Thursday, September 10, 2015

Roller Derby -The Perfect Blend of Hard and Soft Femininity

We all remember roller skating or rollerblading as a child, some at skating rinks and others right on our neighborhood streets. As a child I loved to skate, and actually wanted to be figure skater, because they did cool jumps and wore mini dresses I wasn't allowed to wear otherwise.  I would visit a skating rink in the Bronx called the Skate Key often as a child, and I loved skating on the rink, laughing with friends and believe it or not, falling and making people fall. It as a great mischievous release of energy. Had I known of the the sport Roller Derby I would've definitely chose that over being a figure skater. I could wear short, tight sexy clothing and still be rough, two large pieces of my personality.

I didn't know what Roller Derby was a small child, and when I was introduced to it as a teenager I didn't see women that looked like me. Of course I still found the sport intriguing, but I foolishly thought it was a white girl thing. I saw women that looked liked me in other sports I played as a child. I participated in Track and Field, Gymnastics and Basketball, all sports that I saw representation of myself being actively apart of. I hadn't known that the lack of racial representation correlated with my desire to do certain things. I definitely could have been a badass roller derby player (still can) had I felt I had access. Representation allows people to visualize the access they have and can also use towards different opportunities.

To  give girls and women a peek into a sport that many of us know little about I interviewed badass Roller Derby player Hunnie Brasco, and she gives us the deets on derby world. 

Photo Credit: Steve Mancini

What's the name of your roller derby team/league? And how long have you been playing?
I currently skate for the Angel City Derby Girls (ACDG), and my team is the Hollywood Scarlets. The Scarlets are the league's charter team, and we travel and compete internationally at the Division 1 level. We are currently ranked #8 in the world as we head into the Divisional Playoffs.

Why Roller Derby as your chosen sport?
I have always loved playing sports; but after I left high school, I found it pretty difficult to find teams or leagues that gave me the same sort of satisfaction. A colleague of mine was playing roller derby and kept inviting me to her games. Finally, I took her up on the invitation, and I thought it looked so cool. Everyone was dressed in these crazy and sexy outfits that matched the theme of the team, and were playing such an aggressive, physical sport while wearing them. It seemed like the perfect blend of hard and soft--such a balanced sort of femininity that you don't see very often.

I fell in love with it--hard. Most people that discover it do. It is sport that holds no real boundaries with a woman's body size; you can be a variety of shapes and be effective in some way on the track. Women seem to gain a real sense of confidence while playing this sport, and the camaraderie is amazing. Also, since it has had its modern resurgence only in the past decade or so, it is one of few sports that women can start playing in their 20's or 30's, and really excel at. For many other sports, that is far too late.

Photo Credit: Marshall Garlington

Roller Derby isn't a sport I've seen many Black women play, was it hard to be in a space where our representations is low?
I came from a league with somewhere between 200-300 members, and when I joined, I was the only Black person in the entire league. I found this strangely motivating. I wanted to be the first Black everything there-- the first Black person to win a championship in the league, the first Black All-Star, etc. I fulfilled those goals, and then transferred to my current league where I am one of FOUR Black women on my team alone! It's definitely an anomaly in the sport, but it's pretty cool!

I have never personally experienced any sorts of racism in the sport, despite the low representation, but I also live in California where attitudes tend to be a little more liberal. There is a Black Roller Derby forum where players from around the world digitally convene, and I see that some of my compatriots in other places have very different experiences. They cope the best that they can, and really rely on the support from our forum--even though it is remote.

How does it make you feel playing, knocking people down getting knocked down etc.?!
Playing this sport is truly exhilarating. I LOVE knocking people down. But that's really only one aspect of the game. Sometimes it can be more demoralizing to an opponent not to knock them down--to just trap them, impede their progress, and not allow them to advance. I've found a lot of interesting life metaphors in this sport...

Of course I don't like getting knocked down! You always do your best to avoid it. But one of the things that I enjoy the most is that my 4 year old son has been watching be play this sport from the beginning, and he has a pretty interesting perspective on life, I think, from watching it. If he sees his mommy get knocked down and get back up repeatedly, I think he is learning to be emboldened with the same attitude in life.

With all the hate Serena Williams is getting for dominating a sport of which Black people aren't generally connected, makes me wonder have you ever felt any of that kind of animosity?
Hmm... that's a really interesting question.

I remember when I first started a few people said things along the lines of, "What are you doing here? Black people don't play this sport!" It was said in jest, and I was not offended by it, but I know that others might have classified those statements as micro-aggressions and reacted differently.

The thing is, tennis is basically the anti-derby. It is steeped in a culture and tradition of properness, good behavior, upper class status, exclusiveness, and of course, whiteness. People that have hated on Serena over the years have mostly hated that she is excelling while also doing it her own way.

While many equate roller derby with whiteness as well, it's historically whimsical background and stereotypes (rock and roll, ripped fishnets, girls behaving badly, low class, etc) has actually allowed for more inclusivity for alternative types in the sport. I actually find it to be less of a racialized space, and more of an "alternative" space. Many of the Black people I have encountered in this sport are also, a little "alternative"--even within the Black community.

...Come to think of it, everything about Serena is very derby...She would probably be great too. She should think about it as a retirement hobby!

What advice would you give young girls who are interested in being in spaces that they aren't highly represented in?
Go for it! Someone has to be the person to change the statistics and challenge the expectations!

Hunnie Brasco is definitely has her feet firmly placed in something she loves, and that alone is a huge thing to be proud of. Continue being great, we need you! Want to get more Hunni Brasco, follow her on twitter! @HunnieBrasco

Whats an activity you don't see yourself represented in that you've always been interested? Lets us know in the comment section below! 

By Queen
Instagram @TheQueenspeaks_    

Queen is a 30 something from the Bronx, NY. She created Ms. Vixen to spread her thoughts on feminism, Black pride, it's the first stop on her quest to be a media mogul.   

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1 comment :

  1. Great article. Awesome Hunni and much more greatness too you. Love you much. SCD


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