It’s your fault the media thinks derby is a sideshow

 Tomorrow I’m giving an interview on media’s effect on roller derby.

It seems the interviewer wants to know about the media’s portrayal of derby and how it affects the sport, etc etc. Ughhhhhhh.

It’s a hard situation, because basically my answer is, “it’s complicated.” And no journalist or researcher likes that answer. It’s not clean and tied up with a bow. To organize my thoughts pre-interview, I wrote it out:

The way the media portrays the sport is a direct reflection of how society views ambitious women: scary(?), laughable and highly sexualized.

Skaters work their assess off to create nonprofit organizations — not as a job, but on the side — and also to become athletes. Yet countless news articles and TV shows condescendingly report on the sport like a quirky little side show.

You probably saw my long list of “by day, by night” leads on news articles. (“By day Heather is a serious reporter, by night she puts on eight wheels and hits bitches!”) Those — from different papers of different sizes from different places by journalists of both genders — show how society thinks it’s ridiculous for a woman to both have a good job and play roller derby. Connotation: playing roller derby is not serious. It’s silly. (And hot?) Don’t you have babies to take care of?

Then there are the reality shows that put women who’ve never skated before (and probably never wanted to) on skates and say, “this is roller derby,” as Em Dash recently wrote about.

Blah blah blah.

It’s equally our fault.

Many leagues market themselves (bouts, fundraisers) as a hard-hitting, fast-skating, sexualized spectacle. Otherwise, they might not sell tickets. It’s how we lure people into the sport. THEN they see athleticism, teamwork and everything it takes to run a bout.

It’s frustrating that a women’s sport has to market itself that way to get an audience and then to hope the audience learns who the sport actually is.

I got a lot of response to that post about the $50 million derby story. The comments that weren’t from skaters/refs included a dissenting minority with the totally valid point of — “but you guys wear fishnets and have your bums hanging out of your metallic panties!”

People don’t walk into their workplaces dressed like that. Or soccer games for that matter. Because they want to be taken seriously. They instead dress like workers. Or soccer players. We are in a sport where people don’t dress like athletes. There is the struggle of how a lot of us see ourselves (serious athletes who eat for their workouts, think for their workouts, plan their practices and goals, committee members building 501c3s …) and how we present ourselves. And until we resolve that, it can’t totally be the media or fans or anyone else’s fault for thinking of derby as side-show-like or super sexualized. It’s hard to see the thousands of hours of nonprofit work, the training, the athleticism behind fishnets and gold glitter shorts*.

So, like I said (“Ughhhhhhh”) — it’s complicated.

*I feel obligated to buffer and say, “your feelings are valid. Wear glitter shorts and be an athlete. Get it girl. Just don’t expect fans and the media to take you seriously at first. And journalists only ever get an ‘at first.'”



My derby trip to Maui

It’s been a while since we last talked. In that time, I was drafted to my hometeam, the Heartless Heathers. Yey!

I’m a viking ice queen now. Photo by Masonite Burn. (Who is awesome.)

It’s been a big change from trying to show my stuff (usually meant going offense, etc) to trying to mesh with my teammates and work well together. A fun, new adventure.

Speaking of a fun new adventure. Guess who went to Maui? Moi.


Oregon put together a team of skaters from all around the state (and some from Washington state) to fly out for Maui Roller Girls’ 5th birthday. Happy birthday, Maui! The league had a few days of bootcamps with Mel Mangles (Rose) and Killer Kelly (Rat — and founder of Maui Roller Girls) before taking on the Oregon team.

It’s been seven months since I skated for my small league in Maine. Seven months is enough time to get nostalgic, but also to forget a little about how hard it is to be in a small, new league.

Maui isn’t all that new, but it is a touristy island. As I understand it, people come and people go. Skaters come and go. So, although MRG is five, a lot of their skaters aren’t. Lots of turnover.

It was sort of a plane flight back into time (Maui, Maine, totally similar, right?) watching these ladies hold their walls together, learn the intricacies of bridging, etc. And it was a lot of fun. MRG found a bout space in a hangar (more on that in a sec), so we were out of the rain. The game was close and ultimately Oregon won. But with an after-party in a thatched-roof Hawaiian canoe club open to the sandy beach along the bay, let’s be real, we all won.

After the bout was over, I stayed for another Maui practice. Maybe you’ve read elsewhere about Maui’s space. High rents mean no real home, so these ladies skate outside. This is nice when it’s sunny, but Maui is a bipolar island with a chunk of (beautiful) mountains — on one side of the island it’s usually sunny and gorgeous. On the other side, torrential rains fall sporadically. Guess which side the league is on.


Thankfully, the weather held on the night I skated outside with them. (And thankfully, they found a place to bout inside) All it took was them setting up a bunch of lights (in a very creative way — attached outdoor lights to poles, put poles through wood horses. See pic above. Easy. Cheap. One extension chord did the trick, I think) And man was it fun. It was fun to play with varying skill levels and intensities. I remembered my roots a little clearer and how fun and frustrating learning to play this sport is at that stage. And how much enthusiasm and love it takes.

So, thanks Maui! Thanks for playing with me, putting me up and letting me practice with you.

❤ Dash

Mental toughness, by Scarlene

My league-mate Frisky Sour keeps a blog about derby and manatees. This week she featured one of my other league-mates, Scarlene, who talked about mental toughness. Listen to the lady. She’s hilarious, pretty and smart. Woah.

Here is an excerpt of their interview:

Frisky: What is mental toughness, and why is it important?

Scarlene: In my humble opinion, roller derby is 80% mental. You have to convince yourself that you aren’t tired, you can get back up again, you aren’t afraid of anyone you’re blocking/jamming against, you know what to do when your teammates get penalties and leave the track. The list goes on and on. When everything else fails, or seems like its going to fail, you can really only rely on your brain.You practice strategies and skills over and over again – do you do the same thing for your brain? Do you visualize greatness or agonize over mistakes? We are most critical of ourselves and need to look inward for strength when, for lack of a better term, shit is gettin’ cray.


You led a session at Derby Daze last summer about mental training, which I hear was super popular. What do people want to know?

I have a lot of catch phrases I use in my life. Almost every time I step on the track I have to have a mantra to stay focused. I shared a lot of those, and stressed the importance of staying positive. Instead of saying “I’m not going to the box,” say “I’m going to skate clean.” If you’re plagued with arms penalties, think about putting emphasis on your hips instead of thinking about NOT using your arms. Many moons ago a coach told me to stop looking at the wall I want to bust through and look THROUGH the wall at my destination. It was such a simple thing but has always stuck with me. I use that for my mental game as well. I don’t think about the thing I don’t want to do, I think about what I need to do to succeed instead …

Read the full article here.