On Saturday night, I walked into the Austin Convention Center to see a flat roller derby track for the first time. It wasn’t long before groups of uniformed, geared-up women appeared on roller skates to take center stage.
My senses were bombarded by the Texas Rollergirls experience. A fan on the sidelines waved a checkered flag and yelled, “Faster, faster, kill! Kill! Kill!” and the audience took up the cheer. The announcers excitedly described the action of Luce Bandit, Flash Gorgeous, Vicious Van Gogo and Scrape Myrtle while making sure attendees knew there were three bars conveniently located in the venue.
Meanwhile, I was trying so hard to understand how flat track derby was played and how these women were racking up points so quickly. (I won’t get into the rules now, but you can get your education by listening to our podcast episode HERE.)
This was entertainment at its finest. Fans in the bleachers constantly rang cowbells and waved Texas Rollergirls merchandise. Winners of the night’s “Best Seat in the House” contest smiled from their couches, positioned right by the derby track. It seemed like attendees sat or stood wherever they pleased. Some stood in the middle of the walkways and chatted with their friends. Others sat cross-legged by the track with their beer.
I thought back to my recent professional boxing experience at the Alamodome in San Antonio, and how security guards were constantly walking around to make sure that everyone stayed seated. What a different experience!
The Texas Rollergirls Culture
It didn’t take long for me to understand that the Texas Rollergirls community in Austin has a culture all its own, and it can best be described as a family. During each bout’s half-time, we got to see the Austin Derby Brats play. These little ladies, ages 8-17, receive a Texas-sized education in flat track derby. Their derby names are just as fantastic as the big leagues, and many of them are lightning fast and far more coordinated than I am. Even more importantly, they are celebrated and supported by the Texas Rollergirls and the community as a whole.
There is also a recreational league that is part of the Texas Rollergirls family. Its a slightly less-intense place for retired players, aspiring players and everyone in between to enjoy the sport of flat track derby in Austin.
The Texas Rollergirls create an experience that is absolutely entertaining, and I would return to see them for that reason alone. The other reason I love this organization is because of its culture.
But there’s something even deeper that is at work here. Allow me to digress for just a moment to explain…
I believe that men and women have certain traits and gifts that cause them to perform well in their traditional roles. That men have a drive that causes them to provide and protect. That women have a spirit that causes them to nurture and care.
However, I also believe that – over time – these natural traits have caused our society to make too many generalizations and assumptions. Too many people have made claims that, “Since men are good at X, women can’t be good at X.” Or vice versa.
For example, I grew up in a culture where men were expected to be the mathematicians and scientists. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve found that these topics fascinate me, but I lack an educational foundation to give me the confidence to excel in these areas. I could’ve pursued statistics or technical development starting at a young age, but I wasn’t socialized to understand that I could.
I love the Texas Rollergirls because they stand gender stereotypes on their head and they do it with style. Instead of standing on a soapbox, they prove by their actions that women can be strong. Women can be banged up and spun around physically and psychologically and get right back up. I think this quotation on the Texas Rollergirls FAQ page sums up what I’m trying to emphasize:
Are we third-wave feminists? Sure. Are we going to beat you over the head with it? Nope! We’re too busy training and competing and living our lives as business owners, mothers, artists, dancers, administrators, writers, teachers, chefs, bartenders, waitresses, and students.
The same women who I saw kicking ass on the track finished their derby games and went to sit in the stands with their infants. It tickles my toes to see such strong women fill both traditional roles and non-traditional roles so beautifully, and to do it with actions and not with screaming.
So thanks, Texas Rollergirls, for some fantastic entertainment and for everything you stand for.
Austinot Brittany asks:
What do you appreciate most about the Texas Rollergirls?
Save $3 off Texas Rollergirls admission at the door and save at hundreds of other local Austin businesses with the Go Local card: