Roller Derby dismantles what it means to be ‘feminine’. It mixes adrenaline and ferocity with the provocative. Often, players names are derived from pop-culture references and the bouts are no different. This specific programme draws from the classic romantic genre Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
Roller Derby was born from humble beginnings back in 1933 by Leo Seltzer. As he scribbled down rules on a table cloth in a restaurant in Chicago, he envisioned both men and women competing in a marathon type race – a race of stamina and speed. Initially roller derby was not a rough contact sport and was more similar to the dance marathons that were popping up at the time. Popularity for the game increased during 1930s depression era and it payed relatively well with good benefits. But for women, it was something more. It was a chance to to see women compete in equal measure to men in a sport.
In response to the increasing brutality of the sport, players wear helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards to help minimise injury. Players show off their track rash and bruises proudly as it has become a huge part of the sporting culture.
At its most base roots, roller derby has gender and LGBT+ policies that are the most progressive in any sport. It is a grassroots sport that welcomes all identities. The Vagine Regime is a community within this sport that has taken off and spread all across the world, from North America, to the U.K., and to Australia.
team names can often adopt puns hinting at local cultural references. Bouts and competitions also use cultural references in their names. This highlights the empowering nature of roller derby.
How many references and puns can you spot?
The combination of wearing provocative ’boutfits’ and playing a fierce and violent contact sport helps to challenge gender binary assumptions and heteronormative roles. It shows that women do not need to chose between being sexy and tough. They can be both.
However, in an effort to break the mould and transform from a fun league to a professional one, many teams today are ditching the ‘boutfits’ for more professional and athletic uniforms.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2020, this book details the history of the sport of Roller Derby and helps to illustrate the inclusion of women in this fierce contact sport since the 1930s. Female-led, the sport gained traction in the UK for its punk-rock aesthetic, pop-culture references, inclusivity, and fierce bouts.
February’s object of the month is the Chaos on the Clyde programme for an International Roller Derby Tournament presented by Glasgow Roller Derby on 25th & 26th August 2012. It features six of Europe’s best roller derby teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, London and Stuttgart.
January’s object of the month is a sleeveless GRD top. The Glasgow league was rebranded as Glasgow Roller Derby rather than Glasgow Roller Girls in 2012 to reflect the athletic direction and ambitions of the club and to be more inclusive of all gender identities.
The National Museum of Roller Derby is the UK’s first permanent collection of ephemera and memorabilia relating to the sport of Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby. December 2019’s NMRD Object of the month is the Five Years book, featuring the Playworld exhibition which featured items from the NMRD collection.