There’s No Balls in Derby: Roller Derby as a Unique Gendered Sports Context

By Madeline Breeze.

Published by The Sport Collection

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

Sport is widely and freely characterised as an important site for the performance, reproduction and naturalisation of gender difference in the contemporary western world (Grindstaff and West 2006: 515, Theberge 1993:312). My ongoing concern is to analyse the everyday ‘doing’ (Butler 1990, West and Zimmerman 1987) of gender and sexuality, specifically ‘femininity’, in the unusually interesting sports context of roller derby. Roller derby is a full contact women’s team sport, played on roller skates, which can be considered unique by virtue of its grassroots, women-owned and operated organisational structure and its relative non-incorporation into established sporting institutions. This article consists of a critical consideration of the literature in reference to the author’s own experiences playing roller derby. Such an approach enables a discussion of how roller derby does not appear to fit within the parameters of established sociological thought on sport and gender, and some theoretical implications of this misfit, which is especially evident in the context of empirical work that takes R.W. Connell’s (1987) concept of hegemonic masculinity as a theoretical lynchpin. The disjuncture between roller derby and established thinking generates a set of theoretical questions concerning the sociological usefulness and validity of established concepts, to which this paper presents some tentative answers.

Keywords: Roller Derby, Gender, Hegemonic Masculinity, Emphasised Femininity, Women’s Sport, Alternative Sport

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.121-134. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 625.733KB).

Madeline Breeze

PhD Student, School of Social and Political Science, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Midlothian, UK

I have recently embarked on my first year of PhD study. My interests include; gender theory; extreme and full contact sports; intimate relationships and feminist methodology. My undergraduate dissertation ‘Analyzing Young Women’s Experiences of Hidden Gendered Power in Heterosexual Relationships’ was featured in Edinburgh Working Papers in Sociology No. 33 2009.