Word went out about the formation of a new Peterborough Roller Derby League a few weeks ago, and it lit up the local social networks and media.Â Peterborough, as it turns out, has been pining for roller derby for a while.Â When my sister Sammi decided she was going to sign up, I tagged along with my camera to the first practice.
The thing about roller derby is, at the beginning at least, a really open sport.Â It’s growing in popularity, but still relatively few people have played.Â The skill level varied, at Friday’s practice, from a few women who’d played before to those who’d rarely (if ever) skated.Â It’s a bit of an outlay for skates and protective gear, but people of all ages and body types are welcome; you don’t have to be young or athletic, or have a certain build or height.
For someone whose team photo is pretty tough and whom I imagine is a hellion on the track, Lucid Lou is a patient, affable teacher whose ability to really communicate the basics makes her an excellent coach.Â I watched her talk new skaters through their very first movements, correct mistakes in a constructive way, and stay supportive of the newbies while pushing the more experienced skaters to new skills.
Over the course of the two-hour practice, I went from loving shooting the women ((so much more fun than shooting a person at a mic, no matter how interesting their talk or how good their music), to envying them and wanting to get out on the floor myself.Â There’s something so powerful about roller derby; it combines so many things I admire.Â They seemed transformed from regular people with kids, jobs, and student debts to tough, physically resilient women moving with power and some grace (the grace will increase; give them time!).Â It was inspiring to see so many women of such different backgrounds and physicalities out on the floor, looking strong and confident.
In a time when so many women are reaching back to an imagined ideal housewife of the 50s (I like that aesthetic too, but do your politics have to match your outfit? Those crinolined, white-gloved ladies were second-wave warriors in the 60s, y’know),Â it’s nice to see women of all sorts reaching occasionally for their inner Tank Girl. That, to me, is the essence of feminism; to sometimes be a mom, sometimes a bookish Star Wars nerd, sometimes a tough bitch on wheels, but having the choice to decide to reject whatever parts of the archetype don’t work for you.Â To define yourself as a multi-faceted individual, rather than be defined by some things you do or choose.
In short, it was awesome.Â You won’t find me lacing up anytime soon (I have kind-of a busy year ahead of me), but I’ve been bitten by the derby bug.