Gender and Roller Derby: Women Keeping it to Themselves

Davis, Paul and Edwards, Lisa (2016) Gender and Roller Derby: Women Keeping it to Themselves. In: British Philosophy of Sport Association Annual Meeting, April 4-6, 2016, Eastbourne. (Unpublished)

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Gender and Roller Derby: Women keeping it to themselves

The phenomenon of roller derby has elicited a stimulating essay by Sailors (2013), for whom it carries emancipatory potential for women through (i) the sport’s DIY character; (ii) a core aggression constitutive of the definition of masculinity and ideologically at odds with conventional femininity; (iii) simultaneous attachment to elements of conventional femininity, e.g. revealing clothing; (iv) the extension of the said clothing to women of different body shapes and ages; (v) the parody of conventional femininity; (vi) inhospitality towards ‘girl drama’ and (vii) the bonds between players.
Sailors sees a threat to roller derby’s female emancipatory potential in men, who have been drawn to the sport and formed their own leagues. Sailors offers little defence of her forebodings about male roller derby, saying only that ‘if roller derby becomes a sport with leagues for men and women, comparable to existing sports, it will lose one of its unique aspects that empowers women’ (254), and later that ‘I think the two threats described earlier (men and money) will serve to undermine the possibilities for empowerment.’ (256)
We examine Sailors’ fears about male roller derby and find them unconvincing. First, there are arguably many female-emancipating activities, especially in sport and exercise, which are done by both sexes. These activities are emancipating for some of the reasons roller derby is emancipating. Second, all preceding features of female roller derby remain if men do it too. Third, questions – typically posed by feminism about male sport - arise about the authenticity or normativity of a collective empowerment that requires or is strengthened by the exclusion or structural invisibility of another group. Finally, roller derby remains unique in case of male participation insofar as male roller derby is the diminutive version of a sport that, moreover, centralises the aggression identified with hegemonic masculinity; sharing the sport with men is arguably more empowering to women than keeping it to themselves.

Indicative Bibliography
Sailors, P. 2014. Mixed Competition and Mixed Messages. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 41 (1): 65-78.
Burke, M. 2010. A Feminist Reconstruction of Liberal Rights and Sport. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 37 (1): 11-28.
Pavlidis, A. and Connor, J. 2015. Men in a ‘woman only’ sport? Contesting gender relations and sex integration in roller derby. Sport in Society

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing
Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing > School of Nursing and Health Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Davis
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2017 09:07
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:42

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