On a Roll: Empowerment and the Construction of Femininity in the Derby Girl Revolution

By Lindy Hern.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article examines the modern all-female flat track roller derby movement in the United States through a social movements theoretical perspective and a gender lens. Roller derby is a ‘gender game’ which challenges oppressive ideas about gender through subversive gender performance, while empowering the participants through its structure of participatory governance. The author has come to this conclusion through participant observation, interview, a content analysis of web based information on roller derby (in the form of blogs, websites, and news articles), and the analysis of the narratives of the women in Austin Texas who started this grass roots movement just a few years ago. The modern wave of flat track roller derby is the latest incarnation of a sport that was created in the United States in the early 1900’s. This version, unlike those of the past, is run ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’. This ethos is a core element in the group identity of participants, the derby dames. The derby dames use the venue of the bout to challenge oppressive ideas about femininity and female sexuality. These characteristics move modern flat track roller derby from the world of sport and into the realm of political activism.

Keywords: Roller Derby, Gender, Gender Performance, New Social Movements, Politics and Sport

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.59-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 606.382KB).

Lindy Hern

Ph.D Candidate and Instructor, Department of Sociology, University of Missouri - Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA

Lindy Hern is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Missouri - Columbia. While her dissertation research deals with the movement for health care reform in the United States, she also enjoys studying the modern flat track roller derby movement. Lindy is at the dissertation stage of her graduate student career and enjoys teaching classes at the University of Missouri.