Monday, May 4, 2015

What Roller Derby Didn't Do for Me, and the fallout. By Dawna Bates

Dawna approached me about publishing her blog post after Facebook removed it for sexual content. I read the piece, and said, "Hunh? What sexual content?"  Sometimes Facebook is a great resource, and sometimes it makes no sense to me.
What Roller Derby Didn't Do for Me, and the fallout 
By Dawna Bates
Ok so...I wrote this a couple weeks ago and it got a lot of positive attention. It was awesome. It also
got some negative attention, a few nasty facebook messages privately to me and then it got reported for sexual content to facebook and it was removed. I feel like the second line "Roller Derby Didn't Make Me A Lesbian" was the nail in the coffin for this little nugget. But...isn't that the world's problem today? One little thing that some may not understand, or one word that someone might find offensive or an idea that doesn't conform, the first reaction is to hide it, report it, sweep it under the rug, step over it while whistling innocently and pretending not to notice. I'm putting it back out there, and not for attention to myself (although I'm sure I will get comments saying just that), but to show I won't back down. I wasn't even really addressing any hard hitting issues here, but I would. 
I am not going to let facebook or a someone with an ax to grind silence what I have to say and something that I think benefits myself and it seemed to benefit others. So, reshare if you want, reread if you whatever you want with it. I was humbled before by all the views I got and I certainly don't expect that response again, but I wanted it back out there. I do want my voice heard I guess, but not to showboat. I want a simple word like "lesbian" to be just that: a simple word.

I'm 41 years old.  Forty. Freaking. One. I have lived double time for a lot of those years, some for the good and some for the bad.  I have don tons of fun things, been through hell and back and soldiered through monotony too.  I have been the typical broke single mom, working three jobs and worrying about whether or not I was doing right by my child.  But I have also been the atypical mom, the mom who walked into a job interview for a bread truck driver and said "Hire me today, I will work circles around these men".  And they did.  And I did. I went on to get my Class A CDL, be the only woman hired in a male dominated industry at a couple different places and even becoming the boss of those men.  I'm proud of that.  But here's what I'm most proud of about myself:  I try.  I try it all, I try new things, I try to do the right thing and I try to have fun.  99.9% success rate so far.  One of the new things I tried was roller derby. I am IN LOVE.   But you know how that goes, every love affair has its skeptics.  I was shocked at all of the preconceived stereotypes about derby and how quickly people dismissed it as a real sport, thought it was fake or that it was basically a brawl on 8 wheels.  To all of those statements, the naysayers, the judgers and the curious,  I have compiled a list of what roller derby didn't do for me.  Here goes.
1.  Roller Derby didn't make me violent.  As much as people want to believe we get out there and beat each other up WWE style, it just isn't so.  Derby is very focused on safety, teaching you how to fall and how to hit safely and legally so you don't hurt yourself and others.  I'm not saying I will never get hurt in derby, anything is possible. I once tore a muscle in my leg just by walking upright like a human being.
2.  Roller Derby didn't make me a lesbian.  Just like it didn't make me an asshole or a judgmental bigot.  You're just born that way.  I know lots of people from all walks of life, but when I see them I don't think hey, he or she is a ____.  I think, hey look at so and so doing so well and being awesome!  So for anyone who says "roller derby will make you lesbian"...Puh lease.  I can think of worse things to be.  That's like saying swimming will turn you into a fish or eating a banana will turn you into a monkey. Come on.
3.  Roller Derby didn't make me a bad ass.  I did that all on my own.  I took that leap of faith, trying something out of my comfort zone and revealing my inner bad ass.  She was there all along, derby just helped expose her.  It sure helps to have my teammates cheering me on, encouraging me even after I feel like I will just never get it.  Those damn clockwise transitions are hard, right?
4.  Roller Derby didn't make me narrow minded.  I have to tell you, I have never been one of those people that are comfortable in any surroundings.  I struggle to fit in, even if that is only in my mind sometimes, and I struggle to realize what my place is in any situation.  Not in derby, nope, no way.  I can honestly say that I walked in and I BELONGED.  So does everyone else.  These ladies and gents sincerely do not care what your background is, where you're from, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.  So you want to skate?  Cool, gear up!  Be nice, have fun, learn.  Bonus:  awesome girls and guys who become friends off the track.
5. Roller Derby didn't make me a sore loser.  It didn't make me a sore winner either.  We warm up and joke around with the opposing team even just seconds before the jam begins.  But be clear, once we are on the track and that whistle blows, there is no question that it is a serious and fierce competition.  These girls mean business.  As a rookie at my very first bout last month I got a reality check when I was knocked out and a penalty called on me in the first ten seconds of my first real bout.  *face palm*.  After that I put on my game face and actually played a pretty decent game for a freshie.
6.  Roller Derby didn't make me an ageist.  I think the girls on our team range in age from 24 to 46, and some unlikely friendships are born from it.  I have heard there are some teams with players in their 60's and that is awesome! I hope to be one of them.  But you see, that is the beauty of the derby. It exposes you to people you may never have met in your day to day, nine to five.  It is a beautiful eclectic hodgepodged mish mash of people with a common goal. 
I'm sure there are many more things that roller derby didn't do for me, but there are so many more things it did do.  My 21 year old son came to my first bout.  I skated up to him in all of my gear and he said "I just realized something, I will never be as cool as you".  I responded "You could be, just TRY". Now, isn't that something a mom wants to hear? That's she's finally cool?  It only took me 41 years!  I love all of my teammates, I love going to practice with people who are passionate about the sport, are passionate about teaching skills and honing their own and who are just living their lives the best they can with no judgment towards others.  I love that the only prerequisite for derby is to be a human, want to learn, be a decent freaking person.  Shouldn't that be the goal of life in general?  I know I'm a newbie with only one bout under my belt.  I have a long way to go and so much to learn about the sport of derby and about myself.  But every day I'm grateful to these girls and guys, what they've taught me about myself and life and derby.  So, even if you don't think derby is for you (you never know until you try, though), get out there.  Try something new.  Don't let people's opinions stifle your desire for learning and adventure.  You won't regret it.  I know I don't.


  1. What the.... I fail to see how any of that could be deemed offensive.

    This just addresses the fact that derby is the most open, welcoming, non-stereotypeable sports on the planet.

  2. There is nothing offensive about this!

  3. I hate how anyone can anonymously just click "I'm offended by this" on Facebook & they just go with it. There is nothing offensive here & at times, I've had some of these same thoughts. It's a good article.

  4. word! i started at 40 and am still going 4 years later. and all the things it didn't do are so very wonderful. i love the openness in the derbyverse.

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