For the record, I want to make it clear that this is 100% my opinion and does not reflect the views of my friends, my league, or any other person involved in derby. I would never have chosen a dirty derby name, but I will fight for anyone’s right to have one.
There have been several articles and posts that have discussed derby names that are, for lack of a better phrase, f-ing awesome, okay honestly, the real phrase I’m looking for is ‘not exactly family friendly.’ Actually, a few of the articles and posts have straight up called skaters out in a rude and aggressive manner. I find it unacceptable to point to a woman or man you don’t know and essentially say, “This person is crap and they are clearly corrupting the children!” Sure, the article writers may not have meant it that way, but to most skaters, that’s exactly how it came across.
Every derby player knows that choosing a derby name is important and exciting. Choosing a name can be a chance to say, “Hey world! This is who I am!” We want to tell the world that we are sexy, fearsome, silly, nerdy, clever, or skilled. So where does the “rude” come in? Well, I hate to break it you guys, but when a girl chooses her derby name it has nothing to do with you.
I don’t have the stats available to me, but does anyone want to guess how many roller derby teams there are out there? A hell of a lot, that’s for sure. Now, how many of those teams are actively trying to compete at the top level? My guess is less than 50% (although if anyone has numbers that disprove my estimate please point me in that direction, I’d love to know!). So if there are hundreds or thousands of skaters out there who aren’t vying for a WFTDA-level championship title, what the hell are they doing in this sport anyway?? Having fun. That’s right, I said it. Women and men get into roller derby for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is fun.
You know what is also fun? To cheer on the top players in our sport and wish for them to go to the Olympics. Do I have Olympic dreams? No. Do I want to see roller derby in the Olympics? Of course!
Let’s talk about a few points other articles have made and how we can counter them when discussing the issue with outsiders and derby girls alike.
Point 1 – You could never tell your grandma your name.
Maybe you could never tell your grandma her name, but the woman skating with that name has no problem telling her grandmother what her derby name is (and if they’re close enough to talk about derby names, I imagine the grandmother won’t be overly shocked). I hate to break it to you guys, but your grandmother has been around for a long time. She’s seen naked dudes, naked ladies, and lived through some pretty crazy times (including being young once). Do you really think she’s going to completely dismiss a sport (that she most likely used to watch and love) just because someone has a slightly racy name? By saying this, you’re saying bad things about grannies everywhere.
Point 2 – No one will take you/roller derby seriously
If we have learned anything, it’s that this is an uphill battle and is not going to be won by throwing out our hard-earned names. What will it take? I guess we can toss out the names, the fishnets, the booty shorts, and the after parties, and then the general public will be 100% okay with the sport? I don’t buy it for a second. What keeps this sport alive and growing are the derby players and fans. As a relative n00b to the derby world I readily admit that what made me interested in the sport was the excitement, the falls, the cool outfits, the attitude, and the names. Why strip derby of the things that make it unique and fun? One of the biggest obstacles is getting women looked at like athletes at all, regardless of the sport they are playing. Female sports are constantly undermined because “it’s better when men play it.” Why not play our sport on our terms?
Point 3 – Ow! Your name offends my virgin ears!
Pssst, remember how I said that someone else’s derby name has nothing to do with you? That still applies. Plus, how often do you refer to one of your teammates by her full derby name? Derby names are constantly shortened, and if that name still offends you, you can always shorten it more and call her by the first initial (I have been called Militant, Mili, Mili Vanilli, Militant Blownose [when I had a cold], Mil, and even MB a few times).
Point 4 – But who will think of the children?
Let’s turn this around and mess with my name so we have an example. My name is Militant Bulstrode, it’s a Harry Potter related name. I adore everything Harry Potter and we’re going to pretend that you do not. In fact, you hate Harry Potter (we can pretend you’re Laura Mallory for this scenario). In your spare time you try to get Harry Potter taken out of schools because it promotes witchcraft and children cannot be subjected to that! You want Harry Potter to stay the hell out of your roller derby team. What if you bring your kids or your nephew to a bout and he hears that Harry Potter related filth? It’s okay that he hears magical spells (aka dirty language and sexual innuendos) from his friends and television, but he’s not going to hear it from your sport. Is it just me or does this seem silly to you?
Also, keep in mind that kids aren’t that perceptive of things. Have you ever watched a movie as an adult that you loved as a kid and realized just how dirty it is? Did it make any impact on you then?
Maybe derby names will disappear in the next few years or maybe not, but until then do we really need to launch a crusade against the ones we don’t care for? I say we let go of the animosity and just embrace the fact that we really get to spend time with such an awesome, intensely diverse group of men and women on a regular basis.
super super valid points