Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lesbian Fantasy and Roller Derby - The Backlash!!! Part Three

And finally .... here are my opinions on his article, and Roller Derby as a 'Lesbian Fantasy'

Firstly, I’m still not sure why Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page snogged in Marie Claire to promote the opening of Whip It!  Neither am I sure why their interview was filled with quite so much ‘mutual adoration’, however I don’t agree with Jeremy Clyman’s analysis of the film.

Having seen Whip It! while I was in the States a few weeks ago, I admit that a viewer could have thought in the first thirty minutes of the film that Bliss had a lesbian crush on the Derby Girls.  When she first sees the TXRD girls, it’s done in slow-motion with goofy music, and you don’t necessarily understand where her massive passion for the sport so quickly develops – her best friend is unaffected by the display bout they watch, and this bout isn’t particularly well filmed so an uninformed viewer might not understand the draw of the game.

Yet after the first thirty minutes, Bliss goes on to find herself a BOYfriend, and any potential gay undertone disappears.  All the skaters she is close to seemed to be straight – Drew Barrymore’s character is married, and her mentor Maggie Mayhem has a child from a previous heterosexual relationship.
Addressing two of Clyman's points specifically - I thought the coach, boyfriend and Bliss's father were all strong enough male characters, they just weren't body-building alpha-males!  And 'Jabba the Slut' is only shown once, so I don't know what version of the film he saw!

This obviously isn’t to say there aren’t lesbian rollergirls, it’s just to say that in my opinion the film had no undertone of homosexuality whatsoever, so I can’t understand why Jeremy Clyman drew so heavily on one in his article.  He claimed that the idea of playing a non-mainstream sport as rebellion was a parallel to coming out, but I really don’t get that assumption.

And as for lesbians in Roller Derby … of course there are lesbians in the game!  There are also lesbians who play every other women's sport I can think of!  In my personal experience, I’ve known a higher percentage of gay women in sports teams than in my life outside sport, but this can be attributed to a number of factors, including the fact that people bring often bring their friends into a sport, and my lesbian friends have a lot of lesbian friends … do the maths! 

Having said that, a key aesthetic of roller derby, as Wikipedia so neatly defines, is ‘punk third-wave feminism’ – ie the tattoos, fish-net, burlesque, sassy, rocker, take-no shit aspect of the game.  Whilst that is in no ways an exclusively lesbian theme, it is something that I would suggest probably attracts a lot of gay women … as well as straight girls with tattoos, and straight girls with a love for fish-nets, and straight girls who like the thought of standing up for themselves!!!

So maybe there are a disproportionate number of lesbians in the sport, but does that really matter?  It definitely doesn’t make it a lesbian sport, any more than it makes it a straight sport.  It’s A SPORT …. And one of the most inclusive I’ve ever come across!  The reason I started skating was because after one trial session I was taken aback by how welcoming and non-exclusive the girls were.  I love the fact that it’s a sport that accepts any girl – whether she’s gay, straight, fat, thin, tall, small, tattooed, pierced, or ‘untouched’.  So let’s not let uninformed critics like Jeremy Clyman cast the sport with a certain brush, and instead, let's work as a team to get an image of Roller Derby as one of the most inclusive and exciting new sports out to the masses. 

Hopefully then we'll be able to draw in huge crowds in like the ones in Whip It!

Jet Stepper xxx


  1. ...because of course, all married women/women with children are heterosexual *falmpalm*

    I agree with what you are saying in principle, but that assumption always irritates the hell out of me.

  2. Hey Violet,
    sorry I thought I phrased that to try and not seem like I was making that assumption - the character Maggie Mayhem mentioned the kid's father, so it WAS definitely from a previous heterosexual relationship

  3. Hey, nice post. I think the point of the article was that Bliss's journey mirrors the coming out experience of some lesbians. It's not about lesbians, nor is Bliss a closeted lesbian, nor is the sport just for lesbians. It's just that the themes of the movie, of figuring out who you are, dealing with a family member who wants you to be something that you're not, and finding a new family, your tribe, is similar to the experience of coming out. So in that way, it can be a fantasy for lesbians going through the same thing.

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