In Her Hips, There's Revolution...

Racey 

Let me say this from the outset, I’m no writer, so don’t expect this to be the most beautifully constructed piece of work you've ever read (#grammerfail, or something like that, right?). What I am though is a skater, a female skater, a pretty bummed out female skater.

Like many women involved in roller derby, one of the primary things that attracted me to playing was the strong feminist roots it held. It encouraged women to be strong, to be aggressive, to get dirty, and to redefine what being ‘feminine’ is. It also gave women of all shapes, colour, sexuality et al. a place and a community where they could feel accepted, where they would not be judged, and where they could play their heart out and be supported by their league mates and the wider derby community. Notice the use of past tense there.

It’s with a heavy heart, and significant disappointment and anger, that following the arrival of men's roller derby, I've noticed a significant number of, particularly higher level, bootcamps becoming increasingly co-ed. I do not want to play with men. Nothing against the boys, but I was one of those many women who came to and stuck with the sport because of its feminist roots. I was one of those many women that felt empowered, had my confidence lifted, realised the huge extent of my capabilities, and worked my arse off to be the best derby player I could be. This is such a hugely important experience for women that is shamefully so rarely felt in a typical woman’s life that it is a great tragedy to lose it.

We are creating a scenario where women who want to learn at an advanced level are given the option of play co-ed or don’t play at all, or almost worse, the patronising ‘play at a lower level you precious fragile thing’. Most of the feedback I’ve heard surrounding this is of the ‘if you’re not tough enough to play with the boys, then derby’s not for you’ nature – not only is this enormously disheartening (remember when derby catered for all women? Are you seriously suggesting that the boys are tougher than the women?), this misses the point entirely – I know I could take a hit from a man, and I could give it back with equal gusto, that isn't the point here. The point is that we are taking away from women that sacred place where they felt complete freedom and support which we worked so hard to build. And, we don’t even appear to be compromising and giving other options – it appears to be that bootcamps are heading towards co-ed or nowt. Yeah, I’m sure we could learn from the men's game and style of play, but our game is its own game, a different style, and I think we can continue to progress derby in our way, in our style, without automatically assuming that the men must have something to teach us. Further to that, even if we did learn some pretty cool stuff, at what cost? I am not prepared to sacrifice our community just so we can learn some interesting tactic/hit/play that we probably would have figured out ourselves anyway.

One of the things that continues to appeal to audiences and derby folk alike is that derby is not a mainstream sport; it does not play by the rules of mainstream sports. There is ‘roller derby’ and ‘men's roller derby’, an entirely unique entity in the sports world, and I think that is hugely important to the sport and something that needs to be fiercely defended. The more and more we allow men's roller derby to infiltrate roller derby, the less and less appeal there is going to be for a significant amount of women; more women feeling intimidated or not welcomed, like they will be judged for how they act or look; we are taking something away from them that the derby community worked so hard to create and are doing a huge disservice to women in the process.  Essentially, we are creating an environment where women that signed up to play a women's sport, in a women's environment are getting more and more pushed out of their community. I want to keep skating, and I want to keep get better, but I will not sacrifice what makes derby derby. 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

About The Author

DOB: 7/20/1984
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Carnage Asada

"It’s with a heavy heart, and significant disappointment and anger, that following the arrival of men's roller derby, I've noticed a significant number of, particularly higher level, bootcamps becoming increasingly co-ed. I do not want to play with men."

You are welcome to not play co-ed.  You are welcome to only team up with women in drill demonstrations.  You are welcome to not take any advice or direction from men.  No men are pushing you out of your community.  

Funny, Brighton Derby Girls started in 2010.  I started playing derby before then.

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This article makes one very good point (well two really). The men's game and roller derby proper are already quite different games. Same rules, same track: but they play out quite differently and in my opinion they continue to develop along differing lines. The modern co-ed game is in its infancy but I find it to be different again. I think we have one sport and three different and distinct games here, each with their own merits.

For that reason I agree that not all boot camps should be co-ed. I suspect the main reason for so many co-ed camps is simply logistical. I would suggest that in a perfect world there should be some all female, some all male and some co-ed boot camps. I do think both men and women can learn a lot from each other's games, and from co-ed itself.

However over all, this article makes me feel unspeakably sad. Not because of what it says about our sport, but because of what it seems to say about men, and indirectly, women. I am certain Racey is not alone in the way she feels and I am glad she has expressed herself, but it opens up a chasm of grief for me.

The underlying concept of the article seems to be that some women feel intimidated, unwelcome, unsupported, constrained, judged, weak/incapable (all words used in the article) in any community that contains men.

Even in our community. A community which contains the most supportive, unjudgmental, feminist group of men I have ever met. A community where male players overwhelmingly respect roller derby for being built by women; playing a sport where the women's game is overwhelmingly regarded as the pinnacle of the game.

Our community is flawed, like any community, but it is beautiful. As a feminist, I would be overjoyed if we could recreate the wider world in its image. Male roller derby players are resolutely un-jock-like. They are not the leering morons you see in clubs. They are not cynical big business men there to exploit you for a quick buck. They are your NSOs. They are your referees. They are your Line Ups and Benches, your coaches, your boyfriends and husbands. And if you will have us, your brothers and team mates.

This article makes me feel unspeakably sad. Feminism has always been about ensuring women respect within their community, within the world. And the world contains men. If some women cannot feel supported, welcome, confident, un-judged, strong and free in our community, where there is far more respect than in the outer world, simply because there are men there (good, respectful, feminist men)... If some women need there to be no men there at all to feel those things; then feminism really hasn't gotten us very far at all. Clearly there is much work still to do, for all sexes.

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Criss Catastrophe

Let me preface with:
I completely understand your emotions towards this subject. I, too, was very apprehensive when I learned there was co-ed derby back in 2008. I actually refused to scrimmage when the co-ed league came down to play. But I am also that girl who tells the story of her dislike towards men's/co-ed derby until I saw it and tried. I've been skating both women's and co-ed now for 5 years, and I LOVE men's derby (yea Hooligans!).

Its hard to see the sport keeps changing, but its always gaining momentum with every single season that passes. When we first join, we find something about derby that magnetizes - something that attracts us and holds us and makes us fall head over heels in love! When the seasons go by and WFTDA sends out its changes, or your league starts welcoming men into drills at practice, it does sting a little. Its because what you loved so much is changing, growing, and you have to either roll with it or move on.

Maybe since I'm an old derby hag (I started in '07) the changes don't affect me much anymore. You should have seen my reaction back in 2009 when I learned what Renegade was - ugh, I was horrified! Then I realized, seasons later, that the skaters love their sport the way we do, and we should always support that. Co-ed teams love their sport the way you do your women's teams. Banked track teams love their sport, women's teams, men's teams, WFTDA, MRDA, MADE, OSDA, and all of the other acronyms I'm forgetting.

My point is, don't let an emerging new trend destroy what derby means to YOU. There are plenty of women-only leagues out there - and if your league changes with the times and its no longer to your liking, do what is best for you and move on. Look back on your times with your former teammates fondly, and move on with a clear new goal and go to (or start!) a new all-female league with excitement to be the best you can be. Its roller derby, and there are options out there for all kinds of players!

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Slayer Moon

I understand what you mean about roller derby being a strong place of support for women where we can help each other improve and grow. It's also a refuge from gender roles that often get forced upon women, that women should be dainty, polite, small and unambitious. It's almost impossible to find this kind of environment anywhere else than in roller derby. I think people who are commenting on this saying "just don't play co-ed" or "well I'm a man and I've been playing for longer than you" are missing the point. This is about changes in the roller derby community as a whole.

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Carnage Asada

So merely the presence of men is the threat?  That is unfortunate.  How does it change the roller derby community as a whole if has already been established?  It has been thriving in the U.S.

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Undutchable

First of all, you have a right to your opinion.. but I want to address the following:

- Roller Derby started as a co-ed sport. It has only been restarted as a female sport in 2000. Back in the early days women and men trained and scrimmed together even tho the games were divided in men and women jams. Check your history.

- the game is the same played by men and women, same rules. There is no roller derby and men's roller derby, there is women's roller derby and men's roller derby and co-ed. still all by the same rules. As a referee, there is no difference.

- I see loads of female only scrims and bootcamps. How do you think the men felt a couple of years ago when they could not enter any bootcamp or scrim (besides of course in my league as we are a co-ed league) No one forces you to play co-ed, but you want to force men not to play, or women like me who enjoy co-ed?? Being a feminist is about equality FOR EVERYONE, excluding men to play a sport they like and have been part of as NSO/Referee/coach for so long is doing away all the effort women have done in the past to be able to play sports they were excluded from.
QUOTE:
The more and more we allow men's roller derby to infiltrate roller derby, the less and less appeal there is going to be for a significant amount of women; more women feeling intimidated or not welcomed, like they will be judged for how they act or look; we are taking something away from them that the derby community worked so hard to create and are doing a huge disservice to women in the process  /QUOTE

The one thing that really irks me is the fact you consider Roller Derby a women's sport... The men in roller derby are not going to judge you on looks or whatever else you think men are apparently to blame for. Men have been part of roller derby for ages. You are not ok for men to play, but you are fine for them having control over the game as referees/NSO's/coaches. It makes no sense. Men have helped develop this game as much as women, you may see a different game, but I don't, because I don't have a prejudice against men.

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The last paragraph is basically what I cam here to see. Men have always been in derby. When this issue came up around my local men's league, I wrote this: www.puregeekery.net/.../

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Undutchable

That's a pretty good write up :)

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Thank you! (Sorry for the late reply, I though I had notifications on. Apparently not).

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Angel O'Payne

Undutchable, THANK YOU for saying so calmly and correctly what I could NOT (without sounding like a rabid foaming at the mouth drunken sailor with a Speech Impediment and SEVERE Tourette's Syndrome!). MUCH Derby Love and Total Respect.

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Undutchable

Thanks Angel. Believe me it took a bit to write it :)

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Rosie Derivator

While I can say that I've definitely learned a whole hell of a lot from the men I've skated against, I see more camps/practices/scrimmages where women are teaching the men than vice versa.  I'm confused as to what aspects of men playing with/against women take away from all of the amazingness that is women playing derby.  I know full well that women can hit as hard as men, and vice versa, but I've never heard of a women being asked to take it easy at a practice merely based on gender.  If you think that playing with men is going to mean you're being judged for how you look/play, you're playing with the wrong men...

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Retired Official

What makes derby, derby?

That is something different to EVERYONE that plays it and you'll be hard pressed to convince those that don't share your opinion to share your opinion, and vice versa. And those opinion range from "Derby needs to be faster, screw passive offense" to "There are too many rules" and of course you know the list goes on. Change is inevitable in everything, even more so in a community that attracts very opinionated people.

Something not touched on yet, is the thing that makes the world go round, the source of all evil, the almighty dollar. Or pounds, or euros. A benefit to having boot camps become co-ed is the added attendance. Sure some women will not attend at the addition of the opposite sex, but it'll likely be less than what gets added. Roller derby is not  a highly profitable business, bout attendance is never going to be enough and income from dues is always balanced such that it's low enough for leagues to maintain membership but high enough to keep to keep practice space open.

It might be more so in the states, but there are plenty of regions that aren't as welcoming to watching a men's game over a women's and those reasons are usually because the spectators aren't unfortunately attracted to the "sport" of roller derby. In some cases then, it's almost a lose/lose when you have an opinion of Women Only Derby.

If that's where you want to be and you don't want to sacrifice anything, then don't sacrifice it, instead be more resourceful. A lot of what happens with bootcamps or derby camps is that those who attend, bring back to their league what they learned. Not everyone can attend those once every other quarter boot camps for any number of reasons and if your league wants to succeed, they should be sending someone to boot camps/training camps with the intent of bringing that knowledge back. If they aren't? Then encourage them to. Talking to them is like talking to a brick wall? Time to find another league that will support your needs. WFTDA leagues in UK still outnumber the MRDA leagues and probably have more WFTDA member training events than MRDA. There are solutions.

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Ophelia Melons

It is heartbreaking to know that some women can only find themselves in a vacuum that excludes half the population and for that, I'm very sorry you feel this way.

A couple thoughts:

1. "...because of its feminist roots." You have really, really ignored the history of the sport and are sadly very wrong about the 'roots' of roller derby. Roller Derby was historically a co-ed sport. It is obvious you are directly speaking to the modern incarnation, but this is still an ignorant statement.

2. "There is ‘roller derby’ and ‘men's roller derby’ ..." Another sadly very wrong statement. There is roller derby - the sport. Then there is the WFTDA and MRDA, along with other sorts, but the two main organizations begin with the words "Womens" and "Mens". Another sadly ignorant statement.

All power to ya for posting what's on your mind, but I do hope the reaction this creates will wake you up a bit.

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I agree with Rosie and Owl. I just wanted to add that _any_person_ with a bad attitude can have a negative impact on another player, a bootcamp, a team, a game, a practice, a scrimmage,  or a league.

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Captain Slamerica

Hi, My name is Cap and I made an account just to respond to this article.

Let me start off by talking about feminism.  Feminism is about equality.  I'm sure I don't need to tell you that.   However I feel like I do need to tell you that feminism is not about you.  Its not about me either.   The patriarchy doesn't just hurt women, and gender roles don't just hurt women...  See it's articles like this that hurt the feminist movement.  Articles like this give grounds to those crazy "men's rights activists", because articles like this do not say, "I want equality".  They say, "I want to be special".  See the thing about equality means that both sides give compromise.   I am not the one paying women 75 cents on the dollar, and I am not out there promoting rape culture and physical violence.  I however, like many people involved in roller derby, am a broken person.  See before roller derby there were other sports, other hobbies, but there is no place other than roller derby where someone is simply accepted for who they are.  Anyone can play roller derby.  For the first time in my life I found an accepting crowd of people who didn't decide to put any titles on me simply because of what I like.  To be honest, I am a bit "girly".  What I mean to say is, that society dictates that many of the things I like to do are girly.  I like to craft, sing, dance.  I like to talk about my feelings, or I would if I wasn't to scared to.   Being called "gay" isn't an insult but it doesn't define me, why does liking some things apparently dictate sexuality.   I like musicals, and love stories, and all the things that I'm sure millions of people love, but are afraid to admit because of "what it says about them".   I became a feminist for extremely selfish reasons.  I'm not a man who things the women have a raw deal, or need my help.  I am a man, who is attempting to escape the trappings that a patriarchal society has placed on me for "my own benefit".  The benefit being that by eliminating gender roles for women those gender roles for men would get a little blurry too.  

So for an organization that is based in "any body type" can play.  There sure seems to be some pent up frustration against those of us with the "wrong" genitals.  I am not here as a pro men's derby person, but as a pro roller derby person.  I'm a dreamer, and I see a future where both sports and coed could be funded, subsidized by cities, states, just like any major sport.  Because I want everyone to know about Derby.  I want the whole world to realize this utopian community of acceptance is a great model to follow for life.  

What I don't want to see is it shoot itself in the foot.  Feminism can't happen without men.  I'm not trying to rile up the "we don't need men" people, but since feminism is about equality, it literally can't happen without us dudes.   I'm not going to patronize you and say that things are getting better for women, clearly we still live in a rape-culture-victim-blaming-patriarchy that clearly benefits one gender, and many times one race.  I am saying that for any progress to occur someone has to be bigger.  Someone has to be a leader.  There has to be one spot that says, " We are men and we are willing to learn from women", just like there are women that need to be willing to learn from men.  I have heard roller derby be called "The great equalizer" what people mean when they say that is that no matter how big or muscly you are you strap wheels on you and things change.  But I think there is something else to it.  I put on those skates and go to a bout, and I don't feel ashamed of who I am.  I know that I can be an Athlete who loves to sing West Side Story songs and likes Captain America maybe a little too much...   How could anyone want to take that away from people.  

To conclude, I just want to say that I am sorry you feel this way.  Maybe this article upset me because recently a women's team in my area closed off their practices to us dudes.  When it happened I felt betrayed.  I felt like maybe those who I considered family didn't consider me family.  But even without that personal experience I would be upset.  Because I am a cliche, "Roller derby saved my life", and I want it to save other people to.

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Dread Pirate Robyn

You can come to my practices Cap!! :) (Sure it's a 3 hour drive each way, but you're always welcome.)

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I was about to say—and I will still say—that I love how measured, thoughtful, and downright inspiring these comments have been.  Here is my particular favorite:

"Our community is flawed, like any community, but it is beautiful. As a feminist, I would be overjoyed if we could recreate the wider world in its image. Male roller derby players are resolutely un-jock-like. They are not the leering morons you see in clubs. They are not cynical big business men there to exploit you for a quick buck. They are your NSOs. They are your referees. They are your Line Ups and Benches, your coaches, your boyfriends and husbands. And if you will have us, your brothers and team mates." —Owl

I agree with every response to this article, thus far (well, the first eleven at least). However, I will add this: Racey, I am truly sorry that anyone would so much as imply that your only options are to play co-ed or don’t play at all, or that anyone's response to you on the topic of co-ed skating—whether it be bouting, scrimmaging or practicing—would be patronizing or disparage your toughness. I apologize for whatever douchebag or douchebags have said such things in the past. It certainly would detract from anyone's sense of freedom or support in our world.

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Many many women's leagues successfully insulate themselves from the "evils of co-ed play," but as a person playing a sport, I think it kinda flies in the face of your love of the sport to dismiss the notion that women have nothing to learn from the men. Both communities play different styles (same rules) and can learn a lot from one another. The DIY, "everyone's accepted" underlying principle of derby is one of the things that makes this sport great. Why do you think that would ever apply only to women?

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Grim Streeper

Have heard from more than one female skater, if they had to choose to watch men or womens derby, they would choose mens! And i dont believe men are trying or even able to take over derby, this is why i love derby, same rules for mens,womens and coed, but styles are very diffrent, some of the most fun i have had is playing coed with my wife my son and many of our freinds we have made from derby, why would anyone want to take the joy of derby away from anyone or bogart the sport for themselves?????

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So, in short, you can't enjoy what you have because someone else can now have &enjoy it, too? Isn't that the theme of marriage equality as well? And you sound just as bigoted as opponents of that, btw.

Feminism isn't about exclusivity. It's about strength when there's inclusion. If your strength comes from being in an exclusive category, maybe you need to reassess your own insecurities.

Your attitude is a step backwards for women's rights and gender equality. It started coed and was never differentiated by 'men's derby vs women's derby'. It's all roller derby.

Step back and compare roller derby to other sports, then show me one where either sex's athletes are less valid because it's a coed sport.

Get over yourself and get over your gender.

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Thank you for this great text!
I feel with, and like you in many ways. The room where women and transgenders can feel safe and be empowered by other women and transgenders is very much threatened by men's infiltration in roller derby. The feminist thing with roller derby is for me more important than the "sport-thing" and it is so sad that women are not allowed to have one single powerful sport for themselves.

Feminism is about equality. Feminism is also to be aware of society's power structures. If there is no awereness about the power structures there will be no equality. And that is what I feel is happening also in roller derby, especially when I read the comments to this text.. And it makes me sad.

Love and power to you Racey! Im with you!

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Just one thing first: please stop using the word 'infiltrating'. It's really, really offensive. No one is sneaking about here. You're implying some secret male agenda involving the theft of something from you. That's not only completely inaccurate and unfair but... well just plain mean. We just want to play the awesome game we've seen you guys playing.

'It's so sad that women are not allowed to have one single powerful sport for themselves'... allowed? You want men to 'allow' you a sport? And you think that's feminism? It makes me want to cry. The people who founded this sport, and the people all around you who maintain it did not and do not wait for anyone to 'allow' anything. That, among other reasons, is why it is a powerful sport.

You seem to want an all female group because you feel unsafe and unempowered if there are men there. I return to the point of my original response there: that's really, really heart breakingly sad. I don't know what has happened to you to make you so afraid of men, but I am sorry to hear that is the case. I hope you can look around you and find support from the women, and possibly men around you and one day feel equal to the wider world again.

However, taking away other people's (all men and all women interested in co-ed and mens derby) access and enjoyment because you want a safe space due to your personal issues is not right. It is not fair. And it cannot possibly further the cause of gender equality because there will be no one there to be equal to.

Not only will you be unequal because you will be untested, but roller derby itself will be unequal because it will be untested. It will have been 'allowed' to be all female. Right now the thing that makes it so incredible, such a powerful feminist beacon, is that there are no boundaries to men playing but the girls game is still the better one. Please, please don't try to take that away from your fellow feminists to build an artificial safe space for yourself. Take off the training wheels.

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To start! I have tremendous respect for the folks commenting on this insignificant blurb into the asshole of ignorance. As a seasoned skater, the men learn just as much from the ladies as we learn from them. So please don't ASS-ume that I go to a mens practice to learn how to jump an apex. In fact, by working with the men we are spreading the word of derby love to the masses.  Lastly, we won the fight when dudes started grooming their junk and voluntarily buying teacup chihauhaus. * )  #BALLSDEEP#

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D. Fitzwell

"We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders."

There, is that better? Does that not hurt you "Feewings" as much?

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Hey everyone, dude input here (thankfully, a lot of what I would wanted to say was already supplied by some other very articulate and respectful voices) I have loved derby most of my life, thrilled by the very fact that men and women competed on a team together, even in separate jams. Seriously, to someone raised in an uber sports household, Derby was like science fiction level enlightened thinking.  When the modern sport manifested, I was a happy enthusiastic fan and volunteer, seeing and working with what I still consider to be the world's finest banked track league. Half a dozen years into their existence, the idea of guys playing other than in the periodic coed 'wreck league' bouts was almost heresy.  But then again, so was the idea of players who were gender transitioning.  Thankfully that nonsense got put away fast, and the men's leagues really took off at roughly the same time.  As a referee, I not only value on a sporting level, the chance to play co-ed, I know for a fact it makes me a far more competent official. Its one thing to make calls based on the rules, its another to physically implement them in fast paced regulation play.   Its still more of a novelty, hardly a regular thing in the region where I currently derby.  But heres the thing, players who don't want to coed? Hey! they don't have to!  And to be sure, there are a few leagues with quiet but firmly suggested "We really don't prefer our members to do this" attitudes,  but you know what? Plenty of all women's action happening on any given weekend, and plenty of refs with no desire to get low and positional with the squads. That said, we have a growing, heavily ref energized men's derby movement here in Michigan, with some outstanding talent and thankfully, an ever increasing community of support from our WFTDA sisters.  Much as I enjoy merby, I would rather play co-ed any day of the week... informal scrimmage or round robin day long tourney. makes no difference.  Not only do I get to learn amazing stuff from competing side by side with our region's best and most fun sk8rs ( and make no mistake, for the derby fan in me, some coed bouts are PURE fantasy sports camp on a level that no 'pro' mainstream version could ever compare with)  
This sport has SO much potential to do positive thigns for both women and men, bringing us to the same great place, beyond gender, where the merit of how you 'work and play well with others' (remember that philosophy?) is only surpassed by how much damn fun it is for all concerned, not just on the track, but in the stands, and afterparty, online checking the pics and posts on facebook...
but mostly, when we go back to being refs, trainers, coaches and sk8rs, bound by an even deeper comradeship, respect and love of this sport we share on so many levels.

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There are many great comments here but there's one thing I've noticed about men's derby. (I'm a female skater btw.) It seems to be one of the few contact sports where men who don't fit the macho heterosexual mould are welcomed and can play a sport where they come into physical contact with other men - and not get homophobic crap thrown at them. I think at least 50% of the men I know who play derby are gay or bisexual. And derby's a place where transgender people are welcome too: just pick which gender you identify as and play with those people. (I'm assuming if you didn't identify as either man or woman you could either pick which one you most felt, or find a coed/nongendered team - there's another good reason for having nongendered teams!)

I agree it is great to have those women-only spaces. I have no problem with declaring a league, boot camp or other derby event to be women-only (or men-only). But the men's teams and nongendered teams do fulfil an important role for a lot of other marginalised people.

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Totally agree with Sally. If you need a safe space and you want that to be within derby then fine, set up an all female bootcamp, league or team. Just let other people also get what they need from derby too.

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why pay that much attention or segregate us off into groups, we're all people, we all have a love for roller derby, what else is important? I don't want to train with you because you have red skates & mine are blue, sounds daft doesn't it? I like playing with men, I like playing with women & I like playing co-ed. It's all Roller Derby. I also have a penis but I won't hold it against you if you don't.

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Dread Pirate Robyn

^ This.

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Dread Pirate Robyn

Dammit. That ^This was supposed to be on Owl's original post about feeling sad.

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Veggie Delight

Hit the reply button to Owls original post.

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Dread Pirate Robyn

Okay, so we've heard from quite a few insightful people and my two cents are worth all of two cents because of that but I, like Cap, created an account just to comment.

Before derby I was a feminist with very few female friends. Weird, right? Derby was where I found other strange, flawed, beautiful women and befriended them. It's where I found my people.  

After a couple of seasons playing I got the dreaded 9 month injury and after it just seemed fitting to continue to share my love of the sport and the family with my Pint Sized Pirate (because I want him to love and respect powerful women and where else do you find them in such beautiful and diverse numbers!) I coached and fresh meat trained through my pregnancy and in the two years since have had some truly amazing women join this incredible sisterhood. I've also trained a ton of refs - some of whom wanted to actually play and didn't have that avenue in our rural area and some of whom just wanted to be a part of this amazing, empowering togetherness that is roller derby.

Just this year, I was asked by my male co-coach to help start a men's league. They have practices at a different time and location but have, from the beginning, recognized that without their sister league who laid the groundwork, they don't exist. Women's practices are open to my Gents (we voted) and Gents practices are open to all of our sister skaters. The friendships that have developed in these weeks have been empowering to BOTH leagues.

Sharing the derby love with ALL GENDERS is amazing and makes me a better PERSON, so it can't hurt my derby skills either.

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Angel O'Payne

I too created an account just to commenton this. I am happy to see so many like-minded replies, and very sad at the whole "This is OURS and we shouldn't have to share" mentality that is so unreasonable. Women acting like toddlers is NOT a good look for ANY of us.

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Verotika Fearless

First of all, I do not discriminate between a fat, big, tall women and men, that's my opinion, a big&tall women can really hit you as much as a guy, so!!, difference there? Second: I really hate feminist shit...I felt for derby because of the diversity of women, but I also now felt for derby because I can share this with men and some of them are my team mates husbands, brothers, friends, fans, etc. I'm happy with them, they are supportive and they really care, also I as a lesbian do not want to be discriminate because of my options, the things I want for my country are the things we have in the derby community, why should we generate a bubble of derby women? I even ask myself, why do you as an “American” have transsexual players, do you know that you have? And then you should know that there are many sports that doesn’t aloud transsexual woman to do women sport because they have advantages that we don’t have. Third: Everyone can choose to play co-ed or not, that doesn't mean you are a lousy player if you don't play it, you can be the best player here and not like to play with men, is there a way to know if some women are taking T, or are into the transition? Does the treatment makes them be stronger? I think the answer is yes, and they are becoming MEN, but still considered as women.
Then we should go back to all the other sports like rugby…why are women playing rugby?

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I remember a time when this was our normal reception, instead of the extreme outlier that it seems to be today.

I never thought of myself as an athlete before getting involved in roller derby (not "men's derby," but roller derby). I played soccer and in little league when I was a kid, but so didn't everyone. I wanted to try out for the football team in high school, but coach said I was too scrawny. I played video games and ate fast food. I told myself that I'd start going to the gym, but maybe next week.

And then, I fell in love. Roller derby got me into the best shape of my life, introduced me to some of my best friends (including the lady I'd eventually marry, and she's wicked hot, so SCORE), and over the course of nearly a decade, it forged me into the person I am now (including the bad knees, but whatever). It gave me the self-confidence to be a teacher, and a strategist, and a leader, and the will to do what it took to get me to that point where I could teach and lead and strategize effectively. And it wasn't just on-skates work that got me there--it was the fuel that I got from this sort of attitude towards men playing roller derby that pushed me to keep going.

When we first started, I don't know how many times I--or any of us--got told that we belonged in the center of the track, or off it. I could never understand how such an attitude could be so prevalent in a sport full of women who claimed to be so strong and tolerant.

I--and many of my brothers--are no different from a lot of women that play the Game: it accepted me when few others would, it picked me up, it changed my makeup, and I'm better for it.

To shun a workshop or a boot camp or whatever because it may have a male skater running a drill seems overly petty. Maybe the author doesn't consider roller derby to be a "mainstream sport" (which is such an arbitrary term: ask a lot of people in the US and they'll tell you that hockey or soccer aren't "mainstream" either) but whether it is or not, it's still a sport. And a true believer in that will take any instruction they can get to better their game--their craft--be it from a male or female instructor.

(As an aside: I first fell in love with the Game as a fan of sports. Here's a game where offense and defense are being played by both teams at the same time. That's absurdly exciting. And if you take the time to watch it, it actually has a lot more in common with some of what the author probably considers "mainstream sports" than she may think. Look up some Barry Sanders highlights and tell me that you haven't seen your favorite jammer pull similar moves.)

As with many prejudices, I would bet that the culprit here is a lack of knowledge. I would encourage the author to actually talk to some male skaters about it, to get their take on what the Game means to them. Their stories probably won't be so different.

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There was a point in time when roller derby players did not welcome this new crop of sluts on skates who wore fishnets and made a big joke out of the sport they lived. Then the sluts got serious and made a real sport out of their silly bastardization of the game they had infiltrated. Eventually these girls' male friends and boyfriends put on skates as a show of support and found out that the reason their girlfriends were so obsessed with this stupid game is that it's unbelievably fun. Then the woman revolutionaries started to feel like their creation was being encroached upon, not even realizing that an entire generation of skaters already considers THEM the usurpers. The point is that no one owns anything, least of all roller derby. Things change whether you like it or not, but everyone is entitled to decide for him or herself how they are going to respond to it.
All that being said, most contact sports don't play coed. When roller derby was coed it was not the same game we play now. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to play coed, but there's a lot wrong with treating men like unwelcomed party crashes trying to sneak past the sport's rightful gatekeepers.

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DerbySkater42

I understand where the writer is coming from. And guess what? So do a lot of other women in derby who are afraid to speak up. Why are they afraid? Fear. Fear of loss. Fear of losing the most important thing in the world to them. While I can't speak for the writer, I know there are many women who are ok and even supportive of the guys having their own thing. But they want their own leagues, teams and yes, some if not many opportunities to be coached and learn with and from WOMEN. Does that make them haters of men? No. The majority of derby is also not made up of the Bonnies and Suzis  and Atomatrixes. It's made up of homemakers and moms and women over 30 in small towns. Women who may not have ever played a sport until derby. Women who did play sports until Middle School when they were pushed to the sidelines by any number of sexist ideals, policies, people, systems. Derby has been their chance to reclaim the love of sport, and of sisterhood. Too often it is assumed that women cannot get along. Their needs and desires brushed aside. And then they are positioned against one another instead of banding together to fight the real problems of the world. Are you a woman who enjoys playing with the guys? Great! And you have your right to your opinion! But so does this lady. It doesn't mean either one of you is wrong.

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Veggie Delight

I wish I could put this comment to the top of the list.  There is a lot of inspiration in this comment.

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