, NY; 1993).

    Collection of feminist articles covering testimony of sufferers of pornography and violence, a review of various academic research, and a final section on individual subversions and collective actions that resist pornography’s powerful place in society.

    ********

    Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul (Times Books, 2005)

    Paul details how the ubiquity of pornography impacts our personal lives. She discusses studies on the subject–in one, 77 percent of respondents said they had looked at pornography at least once in a 30-day period–and shares interviews with many who watch it regularly. Paul’s analysis is wide-ranging: why men look at porn and how porn affects them, how women see pornography, how porn affects sexual relationships, the effects of porn on children.

    *******

    And this resource from a remarkable group of young women.
    genderberg.com

  130. Cass

    I would just add this to Pony’s list: “Pornography: the Production and Consumption of Inequality” by Gail Dines and Robert Jensen.

  131. Pony

    Thanks Cass. I must admit, I am not familiar with the newer writings and names. This gives me an idea; think I’ll head over to campus and see what women’s studies texts/books I can pick up as students leave. I see Dines has a textbook on a course guideline. Do you know, when I was in school, the universtiy here had ONE course in women’s studies. One. And it was a half term course at that.

  132. vera

    Pony, I’m with you. If I didn’t feel so damned responsible I’d get myself a trailer and go park it somewhere. I’d spend all my time reading this blog and knitting.

  133. zuzu

    Just wanted to point out that it was Tonya Harding’s ex-husband who introduced Nancy Kerrigan’s knee to a lead pipe. She herself was never officially connected to the crime.

    Kerrigan got a lot of mileage out of the incident, but her ice-princess image suffered quite a bit when she muttered into a live mike during a Disney parade about the stupidity of the event.

    And yes, I know way too much about this stuff.

  134. ballsout

    I went to most of the Gotham Girls’ games last season and I also had the same problems with dress at the beginning as Twisty does. If they wore short skirts and fell, men (media) shot unseemly pics up the bums. It drove me nuts. Since then, I’ve come to terms based on what I believe feminism really is and I think the roller derby is the most subversive act of feminism since Steinem dared to be pretty AND a feminist.

    As we all know, there are men who will always leer rather than look and as I privately said to Ana Bollocks (who introduced me to the derby), leering gives me the heebie-jeebies, as I expect it does for most of us. The difference for derby girls is that they take those leers and turn them around. Because they are athletes and because they are tough, few men will feel up to messing with them. These are no easily managed, weak little girls. They are sexy at all sizes and looks but they can and will kick your ass if you dare to pinch.

    I attended the games with many male friends who found themselves in awe and respect of these women. They take their inherent sexiness and rule the school with it. That’s the modus operandi of many “bad girls”. They take no shit and are free to express their own sexuality as they see fit. I agree that patriarchy “is” the matrix, but bad girls operate as far outside of it as possible. Kudos to them. I think I’d hear a lot less “hey, baby, baby” if those who cat-call it thought I’d punch them in the face for their insolence.

  135. Ron Sullivan

    Pony, you had a course in women’s studies? When I was a larva, we had to invent our own courses, and we had to hold them in a shoebox in the middle of the freeway at midnight during midwinter term break. And lick the road clean with our tongues.

    About that trailer b’long Chris’ mom: I’m not sure she doean’t rent it, actually, but anyway it isn’t particularly portable, being nailed pretty firmly down in a trailer park. An urban trailer park that’s being crowded by development and threatened by gentrification, or is it the other way ’round? It’s handy to a big ol’ new casino, though, if she should ever take up gambling, and to a really bad hospital, if she should ever take up scarier gambling. Why yes, I do know her personally.

  136. Chris Clarke

    And then thought of Chris C.’s mother, who actually lives in a trailer and he brags on that sometimes.

    Clarification: the place is a shithole, and far from brag-worthy. But I sometimes do something not all that far removed from bragging when confronted with classist dipshits.

    She does rent the thing. Anyone who’d buy it, excepting perhaps as a large chicken coop, would need their head examined. This is what affordable housing in the Bay Area looks like.

  137. vera

    Kaka Mak: You’re right; that’s a snag-worthy question.

    Let us assume for a moment that it is more comfortable to go about topless than to wrap a band of tight elastic around our chests. Let’s further assume that those are the only two choices. Most women, including most of the women here, would choose the elastic band, at least for trips to the market. We are the sex class, obscene by nature.

    There is no mode of dress, for women, that escapes the male gaze. Bunny made this point way upstream of here (comment # 48). So wear miniskirts on wheels or turtlenecks under overalls; whatever you like. No particular mode of dressing subverts the patriarchy. We have to find other strategies.

    And since the patriarchy is an all-permeating model of civilization that has defeated any other possible model, it’s damned hard work to find those other strategies — but reading and responding to this blog is one of them.

  138. Vibrating Liz

    What I’d really like to see is a roller derby team where all the women are over 50.

  139. Pony

    Oh. Cultural disconnect. There’s only one residential trailer park here, that I’m aware of, What I instantly thought of was this: many people who own some land that they want to keep rough but visit occasionally will put up a small trailer. My dream. There’ll be a rescued junk yard dog, too.

  140. Pony

    Sure Ron. But did you walk 18 miles in 40 degree below zero weather to get to your one feminist course? And then walk home at 3 p.m. in the frozen December dark swatting off moose, arriving just in time to feed the young ‘uns, read them early feminist bedtime stories, service the husband, and finally settle in to study by candle light, when at 5 a.m you put your head down for a few minutes before you got up to start the fire. Again.

  141. Mandos

    You forgot: both ways uphill!

  142. FamousSovietAthlete

    We pay out of our own pockets for rink rentals, skates, wheels, bearings, safety pads, helmets, and many other incrementals.

    Vixenvangogo, have you thought about unionizing?

  143. thebewilderness

    Annie,
    I am old, I remember it well. That is the source of my despair when I see the young fall victim to the influence of the patriarchy. We were so sure we would be beyond it by now. We were so sure that by now we would have convinced everyone everywhere that we are human and deserve to be treated as such.

  144. scratchy888

    There is no mode of dress, for women, that escapes the male gaze.

    Mike and I like to get around using the pants section of our martial arts uniforms and a T-shirt. These are extraordinarily comfortable, and no underwear is actually required unless you feel like it.

  145. Ron Sullivan

    Mandos got it. Uphill both ways in the snow.

    Moose hadn’t evolved yet. We had to swat dicynodons. With our fronds.

    Hey, there’s one thing that gets you beyond most of the male gaze: age.

  146. Pony

    You’ve got it Mandos. I just thought no-one would believe *that*.

    http://www.asuwebdevil.com/issues/2006/04/14/arts/696659

    MzNicky:

    Do you understand what I meant about the trailer? Many women my age stayed home and raised families. We were the straddle generation. We were feminists, but stayed home. The ones before us were full-time housewives with no careers. And no desire to have one. (I am speaking in generalities.) The ones after us, well I think that’s women like Twisty, who made career choices to support themselves. Beginning in the work world, or school, at say 56, with little to show the man for a resume (let alone CV) is difficult. So here we are, huge numbers of us, with no pension, no property, nothing to call our own.

    A trailer. And somewhere to put it. Now that would be something.

    the bewilderness;
    I hear you. Sorry for the cliche.

    Mandos did you see how I put you first. Eh? Eh?

  147. Raunchy Lumps

    That’s so funny! I was going to suggest that some of you first – wavers might want to read Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, as an example of the kind of in-depth research someone does before offering the world a critical feminist analysis of a cultural phenomena! Tee Hee – Levy didn’t just watch one or two “Girls Gone Wild” dvds, and have a chat with one sex worker before offering her analysis…and on issues of class, anyone care to dust off your early Dorothy Allison or bell hooks? You seem like an educated group of ladies, I’m just sensing a generation gap here…I think alot of us feminist rollergirls – by OUR definition, not necessarily yours – took extra special offense at the slanderous remarks about our backgrounds, class and education. It was a little hard to take, you reaming our beloved sport AND being a classist to boot! Interesting banter here – we’re all still watching to see if anyone is listening…there are about 6500 of us in North America alone, and we are a very tight-knit community.

  148. Pony

    Where the hell did that link above come from? Here Mandos. The hill:

    http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/en-CA/Products/Attraction/FE390665-FEE8-468D-94C5-641B0E2761BB.htm

  149. cypress

    Vera – #137. brilliant. thank you for the first sensible [and wonderfully brief and articulate] analysis of the “options” for dress for women which has passed under my yes in lo these 30 years of my feminist adulthood [i'm nearly 60].

    and also Bunny for #48.

    the bewilderness – #143 – and sadly we were wrong about how long it would take to undo the thousands of years of doing of which the patriarchy is constituted. however, i am, and i hope you are, still at it. and not feeling so lonely since finding this oasis of anti-patriarchyosity.

    addressed to noone in particular – on roller derby – when i was a tiny young lesbian [well i really never was tiny - but i was 9] in the mid 1950s i loved to see the roller derby girls, the posters gave me shivers. even then i got the difference between say major league baseball and wrestling and roller derby. i lived in san francisco, and my thoroughly middle class mother was a gorgeous george fan, and a nut for the giants. roller derby was a secret of mine – it was a place where, as far as i knew, women were in charge. so enchanted was i that i did not even see the signs of the patriarch. i’m grateful now to have had the scales fall from my eyes, and to be able now to see, if not defeat, those repressentatives of the fathers. and also to be able, while still getting shivers from the roller derby women, to see the whole thing for what it is. roller derby was not put together for my 9 or 59 year old lesbian self, not put together so i could see myself and other girls and women as strong. no, oh no. this was put together so some bunch of – mostly – men [or thatcherian women] could make a lot, or at least some, money.

  150. Pony

    What is Girls Gone Wild?

  151. Annie

    Someone up thread asked whether RD nay-sayers would feel any different about things if the costumes were different. I can’t say precisely how I’d feel, but I certainly think I’d be less suspicious. I honestly do “hear” the RD voices in this thread, and appreciate what they are saying, but I’m still not really convinced by the need for the theatrics of it all. I don’t have ANY doubt that the participants train hard etc, but then why not don some garb similar say to what speed skaters wear and limit the drama (fighting)? Couldn’t you get the competitive rush that many of your report sans kitschy names and costumes? Or do the costumes and parody really add something to it for you? I’m not being snippy in asking. I’d really like to know.

  152. lottad

    I really like this conversation because it is the perfect example of how feminist ideology is totally out of touch with reality. The league I belong to is skater owned and operated. Like most leagues this means we do everything from web management to accounting and selling tickets. This is our business. This is an opportunity for women to own a business. So ask yourself, what do you do to empower women? Roller derby empowers women by giving them the opportunity to take on meaningful leadership roles, to gain experience in marketing, pr, and the like. We are not poor ignorant girls, forced into fishnets. One of the worst aspects of the A&E show was the marketing. They tried to pass us off as a group of hot, sexy babes. I hate to break it to you, but most of us are not. Some people have a problem with our league symbol—the mud flap girl on skates—and certain team names (e.g. Putas del Fuego). What these people fail to see is that this is how we as women gain control. These are our symbols. This is our language. We own it.Women in the league are not required to wear fishnets, or make up, or short skirts. Indeed, many women do not. I love fishnets, and I am happy to be around women who accept that about me. I joined roller derby to be tough, independent, feminist, sexy, and feminine, all at the same time. We are often told that we can have all of these qualities at once, but this is often not the case. What is really, really sad is that the combination of these qualities scare other women most of all. Roller derby is a team sport, not proto-porn. Of course we could take away all of the production (spank alley, cheerleaders etc.), but we choose not to because we actually like those things! Most of us like the campy nature of the production, but that does not mean we don’t take it very seriously. Many of our fans also take the games seriously. Fans stay for close bouts and leave early bouts are not competitive. People don’t attend to get off. If they did, they would be really disappointed.
    Roller derby teaches women to work together. Roller derby teaches women to love and respect one another. It’s ironic that other groups of women who seemingly concerned with the advancement of women are the first ones criticize those groups who actually do feminism.

  153. Kate

    “We are the sex class, obscene by nature.”

    Because the godbag patriarchy says so. And fuck them all to hell.

    I ripped my pants at work and had to go to the lumber yard with my thigh exposed. I went anyway and I was ready for anyone with a remark. Whether anyone looked at my exposed upper inner thigh flesh, I dunno, I could give a damn. Did I contemplate stalling my business duties because of shame? No. That would be letting them win now wouldn’t it?

    Pony asks Ron: “Sure Ron. But did you walk 18 miles in 40 degree below zero weather to get to your one feminist course? And then walk home at 3 p.m. in the frozen December dark swatting off moose, arriving just in time to feed the young ‘uns, read them early feminist bedtime stories, service the husband, and finally settle in to study by candle light, when at 5 a.m you put your head down for a few minutes before you got up to start the fire. Again.”

    I had to walk in twenty below wind chills with my kids in tow, walking them to school where mind you, I was regularly harrassed by busy-body kindergarten and grade school marms who find a poor single woman easy pickins’ and then onto the college up the street so I could get my education before the welfare deform took that ability away, which they did anyway before I could finish my degree. And no, I didn’t see many university feminists all up in arms about that, until well, after the fact when they realized that white battered women might be in peril, but I digress.

    I walked because I couldn’t afford a car. And I had no man at home to service, because I decided not to co-opt my children’s needs for the demand of a man in return for his financial support.

    See, there are more important ways to defy the patriarchy than worrying about women who roller skate in mini-skirts.

    Men are always lurking, always looking. Hell, pedophiles are everywhere, in the schoolyard, the churchyard, the homeyard and men are constantly sexualizing everything and anything that can get their load off.

    To make the assertion that women should monitor the content and context of their activities to ensure that male tittilation does not take place places women again as the sole source and originator of the tittilation and the men as victims of said tittilation presented before them. Like the men claim, they ain’t got no control over that sex gear up there in their grey matter — its all them sluts gettin’ them all aroused.

    My assertion is the opposite: That men must take responsibility for their behavior and whether or not a rape video or a pair of cotton underpants gets them off, need not be the cause to control the behavior of any women, unless in the context of her immediate personal safety.

    I read your link and unfortunately Pony, I am not a speed reader and cannot and will not at this moment attempt to read the books you named in order to make comment directly about them here. In fact, I shouldn’t even be here, but should be doing estimates or whatever, because i have to compete with a hundred assholes who are waiting for me as a woman in this field, to just die and go away. But that I am aware of this fact only makes my passion to succeed burn brighter. I will not give up or give in no matter what the pressure placed on me.

    In the same vein, simply because some dork posted pics of the women without their heads, or assholes take pics of the fallen women’s underpants, is NOT good cause to a) say that the women should cease and desist immediately b) that men own this whole derby thing and the women are only co-opting their power and therefore they are victims of the patriarchy and on and on and on…

    I am really really perplexed as to why women should modulate their behavior in response to male objectification when safety is not an issue. Women daily engage in ‘careers’ which by their construction are made to put women in compromised and potentially dangerous places/positions.

    Also, I do recall a discussion about high heels and most all of the women here said they wear such footwear for either pleasure of conformation to accepted norms of dress or for fun. But somehow feminists aren’t marching around and claiming all high heel wearers are subordinate to the patriarchy, although I say that if high heels are torturous and one feels they must wear them regardless of said torture, then that is indeed conformation to the patriarchy over one’s own need for comfort and safety.

    I don’t see Roller Derby as meeting this definition and Pony, you still have failed to completely explain, in your own words where the direct link is from roller derby to pedophile/sex trade/porno. with the exception that, as I said above, men will and often do sexualize just about everything and anything they can come on or stick their penis into. My concern is the presence of those activities which grant men the priviledge to actually stick their said members or spew their bodily fluids where they are not wanted or needed.

  154. Pony

    What is spank alley?

  155. Annie

    I’ll offer that I probably have a biased attitude toward RD, but just as you are asking those of us who find ot problematic to consider your view (and I am certainly thinking more about the things said here), I think you might also have something to gain by considering the perspectives of the women (especially older women) who have fought so many battles before you. I’m just kind of thinking out loud here, but I sort of wonder what RD has done to reach out to those women in a self-conscious way. What it sounds like from here, and again, it’s just an impression, is that there’s no real acknowledgement of other feminist perspectives coming from RD either. It seems a bit like the RD sub-culture is very interested in its own, but doesn’t concern itself much with its skeptics. I would argue that this limits potentially significant realms of support (in terms of RD purported message to its enthusiasts and outside activists). But more importantly, it dismisses other feminist perspectives just as you suggest. Maybe I really AM sort of “old school” enough to feel like I owe a debt of gratitude to ALL of the feminists who have gone before me…and who were certainly much more brave than I have ever had to be. Maybe what I am saying is that I kind of think it wouldn’t be possible for you to have the sense of power you report without the work of many different kinds of feminists before you. I admit the limitations of my view. I guess I just haven’t heard that in return.

  156. lexicon

    So is everything either 100% of/by/for the patriarchy or 100% pure grade A feminist? And if the patriarchy is the whole damn Matrix, then aren’t this blog any all of us on it just part and parcel of the patriarchy?

  157. Kate

    “Maybe what I am saying is that I kind of think it wouldn’t be possible for you to have the sense of power you report without the work of many different kinds of feminists before you.”

    Hear hear, but I do believe said roller derbyists are feeling a bit of shaming going on here. Said shaming, beloved by the patriarchy and practiced with impunity upon those who dare challenge the any of the many facets of heirarchy layered upon us all.

    In addition, the temptation to demark the enlightened from the unenlightened establishes its own heirarchy does it not? The rules of engagement seem copied from the patriarch’s playbook. Hence a defensive response will often seem out of bounds or without merit to those who hold tightly to their supposed higher rung, unwilling to get off the ladder altogether and see what lurks in the dark shadows below from where strange voices and ideas seem to emanate.

  158. Annie

    I guess I don’t feel so much like I am on a ladder, or like I am being terribly hierachical…though I can see where my early post jumping on the “I find RD pretty distasteful” bandwagon could be taken that way. I’ll own up here to being pretty dialed into my own discomfort with the whole “show” aspect of it. I really don’t want to judge anyone for their opinion of version of feminism. It’s just exceedingly difficult for me to appreciate the part of RD that seems to thrive on sexualized spectacle, even if it is a kind of “in your face” parody. I want to appreciate it for what these ladies say it is to them. I believe them. I don’t feel superior. But I honestly do have trouble finding the sexual theatrics (the costumes and fighting, the names, etc)palatable when WE (not just me, or you, or them, or some historical group of women, but ALL of us…probably even a few women who are devoted to the patriarchy) have worked SO hard to overcome these images and ideas. If I am really just a tired old fart, so be it, I guess. I have no desire to put anyone down. But I have trouble seeing the social value of making what seems to be a very fun, legitimate, woman-centered sport/entertainment into a sexual parody that begs to be misunderstood by some of the very people it might appeal to most.

  159. Burrow Klown

    Well said Annie. And well if we are just a bunch of over the hill feminists then I guess we now reach old age at about 20. Damn, and I thought my eggs hadn’t started to rot yet, oh well.

  160. hurtreynolds

    quoth FamousSovietAthlete on Apr 15th, 2006 at 2:52 pm
    (in response to: We pay out of our own pockets for rink rentals, skates, wheels, bearings, safety pads, helmets, and many other incrementals.)

    Vixenvangogo, have you thought about unionizing?

    Unionize against whom?

    This point is so crucial to the overall discussion: modern women’s roller derby leagues are owned or governed by the skaters themselves. Many, if not most, current leagues handle major decisions via pure majority vote of all skaters, with less critical decisions handled by committees (with members democratically elected). There’s no “the man” (I say this in the more general jargon sense, though the gender element just adds to the point) to organize against, because the leagues’ business structures never permitted it in the first place. The skaters themselves are management, not labor.

  161. vera

    It’s 2AM and I probably should keep my thoughts to myself at this hour. But what the hell.

    Something about lottad’s comment (152) keeps bothering me: the suggestion that there is a way to “do” feminism: It’s ironic that other groups of women who seemingly [are] concerned with the advancement of women are the first ones [to] criticize those groups who actually do feminism.

    I don’t think there’s any way to “do feminism.” There’s no feminist resume. I think it is a waste of time and electrons to make “more feminist than thou” arguments.

    Feminism is a belief that holds that women are social, political, and economic equals of men. It is the most radical belief ever conceived. What the world needs is for all the people who profess to be feminists to understand in their bones just how radical that belief is.

    When you get in touch with your inner radical, bless you, whether you rollerskate in a miniskirt or garden in a pair of dungarees.

  162. Twisty

    To Raunchy Lumps in #147:

    I can’t help but feel that your expectations—that I ought to have conducted hundreds of hours of research on the roller derby before “offering the world a critical feminist analysis of a cultural phenomena [sic]“— are a bit high. Still, scholarship does count for something with this spinster aunt; I assure you that had I been writing for national publication a 300-page dissertation on the Texas Rollergirls, rather than a few paragraphs for a blog nobody reads, I undoubtedly would have attended at least one more bout.

    Although I am not, as you wryly suggest, quite old enough to claim the title “first-waver,” I am old enough to have seen all this before. By “this” I mean the naive and heartbreaking surmise that by adopting the tenets of patriarchy, one can somehow subvert them. This will sound unpalatably condescending, because young people do not like it when old people claim to know more than young people do, but perhaps when you get a few more years behind you you will be able to make the connection between the roller derby’s particular undertaking of patriarchal culture and women’s oppression. I do not like to burst your bubble, but a few girls running a business in which a few girls skate around in hot pants, while preferable to a situation in which a few dudes run the business, has nothing to do with women’s liberation. This is because the whole thing is conducted under the auspices of patriarchy. In a patriarchy, women are the sex class. It is that simple.

    Meanwhile, for someone who is so interested in getting facts straight, you seem extraordinarily determined to take offense at “slanderous remarks” I never made about your “backgrounds, class, and education.” I alluded to the Texas Rollergirls–of which congregation, I take it, you are not a member—as being packaged as “lower class feminine fun.” As in “marketed.” I in no way dispute the sterlingness of the characters of individual Texas Rollergirls in their real lives. I am quite sure they are all pillars of the community.

  163. Twisty

    “if the patriarchy is the whole damn Matrix, then aren’t this blog any all of us on it just part and parcel of the patriarchy?”

    Bingo! Lexicon wins.

  164. Twisty

    To Witchy-Woo, who “implore[s] [me] to make a post about the connections betwixt the female condition and rape – under the patriarchy.”

    Type the word “rape” into the search box under the title bar. You will find that I have already made one or two comments on the subject.

  165. Raunchy Lumps

    Pony – how are you recommending Female Chauvinist Pigs without having read it? Girls Gone Wild is the media empire that exploits drunk young college girls in night clubs, then sells dvds of said girls exposing themselves or doing “scenes” in motel rooms. Levy goes inside the business with a young woman who helped recruit the young girls for the videos. She (Levy) was even on Oprah recently talking about GGW… It’s worth reading.

  166. Twisty

    To Lottad in 152, who “really like[s] this conversation because it is the perfect example of how feminist ideology is totally out of touch with reality.”:

    Ah, but I do not write the official spokesblog of “feminist ideology.” So this example is, unfortunately, imperfect. Also, it would appear that your notion of “doing” feminism (e.g. “spank alley”) is somewhat different from mine (critical analysis of the dominant culture’s systematic oppression non-male non-honkys). I am not concerned with the “advancement of women” within a patriarchal culture that fetishizes dominance and submission. I am concerned with revolution.

  167. Pony

    I’m recommending it because it’s going to inform us on this subject. Did you think recommended means “I’ve read this and believe it and agree with it”? That veers into religion.

  168. Pony

    I don’t have tv. The examples you’ve given are why. I’ll take your word for it.

  169. Pony

    I haven’t failed to explain this to you Kate. I don’t see it as my responsibility.

  170. Raunchy Lumps

    “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.”

    Twisty -It’s clear you aren’t vapid, so if you’re aware of the above, why would you, seeker of only embiggening entertainment, even go to a bout? What drew you in the first place? Twice?

    You haven’t burst my bubble, and I’m not young, just not a first – waver, which some women here alluded to being. I never asserted that I felt we were subverting the patriarchy, just shared that on MY league, we consider derby an excercise in community building, and feminism. We created bylaws and rules that support diversity and sisterhood and good sportswomanship (subversion of which is punishable by removal from the league), and felt that in that sense, we were being the change that we wanted to see in the world. We are really aware that our league in particular is not as showy or “feminine” as some other leagues. All the fights on our track are real, cause injury and perps are punished by referees. We have alot of queer skaters, and alot of skaters who wouldn’t exactly qualify as feminine ideals, even in a retro – kitsch sense. None of us would agree with either of the statements you’ve made, above.
    Many of the statements you’ve made in your original post are definitive and authoritative, which is why I take issue with your research. It is clear that many of your fellow bloggers here know little about the derby in it’s modern reincarnation, so when you make such aggressive statements, they’re sure you’re right. We (rollergirls) just wanted to make sure that your friends here understand that your opinion is yours, and they can form an informed one of their own, if they’d like. We’re listening to your viewpoints as well. Just maybe not agreeing with them. We’d just appreciate an acknowledgement that maybe we’re not all proto – whores, selling ass to the pornocracy, vamping it up for juvenile white men. You imply that we personally are, when you discuss how we’re *marketed*, knowing full well that WE run our leagues and control our images, and press to the extent that we are able. And of course, I’m not speaking for the many women of all ages on leagues across the country who own and enjoy their own sexuality, and like to flaunt it, on and off the track, regardless of who is watching, or forming judgemental feminist critique of their actions/clothing. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but while I am not one of them, I don’t think they are subverting feminism, or perpetrating acts of G-rated porn, either. The Patriarchy always wins, we were just astonished at the RD bashing, considering most of the skaters on our league are activists of some kind, and we receive great support from activists and organizers, who don’t seem dismayed or threatened by our self – expression. Your concept that it’s being fed to us by the machine is not lost on me, I just know on a personal level that that is not where this movement came from, or where it’s going. It’s easy to say we’re regurgitating the bad porn we’re being fed by the media, but it seems hard for you to reconcile that pat little idea with what feminist women are telling you their personal experience of this sport has been. And Kate seems to be the only person addressing the classism I mentioned – not just your marketing comment, but the trailer comments and the notion of heirarchical feminist study and enlightenment, age or education related.
    As a not – college – aged woman, I still recognize that younger women looking at old rhetoric have something to teach me through their new eyes and historical/social perspectives. As someone who blazed trails ahead of them in many ways, literally, I enjoy hearing their views coming down the path. I also find that in talking to feminist women of a certain age, older than mine, that they believe they own and define it, by a set of hard and fast rules, and that only they have earned the right to make those rules, through experience. Think about what you’re saying, please. A 5 year old girl has enough experience to speak about the patriarchy with authority.

  171. Jason the Bellman

    The Patriarchy responds over at The Bellman:

    http://thebellman.blogspot.com/2006/04/roller-derby-patriarchy-responds.html

  172. Burrow Klown

    Umm….if you ascribe to the ludicrous patriarchal wave system (it erases our history and says feminism only happened at these specific times not as a continual struggle) then the first wave included Susan B. Anthony and ELizabeth Cady Stanton. No one here is that old, so would you please stop calling us first wavers. I would have loved to have been, but it’s physically impossible.

  173. Burrow Klown

    Holy horrible reading comprehension, batman! *sheesh*

  174. thebewilderness

    It has been my observation that one of the things that the male gaze enjoys most is women getting hurt. Most especially enjoyable is watching women hurt each other. You have your spike heels and your ‘deadly’ waving in your promo. There are those who would come because of the promo, and those who would come in spite of it.
    It is the patriarchy we blame here.

  175. Sara

    Burrow Klown (#172-3) — You know, when I read “first wave” I started wondering how far back we should go, too. I could only think as far back as Mary Wollstonecraft. But she was just a writer, so I guess that only put her in an proto-wave of armchair feminism.

  176. FamousSovietAthlete

    The skaters themselves are management, not labor.

    Hurtreynolds, thanks for clearing this up for me. Had I read more carefully before commenting I would have noticed that Texasrollergirl mentioned this earlier.

    There’s no “the man” (I say this in the more general jargon sense, though the gender element just adds to the point) to organize against

    Of course I made no reference to that entity, nor did I use scare quotes.

  177. FamousSovietAthlete

    I screwed up the tags. The first and third paragraphs should have been italicized.

  178. Pony

    The City of Ladies
    Christine de Pizan

    15th century feminist who wrote about women’s rights:

    “De Pizan spoke about issues that resonate even today: lack of access to education for women, the disappointment women sometimes feel at the birth of a daughter, the accusation that women invite rape, the idea that women can be pretty and enjoy fine clothes without forfeiting their title to chastity, violence in marriage, drunken beatings, and spendthrift husbands. She explores the sources of women’s oppression by discussing the reasons for men’s misogyny with “Lady Reason.”

    This book was part of my women’s studies course. I see it’s still available on Amazon.

  179. Burrow Klown

    There were feminists all throughout history, that’s why the wave system is pure patriarchal BS.

  180. Jason

    Not only is the “wave system” “pure patriarchal BS,” the word “wave” has been steadily co-opted over the years. At one time it truly did mean “a sudden occurrence of or increase in a specified phenomenon,” and one could use it without subtly undermining the forces of enlightened egalitarianism. Once the physicists–almost entirely male, of course!–got a ahold of it, now we have the insane concept of the “standing wave.” When is a wave not a wave? I blame the Patriarchy.

  181. shannon w.

    Also, although, I am a third waver chronologically, I’m more of a second waver ideologically, as I question the empoweringness of having anal sex on camera. I think roller derby is like altporn-yea, it’s good to see women doing it for themselves, but from a spectator’s eye point, it really doesn’t look much different from “catfight!” or well,regular porn. It’s like black people producing a movie called Welfare Queen, you know?

  182. Chris Clarke

    now we have the insane concept of the “standing wave.”

    Jason’s gotta leave the house someday and go look at one of the rivers we have out West. Insanely conceived standing waves all over the goddamn place.

  183. Ron Sullivan

    Jason doesn’t have to go that far, Chris, though it might help. I saw my first standing wave system when I was a very small child and gazing upon the riffles of Black Creek in Girardville PA. (It was called Black Creek because it was. Upstream mining colored it long after the mines themselves had been shut down.) First time I heard (or saw?) the phrase “standing wave” I recognized what it meant, and that creek, white lace ruffs on black transparent water and shadowed cobbles shapechanging underneath, is still the picture it conjures in my brain.

    “Oh yeah, there’s a word for that, of course” is the feeling. Like “feminism,” if you’re old enough. That for y’alls’ “first” and other such “waves.”

    Then again, running into a bigger version of such a wave while paddling a kayak might make a stronger impression on one’s vocabulary.

  184. finnsmotel

    “knowing full well that WE run our leagues and control our images, and press to the extent that we are able.”

    Unless I’ve misunderstood the jist of this blog (which is entirely possible)…

    (If I can be forgiven a few ellipses)

    Unless you operate your league on an island of only women and do not allow men to view the matches…

    It matters not who operates the league or who controls its actions, as all those actions are taking place within a patriarchal system and are, therefore, actively engaging that system in some way.

    You will find that this is an endless argument because no matter how revolutionary your idea or how liberating it might feel for you, personally, to knock another woman off her skates for door money, if it does not dismantle the entire patriarchal paradigm, I’m afraid it falls short of achieving full liberation.

    Personally, I don’t believe humans will ever achieve liberation from one another. Whether it’s this dying patriarchy or some new system, I believe we crave comparison and evaluation from others and always will. Could be wrong about that, though.

  185. Twisty

    Ah, Finn. At last. We are two hearts that beat as one. My job is done.

  186. finnsmotel

    Apropos of Roller Derby skaters who feel wrongfully misunderstood and misrepresented in the Twisty blog… I would offer this…

    A long time ago, I thought of Twisty as my feminist John Lennon. I even quoted some John Lennon to her in the context of one of these kind of discussions and she – at least electronically – gave me that head tilted ‘wtf’ confused dog look.

    I quoted the Lennon lyrics:

    Say you’re looking for some peace and love
    Leader of a big old band
    You wanna save humanity
    But it’s people that you just can’t stand

    —endsnip—

    I pretty much had it backward. And, so did John Lennon. And, so do most of us most of the time.

    Humanity isn’t worth saving. But, people can be pretty cool.

  187. Jason

    “You will find that this is an endless argument because no matter how revolutionary your idea or how liberating it might feel for you, personally, to knock another woman off her skates for door money, if it does not dismantle the entire patriarchal paradigm, I’m afraid it falls short of achieving full liberation.”

    I am certainly not an advanced patriarchy blamer, and I’m pretty sure all my alleged feminist tendencies are simply another manifestation of the patriarchy (because, you know, I’m a dude), but Twisty and Finn have explicitly eaten their own arguments. I belive this is harmful to the goal of actually fighting the patriarchy.

    It’s probably pretty good for blaming the patriarchy, though, so carry on.

  188. bfly081

    “…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.”

    Before my actual response, I have to say that I disagree with this comment. It negates the validity of women presenting ANYTHING whether they be artists or athletes or diplomats, and I feel it undermines the strides women have made to be in any typically male-dominated field. Their ability to present and be the focus of attention has done nothing but strengthen the patriarchy — why couldn’t it at some point do the same for women?

    Yeah, I don’t like that comment, but maybe you meant it to be specific to this post. You probably did because it’s absolutely absurd in a myriad of other contexts.

    I am a member of the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls League, on the Blue Collar Broads team. So far, I have found participating in our league to be very empowering. I can’t speak for other leagues, but ours was built from the ground up by our members. Since our inception we have incorporated as an LLC, become involved with community groups, held our first bout, and have gotten in damn good shape. Many of our women have been able to develop professional fundraising, grantwriting, event planning, and business skills that they may not have been able to develop elsewhere. We’ve become an incredibly tight-knit group of athletic, diverse women.

    The sexual element of today’s derby is something that I personally prefer to downplay. I’m more into the athletic aspect of the sport. My name (Sally Tomato) is not at all sexy and I intentionally lobbied for a team look and name that’s an homage to MI’s failing manufacturing sector.

    Some of the other girls have more racy names. And they flaunt their femininity/sexuality more. But really? What better place to do that than in the company of a diverse group of women? We’re “on-stage” for a grand total of about 6 hours over a 3-month season. We’re together for at least that long every week.

    Basically, if men want to come to our bouts and objectify me while ignoring my athleticism, fine. That’s their sad inability to think outside the box (pun intended) and my $15. I did everything I could to keep that from happening, but if every woman on a stage is a commodity for male voyeurism like you say then I’m fucked whether I’m playing in a sweatsuit and a turtleneck or our navy blue polyester miniskirts. Like skaters the world over, I’ve come to conclusion that tight and/or short is simply just easier to skate in.

    I think one of the distinct failings of feminism is the transformation of virgin/whore to good feminist/bad feminist. You’re not a bad feminist if you take the stage and men happen to be your audience. Your also not a bad feminist if — dare I say it — you happen to occasionally enjoy male attention and a little of the ‘male gaze’ from time to time. For me, awareness and ownership are more integral to my life as a feminist than well… all that other shit. It’s amazing to me that so many hard-core feminists are so prudish when it comes to women’s exploration/veneration/presentation of their own athleticism and sexuality.

  189. Kate

    “I think one of the distinct failings of feminism is the transformation of virgin/whore to good feminist/bad feminist. You’re not a bad feminist if you take the stage and men happen to be your audience. Your also not a bad feminist if — dare I say it — you happen to occasionally enjoy male attention and a little of the ‘male gaze’ from time to time. For me, awareness and ownership are more integral to my life as a feminist than well… all that other shit. It’s amazing to me that so many hard-core feminists are so prudish when it comes to women’s exploration/veneration/presentation of their own athleticism and sexuality.”

    Exactly.

    I have yet to hear from anyone what on earth we as women are supposed to do with our time if we must be disgusted with the ‘male gaze’ and the presence of men in and around what we do, regardless of our intention to include them.

    It seems a feat that only the patriarchy could adore, to see women withdrawal from action or expression of any kind for fear of the male gaze, to see women shame and suppress their sexuality as well, because men may enjoy it. I can’t see how such behavior or even talk that could lead to or seem to condone such behavior can be called empowering.

    Also, I do not see feminism as an ideal that only those who can afford the time and luxury of a college education can understand. Such elitism has nothing to do with the humanistic and egalitarian ideals of feminism.

  190. Pony

    “It seems a feat that only the patriarchy could adore, to see women withdrawal from action or expression of any kind for fear of the male gaze, to see women shame and suppress their sexuality as well, because men may enjoy it. I can’t see how such behavior or even talk that could lead to or seem to condone such behavior can be called empowering.

    Also, I do not see feminism as an ideal that only those who can afford the time and luxury of a college education can understand. Such elitism has nothing to do with the humanistic and egalitarian ideals of feminism.”

    You’re absolutely right Kate.

  191. Kate

    I asked you Pony to explain your linking Roller Derby with pedo/porn/sex industry in a direct way, as you seem to make the claim, you response:

    “I haven’t failed to explain this to you Kate. I don’t see it as my responsibility.”

    Yes you have failed to explain yourself, glad to see we at least agree on that. And well of course you aren’t responsible to explain your outrageous claims, just thought I’d extend you the courtesy of offering support for such, you know, lead the rudderless, teach the ignorant, give sight to the blind.

    But when questioned about your recommended reading list you respond:
    “I’m recommending it because it’s going to inform us on this subject. Did you think recommended means “I’ve read this and believe it and agree with it”? That veers into religion.”

    Most people who recommend a reading would do well to have read it first themselves, just to be up on the content therein, to avoid any unnecessary appearance of foolishness. So much for giving sight to the blind. My hopes are dashed.

  192. Pony

    When my turn comes up at the library, I’ll read it. I recommend this book to anyone here interested in the subject.

  193. Annie

    bfly081′s RD name, Sally Tomato, was the name of the Sing-Sing inmate that Audrey Hepburn delivered the weather report to in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. An important bit of information, I know.

  194. cc

    Comments by Bfly, Pony and Kate remind me of a line in a movie, the life of David Gale. (Well, my stab at it)

    “You spend so long trying not to be seen as a sex object, until one day you realise that you’re not seen at all”

    Which is the better? Invisibility, system buy in or manipulation of the system to generate power? We have to live within the Matrix as it were, so how do we adapt behaviour to obtain results?

    I don’t’ see it as just the “patriarchy”. Human existence is premised on imbalanced power relations. It’s the nature of the beast, as it were. Wealth over poverty, men over women, adults over children.

    If you can use the system, as it exists, to transform the power structure (eg: look, but don’t touch- the “point of weakness” becomes the “point of power”) surely that’s actually a desirable thing?

  195. finnsmotel

    “I don’t’ see it as just the ‘patriarchy’ Human existence is premised on imbalanced power relations. It’s the nature of the beast, as it were. Wealth over poverty, men over women, adults over children.”

    In every type of relationship, in pretty much every type of stratification of society, women are on the low end. Generally speaking. That’s why it is “just” the patriarchy we’re talking about.

    Poor man, poor woman… woman is lower.

    Rich man, rich woman… woman is lower.

    White man, white woman… woman is lower.

    Black man, black woman… woman is lower.

    True or false?

  196. Sam

    You’re not a bad feminist if you take the stage and men happen to be your audience.

    As a statement on its own I agree with this, but in the context of the hypersexualized, infantilized, American Gladiators way roller derby is presented I think the statement avoids the real content of what’s being criticized by some feminists. It’s like saying pornography is just people fucking on film when there’s a whole lot more cultural content expressed than that oversimplification. Feminist critics of pornography are most concerned with the misogyny, animalization and humilation of women in pornography but the popularized misconception is that it’s the frank portrayal of sex that’s most worrisome. Similarly, it’s not about simply being on stage and men who “happen” to be the audience, it’s the cultural content of the costumes, names, and violence on display at these events.

  197. Ron Sullivan

    cc, invisible is great. Speeds things up considerably in terms of learning. It’s amazing what people will do right in front of you if they don’t quite notice you’re there. Of course, you have to have given up on wanting to be seen, but when you see enough of the foibles of That Class which is so powerful its Gaze is a power source, you’re too busy laughing to care. Laughing — now that’s power.

  198. Burrow Klown

    Good god. Liking some male attention is not the same as liking to be objectified. I talk with men, though I choose tp normally talk to ones who believe in radical feminism. Yeah I like talking to them, does this mean I want other men to see me as pornography and break me into parts all b/c society says that that’s what I should be aiming for? Um, no.

    (forgive me if that makes little sense….it’s early for me and the coffee’s not done yet)

  199. Christopher

    “Similarly, it’s not about simply being on stage and men who “happen” to be the audience, it’s the cultural content of the costumes, names, and violence on display at these events.”

    I’m afraid I still don’t follow what the criticism is from a feminist perspective.

    I’d like to echo Kate and bfly081, but from a slightly different angle.

    One of the things that the Patriarchy does, as has been discussed here, is to shunt ALL women into the ridiculous categories of “virgin” and “whore”. Given that this process is applied to all women regardless of what they do, isn’t the choice of wearing clothes that actively try to avoid the “whore” label (And thus court the “virgin” label) just as much a capitulation with the patriarchy as the other way around.

    Or, to put it another way, shouldn’t you just not bother to much with clothes, since the patriarchy will categorise and co-opt you no matter what you wear?

    Another thing is that, while the derby has a sort of “I will perform for the enjoyment of the male gaze” subtext, it seems to me that this is unavoidable in any performance art, and perhaps any art at all.

    While things like porn and stripping tend to encourage a sort of “woman as commodity” view of sex, surely at some point a performance must be so abstracted from sex that the performers can’t be criticised for promoting that view?

    I guess in some ways the roller derby could be sexualised enough to qualify criticism on that level, I’m not so sure. Especially given that the primary concerns seem to be the fact that it’s a performance and the fact that the women wear innapropriate clothes sometimes, and as I’ve explained, I’m not sure that there exists a performance where you couldn’t make those criticisms.

  200. Pony

    It’s about pornography, and porn is NOT sex. Porn is violence, rape, torture, murder and wholescale misogyny. It’s a performance sure; like a porn film is a performance. I don’t separate the two in category, just degree.

    First sell the victims. Sell them into thinking this is how to be loved. That’s the most horrible part of it. Get the victims to comply willingly in their degradation.

  201. Brooklynite

    Pony:

    First sell the victims. Sell them into thinking this is how to be loved. That’s the most horrible part of it. Get the victims to comply willingly in their degradation.

    What is the “this,” to your mind? Dressing in miniskirts and fishnets? Play-acting the role of a butch burlesque queen? Or something narrower, or broader?

  202. Annie

    I think I hear you, Christopher, and at the strictly theoretical leve I wobble in and out of a similar point of view. Yet, when it comes down to lived experience, I just can’t seem to force myself to respect the trite nature of RD in this kind of kitschy incarnation. It just seems pretty stupid–even though many of the RD women who’ve responded seem quite bright. On my register as a spectator it wouldn’t really even register as mind candy for very long. I’d get bored…and that’s probably just about when I’d be ready to start picking at it as a product of the patriarchy. There’s this little “why?” sign that pops up in my head when I read the team names, etc. Maybe where I ultimately come down on this thing is that I don’t want to be in the business of blaming and shaming the women who seem to enjoy it, but it’s just not for me.

  203. cc

    Ron- you really sure about that invisibility thing? I’m a 26 yo white girl living in Saigon- where no male, however repulsive, need ever go without a lay. You do get used to being invisible. I go to bars, and meet people for the 10th time, and they still have no idea who I am. Over and Over and Over. Back in Oz- if I want to get laid, well… I can. Here… Not a chance in hell.

    It’s dehumanising. Yes. You see what’s going on (and for the most part, it’s hideous, and would put you off the men involved, wether they wanted you or not. Long story here, but I’ve seen some of the most hideous behaviour here. If it was about a roller-skating thrash down here it would be easy going). But it doesn’t change that being desired does make one feel good.

    The thing is – the girls here, beautiful nymph like creatures, have these god-awful men by their balls. They know exactly what their point of power is (looking stunning, like a teenager even when they’re 30) and man.. they use it. The exploit the relationship just as much as the men involved exploit them. And they have a remarkable degree of power. Children, visas, your businesses…. All of these things tend to fall into their control as a result of their “playing” to the patriarchy.

    And finsmotel- yes, women weaker in all cases. But this is the thing. I worked at a microfinance bank when I got here. Max. income was 70c a day. Poor. Hideously poor. And the women get shafted all the more as a result of the poverty. Solving the poverty issue would go a considerable way towards improving these women’s living standards. When you can’t eat, addressing gender equity issues around work is an irrelevancy. Hell. You send your 5 year old to sell gum to backpackers, because you simply have to in order to exist, forget worrying about equitable distribution of household tasks, how about actually getting yourself a house? If we don’t look at the multiple axis’ of power discrepancies, then I think we tend to overlook how they all interact.

    Anyway. Hideously emotional this morning. I’m not sure if I’m making sense. I despise the patriarchy (and all the fat, ugly, cheating, 64 year old bastard boyfriend fuckers in the world). But I do sincerely believe that the point of weakness can be used to advantage, and in some cases, needs to be. Apologies for lack of coherence.

  204. Ron Sullivan

    cc, hmm, let me think about my own assumptions a bit. I’m 56, female, and ugly in America. I’m also in a relationship for the last 33 years, so the attention thing gets changed some. Also my expectations for standard-male attention were low to start with. (Being homely and smart together with being female is a great fool-filter. Not easy to live with when I was young, though.)

    There’s something about stereotyping going on here too. There’s a lot less weirdness connected with my being a sexual person here in Berkeley than there was in Harrisburg PA. I think it has something to do with not having to fit in.

    Yes, being desired makes one feel good. Always. It’s not a power thing, it’s more like mutual reinforcement — I mean, being desired by someone you desire is what we’re talking about, right? Being desired by someone you don’t gets creepy eventually. But the mutual thing, even when it’s not something you’d follow up on, it’s like how plants make oxygen and animals make carbon dioxide and both thrive because of that. Symbiotic, that’s the word I’m looking for.

  205. cc

    Ron, I think you said it beautifully. Symbotic is the word. Erk. I think I’m going to cry now. (And oh yes, I do truly blame the patriarchy )Sorry. Just having a truly awful day.

    But hat tip to you, that’s exactly what I meant. Thank you for putting it into a coherent form.

  206. Ron Sullivan

    cc, I’d go to email with this but there’s no link on your log-on. I hope by now you’re having a better day, at least. How long do you intend to/have to stay in Saigon? (Feel free to contact me via the blog link.)

  207. Pony

    An excerpt from Ariel Levy’s book Female Chauvinist Pigs. Fair Use

    Female Chauvinist Pigs

    By ARIEL LEVY

    I first noticed it several years ago. I would turn on the television and find strippers in pasties explaining how best to lap dance a man to orgasm. I would flip the channel and see babes in tight, tiny uniforms bouncing up and down on trampolines. Britney Spears was becoming increasingly popular and increasingly unclothed, and her undulating body ultimately became so familiar to me I felt like we used to go out.

    Charlie’s Angels, the film remake of the quintessential jiggle show, opened at number one in 2000 and made $125 million in theaters nationally, reinvigorating the interest of men and women alike in leggy crime fighting. Its stars, who kept talking about “strong women” and “empowerment,” were dressed in alternating soft-porn styles – as massage parlor geishas, dominatrixes, yodeling Heidis in alpine bustiers. (The summer sequel in 2003 – in which the Angels’ perilous mission required them to perform stripteases – pulled in another $100 million domestically.) In my own industry, magazines, a porny new genre called the Lad Mag, which included titles like Maxim, FHM, and Stuff, was hitting the stands and becoming a huge success by delivering what Playboy had only occasionally managed to capture: greased celebrities in little scraps of fabric humping the floor.

    This didn’t end when I switched off the radio or the television or closed the magazines. I’d walk down the street and see teens and young women – and the occasional wild fifty-year-old – wearing jeans cut so low they exposed what came to be known as butt cleavage paired with miniature tops that showed off breast implants and pierced navels alike. Sometimes, in case the overall message of the outfit was too subtle, the shirts would be emblazoned with the Playboy bunny or say Porn Star across the chest.

    Some odd things were happening in my social life, too. People I knew (female people) liked going to strip clubs (female strippers). It was sexy and fun, they explained; it was liberating and rebellious. My best friend from college, who used to go to Take Back the Night marches on campus, had become captivated by porn stars. She would point them out to me in music videos and watch their (topless) interviews on Howard Stern. As for me, I wasn’t going to strip clubs or buying Hustler T-shirts, but I was starting to show signs of impact all the same. It had only been a few years since I’d graduated from Wesleyan University, a place where you could pretty much get expelled for saying “girl” instead of “woman,” but somewhere along the line I’d started saying “chick.” And, like most chicks I knew, I’d taken to wearing thongs.
    What was going on? My mother, a shiatsu masseuse who attended weekly women’s consciousness-raising groups for twenty-four years, didn’t own makeup. My father, whom she met as a student radical at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the sixties was a consultant for Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW. Only thirty years (my lifetime) ago, our mothers were “burning their bras” and picketing Playboy, and suddenly we were getting implants and wearing the bunny logo as supposed symbols of our liberation. How had the culture shifted so drastically in such a short period of time?

    What was almost more surprising than the change itself were the responses I got when I started interviewing the men and – often – women who edit magazines like Maxim and make programs like The Man Show and Girls Gone Wild. This new raunch culture didn’t mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We’d earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.

    When I asked female viewers and readers what they got out of raunch culture, I heard similar things about empowering miniskirts and feminist strippers, and so on, but I also heard something else. They wanted to be “one of the guys”; they hoped to be experienced “like a man.” Going to strip clubs or talking about porn stars was a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they weren’t “prissy little women” or “girly-girls.” Besides, they told me, it was all in fun, all tongue-in-cheek, and for me to regard this bacchanal as problematic would be old-school and uncool.
    I tried to get with the program, but I could never make the argument add up in my head. How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star – a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place – going to render us sexually liberated?

    Despite the rising power of Evangelical Christianity and the political right in the United States, this trend has only grown more extreme and more pervasive in the years that have passed since I first became aware of it. A tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular. What we once regarded as a kind of sexual expression we now view as sexuality. As former adult film star Traci Lords put it to a reporter a few days before her memoir hit the best-seller list in 2003, “When I was in porn, it was like a back-alley thing. Now it’s everywhere.” Spectacles of naked ladies have moved from seedy side streets to center stage, where everyone – men and women – can watch them in broad daylight. Playboy and its ilk are being “embraced by young women in a curious way in a postfeminist world,” to borrow the words of Hugh Hefner.

    But just because we are post doesn’t automatically mean we are feminists. There is a widespread assumption that simply because my generation of women has the good fortune to live in a world touched by the feminist movement, that means everything we do is magically imbued with its agenda. It doesn’t work that way. “Raunchy” and “liberated” are not synonyms. It is worth asking ourselves if this bawdy world of boobs and gams we have resurrected reflects how far we’ve come, or how far we have left to go. . . .

  208. Melissa Hall

    On the subject of roller derby, Twisty seems to have contempt, though not the sort that familiarity breeds. I cannot think of anything further from feminism than criticizing the endeavours of women who are taking risks and making something, that is positive for them, happen. As a woman, and a moderately attractive one, I expect that even the most mundane of tasks I perform may be sexualized by a male onlooker- whether I am bending over to tie my shoe, breast feeding my daughter, or choosing the freshest pineapple at the store. I am a self motivated athlete- a speed skater- and find it much simpler to move around in a short-tennis type skirt than in another garment. Men are drooling? I could care less. I’m too busy dominating my sport. The only thing that the vague “patriarchy” does for me is buy tickets to help me pay for the next bout. I am not so afraid of myself that I will deny doing something that I have loved most of my life because someone might enjoy it.

  209. BabyPop

    Yes, thank you!

  210. SMOOTH REX'R

    Twisty I think I see your problem,could it be that you are a spinster {Stereotypes historically perpetuated about spinsters include sexual and emotional frigidity, frumpiness, depression, moral virtue, religious devotion, victim of an oppressive mother and family caretaker} aunt???,why don’t you attack all women, and not just derby girls ,no one forces women to put on too much makeup, to were low cut tops or short skirts that end at the crotch line, take a look at the movies stars and how reveling they dress, [ or what they show when getting out of a car] Go to any public school and you will see GIRLS with too much makeup on, short skirts and low cut tops trying to emulate there move or singing Idols SEX SELLS and you can see this wherever you look ! Roller Derby is about empowering Women, I have been involved in roller skating for more than forty years, and I AM VERY PROULD TO BE PART OF WOMENS ROLLER DERBY, AND ALL THAT THEY DO OUT SIDE OF THE RINK TO HELP OUT THERE COMMUNITES !!! And for the record , THERE ARE MEN ROLLER DERBY IEAGUES.

  211. Aspeth

    Great take. I’m sorry that the Grrrl Power folks found fit to take your valid observations and attack you as a “frigid spinster.” And that they chose to ignore the obvious pseudo-sexuality while announcing their own attractiveness. Kind of solidifies your remarks, doesn’t it?

  212. LEXi

    YOU ARE WRONGG.

    YOU DUMB BiTCHHH.

    HATTEERRRRR:)

  213. sarah

    I work out six days a week, and cry from pushing myself so hard.
    I am a leader and a listener.
    I love my team and my sisters.
    I wear shorts, a t-shirt and basketball socks to skate in.
    I am an athlete.
    I am a feminist, as a matter of fact for a living.

    Why have I been called, either directly or indirectly in these blogs;
    A whore
    A slut
    In the same system as;
    Child Rapist
    Rape Fantasies

    Why do you hate me cause my sport is on Roller Skates, aren’t we in this together?

    I have given my heart and soul to this sport and to my sisters, that is feminism no matter what you say.

    I would normally try to post something more profound, but I am dumbfound (sorry for the homonyms) and really saddened by the tone of some of the ‘women’ in this discussion.

  214. Mar Iguana

    Twisty, I don’t wonder why you need a vacation.

  215. Ivy

    OH DEAR GOD, I’ve gotten some great laughs from this! I could go on and on picking apart your (incredibly elitist, but I digress…) rant, but this tripe just isn’t worth my time.

    Here’s the last little jewel I read, from one of Twisty’s comments: “If roller derby were considered a sport even at the level of legitimacy of pro wrestling, there would be men doing it.”

    And…? So what? Are you seriously measuring the legitimacy of a sport by male response? No patriarchal norms there! Gee, thanks for the laughs. Your patriarchy’s in my radical feminism! Your radical feminism’s in my patriarchy! AHAHAHAHAHA!!

  216. Amanda

    As a rookie derby girl I suggest you do some research before you decide to bash a sport you barely understand in the name of feminism. 99% of the many leagues out there do not fake fights. Our injuries are completely legit. Derby girls don’t “sock” each other, nor do they all play into this bad girl, punk rock thing you have grouped the lot of us into.

    The men and women on a derby team all work together to achieve physical goals designed to make game play safe and interesting. Our training is hard and it brings us closer together as a group. Yes, I said men. Many leagues are currently starting up brother squads or are rolling co-ed. Aside from skating co-ed, we also run and operate the team together. The combination of entrepreneurial skills and physical achievement we accomplish as a community is a one of a kind experience.

    That community I mentioned is made up of all walks of life an not just a bunch of enraged blue collar workers. On my team alone we have a public defender, a college profesor, a photographer, a doctor, countless mothers, a few bartenders, a marine, some postal workers, mechanics, pin up models and karate instructors. Any other team you talk to will tell you the same thing. The age and size range is phenomenal. Derby accepts everyone as long as they are willing to work. The only thing we all have in common is out desire to skate and to support one another on and off of the rink.

    I would have suggested that before you went and bashed the sport, you should have done a little internet research on the leagues through out the globe and then maybe followed that up by sitting in a on practice. Maybe then you would have been able to see that these are hard working men and women who laugh and cry together and who do the T & A in a closed rink and not just for the completely irrelevant male gaze. You would have seen camaraderie that redefines normal friendships. You might have learned something instead of seeing the skirts and jumping to conclusions.

  217. Kitten

    I dislike roller derby, not because they are wearing short things, although seeing that much underwear is relatively annoying and boring, but because of the attitudes.
    One of my now ex friends had to start up her own roller derby club because of the bad attitudes of her club-mates and the coach.

    I think that if they want to be taken seriously, not as an over-sexualised group of dykes, then they need to start acting a bit more mature. For god sakes, would it kill you to wear pants? or a uniform? Maybe they just enjoy looking like hookers, I dunno. But all sports have a uniform of a sort. Most female roller-derby teams just look like scary gangs of women. Creepy.

  218. Bees Knees

    Men actually do play a huge part in Roller Derby, they even decided that they can play too and they’re pretty damn awesome.

    http://www.myspace.com/mensderbydallas

  1. I See Invisible People » Carnival of Feminists XIII

    [...] In the world of work, AldeaMB writes that the sexism she experiences daily can’t be made up for with flowers on Secretary’s Day. Diary of a Freak Magnet tells how she handles unwanted familiarity with humor. Jonathon Reese explains why wages and lack of promotion at Wal-Mart is a women’s issue. Annalee Newitz writes of how the crowd at Slashdot reduced comments on her article to a debate about her looks. (Be sure to follow the link to her column on Alternet on the same issue.) I Blame The Patriarchy identifies the sexism of Roller Derby. In a broader note, KC Sheenan explains why world economic justice is a feminist issue. [...]

  2. Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » The Politics (and Awesomeness) of Roller Derby

    [...] Now, surely if you have read this far you are wondering what the hell the title of this post is supposed to be about. Here’s the thing: I mentioned to apostropher that I’d just been to a derby bout and he pointed me to a post at Twisty about derby. One of the many quotable quotes: 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. [...]

  3. Quote of the day: IBTP archive « Anti-Porn Feminists

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