A roller derby player has several things in common with a superhero. A costume. Super powers (booty blocking included). Fans. And a secret identity.
Every player has her on-track persona, exemplified by her name. Our very own Team Canada has Killson from FCDG, Rainbow Fight from 709 Derby Girls, Georgia W Tush from Montreal . And these women are superheroes on skates, make no mistake.
Derby names range from the cute to the punny to the frankly frightening. And every one is unique – see for yourself. It’s true that there are some suspiciously similar names, but the roster is vetted for those. Once a name is put on there, it can’t be copied.
I recently read a really interesting post on derby names that posited that in order for the sport to move forward, names need to be vetted for content as well as originality. The post correctly points out that sexist, misogynistic or offensive names shouldn’t have a place in derby.
But it can be difficult to separate sexist from sexy and offensive from outspoken. There are terms I use that some might argue don’t have a place in family-friendly roller derby. For example, I have no problem with positive reclamation of the word 'cunt' (Man, my Google hits are about to take a sudden left turn). And here’s where I disagree with the idea that derby names need to be policed for the good of the sport.
Roller derby is not soccer. It’s a sport that was rooted in crash commercialism and then revived and literally taken over by the women who played it. It’s not just a sport: it’s a battleground. Roller derby is typified by a DIY esthetic and an in-your-face bravado. It’s not a typical sport, nor should it be.
It’s not that I don’t think derby should spread. It’s doing that as we speak, crass names and all. But do I want roller derby in the Olympics? Frankly, no (and not just because several team sports like baseball aren’t either). To me, roller derby is best as an outsider sport and not because I want us to get to keep all the derby goodness to ourselves. I want derby to grow without compromising what makes it special, namely that DIY principle, that feminist practice, that outrageous name on the back of a jersey.
But let's remember, folks: if your name isn't worthy of a superheroine, maybe you should reconsider, not for the sport, but for the players and fans around you. While you're busy being your own hero, you might be someone else's, too.