Sunday, May 27, 2007
I unexpectedly came across this news report and suddenly I was a kid again, glued to a black-and-white TV screen, watching the rough-and-tumble antics of the roller derby queens. It was the early 1950s and we were being bombarded by lots of variety and sport shows but the roller derby was in a league by itself, kind of the underbelly of respectable femininity. After all, moms wore dresses and hats and their daughters were taught to never hit or strike anyone and be good little girls.
All social norms went flying as I sat cross-legged on my living-room floor mesmerized by the speed and spunk of these ladies. Mom and dad seemed to enjoy the spectacle too, even rooting for their favorites. Still, it was not the real world. In the real world, women had no need to express themselves so forcefully. Father knew best. I can't help but wonder if my mom and aunts didn't get a certain vicarious pleasure out of seeing such scrappy women, bruised and on their knees but getting up again to give it their best shot.
Men had their ball games and camaraderie and plenty of heroes to emulate. My mom's generation had Rosie the Riveter (who was displaced as soon as the WWII vets came marching home again) and Betty Crocker. The men needed the jobs, so the working women were told "go home and cook". It was the beginning of the baby-boom generation and affordable tract housing and life was good, or as good as it got during those somewhat bland and monotone years in the 50s.
Color television had not yet arrived on the scene, so watching roller derby on black-and-white made it even more gritty and exciting. You couldn't see the colorful bruises though. Painful encounters of the anti-establishment culture. What did these women do when they weren't beating the hell out of each other? Mothers? Kindergarten teachers? They didn't seem like the type to just go home and cook.
Whoever they were, in the real world, was a mystery. Maybe their true identity was so stifled that they needed the roller derby to release all the pent-up emotions of being the good girl, the one who stayed home and cooked.
According to the above article, today's roller derby gals are, indeed, accountants and teachers and doctors and grad students - many out there for reasons other than just being a traditional homemaker. It's a new era with new rules and it seems that women are still looking to flex their muscles, let it rip, unleash that hidden goddess, Athena. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Why all this pontificating on a lazy Sunday morning? Probably because I never got the chance to let it rip as a kid. Only-child syndrome. I was the only kid on my block who learned to roller skate on one skate because I'd be less likely to fall and hurt myself. I guess it was a form of maternal protection. Maybe Mom didn't want me to get too good at the sport and then sign up for roller derby. In the real world, nice girls could only dream of being that scrappy.
That was then; this is now. Nice girls can do anything they damn well please.