Gender and Bodily Transformation in Women's Flat Track Roller Derby

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Virginia Tech


Sports as a social institution reflects and reshapes social values and power relations in broader society, including gender relations. For instance, the ways in which bodies are used in sports produces gender; as such sport has been shown to reaffirm men's power over women and ritualize and embed aggression, strength, and violence into the male body. Roller derby, which is a full-contact, highly physical sport, offers women the opportunity to renegotiate these stereotypical gendered and embodied ideas of gender. Drawing on bodily theory, contact sport, and self-defense literatures this study explores how female roller derby players undergo such negotiations of femininity and womanhood and how one's body plays a role in this. This was done through the analysis of 17 semi-structured interviews with female flat track roller derby players in the United States. Findings show similarities to self-defense where skaters' notions of womanhood and femininity are transformed through a variety of ways and these are related to experiencing bodies in new and transgressive ways. One key finding demonstrates how these transformations are complicated by biological narratives and understandings of violence. These results speak to larger implications of gender, embodiment, and women's physical liberation.



Roller derby, Bodies, Gender, Sexuality, Violence