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?
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LOVE IT!! Roller Derby is always fun here in Austin, but I think you really hit the nail on the head with the deeper meaning. These women are total warriors on the track, and the apply just as much passion to their businesses and families. I think it’s empowering and amazing and I appreciate you sharing it.
Thanks Cathy! And what we really liked was that the athletes were so approachable and engaging with the fans too. They really invest themselves in the younger generation of derby enthusiasts and it is obvious they truly care. It was a great experience!
I am so grateful for our coverage of us! It was so great to meet you and Brit! This article brought a little tear to my eye… I really appreciate that you were able to see so much of what our sport is about. THANK YOU! -Aimee aka “Sinnerfold” (derby athlete, wife, mom, business owner)
You are so welcome! I’m glad you found us. You gals are rockstars.
Well golly, don’t you know how to make a Rollergirl tear up a little. 😉 Thanks for coming and supporting our organization. I am so glad you had an awesome time!
Love – Cheap Trixie
Thanks, Cheap Trixie! Keep on doing what you’re doing – you’re part of something great!
Great writeup! It’s refreshing to hear positive response and a genuine understanding of roller derby from a new fan.
Let’s see.. what do I appreciate most about TXRG? I’d have to say the positive influence that it’s had on my views about myself, my body and what I can achieve when I actually work hard at something. I’ve been skating on the Recreational League for almost two years and I’ve never been involved in such a supportive, positive, inspiring, accepting, strong group of women as the Texas Rollergirls. I may not know everyone by name, but they are essential to who I am.
Glad you chimed in, Hannthrax! Does the Rec League ever have public bouts?
hi brittany, the rec league bouts are friends and family only, but we’d love to have you attend the next one. feel free to touch base with me or hannthrax for more info. we have a rec league bout coming up in may. and our session just started, so if you’re feeling a hankering to strap on some skates and learn some derby, we would love the opportunity to immerse you even deeper in the texas rollergirls culture! xoxo -killer crouton
I’ve got to admit that I would have to dig pretty deep to take the hits you gals take out there. But I am definitely curious to see what the Rec League is like. Let’s stay in touch about it.
this is such a great write up. you beautifully summed up why we all love this crazy game we play so much.