Aoife is talking roller derby.
I play roller derby. Wait- let me say that properly: I skate motherfuckin’ ROLLER DERBY, beaaaatches. That’s more like it. Y’see, roller derby isn’t something I can talk about neutrally. This is a game where “derby saved my (metaphorical) soul” has gone from a common statement to a boring-ass cliché. Practically everyone I know who plays this game says it’s changed her life. It’s helped her find her confidence and her grit. It’s shown her how to love the body she has and appreciate it for what it can do, not how conventionally attractive it is. It’s given her a community, friends and role models. It’s taught her how to (literally) get beaten down and (literally) get back up again. In this game I’ve gotten bruises and sprains. I’ve seen people break bones more times than I care to remember. Far more important than that, though? They get those bones healed and put their skates back on. I see us getting knocked over and getting up again and knocked down again until our muscles will barely obey us when we stand again, and I see us doing it again and again until finally, somehow, we break through.
I have this fond memory of roller derby back in the 1960s and 1970s. I’d visit my great grandmother, who was very old and frail and had this almost incomprehensible Minnesota/Scandinavian accent, and roller derby was her thing. She couldn’t do it — she could barely hobble, and was mostly confined to her chair, crocheting away, but she was fanatical about watching roller derby. She clearly saw it as this remarkably empowering activity…women aggressively competing in sports. I think I saw a lot of hours of competition just sitting with her. That’s still how I remember her: a little old lady, eyes sparkling and chuckling, and occasionally saying “goot vun!” at a solid check.