Interview with a Roller Girl

This inaugural post of 2011 is dedicated to everyone who loves Flat Track Roller Derby.  As a woman who longs to don skates, hot pants and an alter ego, I wanted to do an interview with someone who knows the ins & outs of the sport.  Longtime friend, Kim – aka Supersonik! – a REAL LIFE ROLLER GIRL (!!) has graciously agreed to spill her derby beans via this blog.  If you’re curious about roller derby, have wondered what it’s like to be a roller girl, or think you have what it takes to kick ass and be kicked in return, then Friend, this one’s for YOU.

Kim – I mean, Supersonik!  Thanks so much for being a part of The Daily Dish.  Before we get started, first things first.  What team do you play for?  What’s your name & number and do they have any significance?

Photo Credit: Lucas Saugen Photography 2008

I am Supersonik! and I play on the Atomic Bombshells, one of the 4 home teams of the Minnesota RollerGirls. My number is 7 of 9, which comes from the Star Trek Voyager character.  My name Supersonik! was part of an inside joke around the song Elektronik Supersonik by Zlad, a fake rock star from a fake former Eastern Bloc country. Some people get excited thinking that I got my name from the JJ Fad song “Supersonic” and start singing it to me.  In reality, I’m just a big sci-fi dork.  Growing up during the 80s, with my formative years during the Cold War, the Zlad song was extra funny.

What’s your position? Can you briefly describe what that entails?

At home, I play the blocker position. Basically my job is to keep the other team’s
jammer (the person who scores the points for the team) from getting through the pack while clearing a path for our own jammer.  This is where you see a lot of the big hits. When I’ve played on other pick-up type games (i.e. RollerCon) where derby players come from all over the world and theme teams galore spring up, I play all positions.  For instance, I’ve played the pivot (who often sets the pace of the pack and acts as the last line of defense) or the jammer.  These pick-up games have themes, like Star Trek vs Star Wars, Vegetarians vs Meat Eaters (I think we were officially called Lentilly Deranged vs. Meat Curtains), cats vs dogs, diapers vs depends (under 30/ over 30), things like that.  These are just-for-fun games that don’t count for anything.  Last summer, I even played in a clockwise bout!  That was a lot of fun because we always play counterclockwise.

How long have you been involved with roller derby?  How did you get started?  Did you know the rules when you started or did you learn by doing?

I started the second season of our league. That was in 2005.  I’d won tickets to
the first MNRG bout and had remembered watching roller derby on TV when I was a kid, but the event I was at had these girls on roller skates with these
awesome names on their shirts, and I was like, Wow, this seems really cool.  It was NOTHING like what I saw on TV growing up.  For one thing, they were skating on a flat track and not a banked track like in the old days.  And the uniforms were all unique, there was awesome music; it was just a bit mind blowing!  I’d always hated the idea of team sports, partly because the uniforms were so awful.  In roller derby there were women of all shapes and sizes and skating level.  I knew I would be back.  I ran into a friend [at that first bout] and we decided to go roller skating (cuz heck, we both grew up on roller skates) and then came to future bouts.  When we heard they were having tryouts, we both went and made it; it was the hardest 4 hours I have ever been through.

Photo Credit: Peter Worth Dec 2010

I really had no idea what was going on on the track when I first started watching, I just knew that I wanted to be involved. When I started there were only about 5
pages of rules. Leagues around the country (there were only about 10 at the
time) were making it up as they went along. The rules have since been
standardized, as the sport has grown exponentially and playing inter-league games with different rule sets did not really work out too well.  There are over 40
pages of rules now!  And yes, we are tested on them.  If you are interested in learning more about the rules, this is the place to go.  The rules definitely needed to change to ensure the game was safe for all players, with the sorts of scenarios coming up and increased skill level of the skaters.

How much time do you spend practicing? Have you always been a great skater?

We have practice generally 3 times a week, 2 hours at a time.  All-stars have extra
time.  I grew up on ice skates and roller skates so I was okay with making the
transition.

What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained during play?

A few weeks into derby, we learned to do shoulder hits and then were sent out
to play Queen of the Rink [basically a derby version of Last Man Standing, with one remaining player skating in bounds.]  I got hit by a vet skater and landed on my shoulder. The result was a shoulder impingement. I didn’t get it treated right away and it still flares up a bit to this day. In subsequent years we have figured out ways to make it safer for new skaters.  Like I said earlier, in the beginning we were just making things up as we went along, because the re-emergence of the sport was so new.  Today our rookies go through a summer of boot camp to build up skills before they get to be put on a home team. This has been a wonderful way for them to bond and build up the confidence and skills before they get drafted.

Photo Credit: Peter Worth Nov 2010

What’s the best thing about playing roller derby?

I don’t know if I can say just one thing. It’s been awesome for me to learn to
play a team sport, get regular exercise, and meet really fabulous women.  We have a ton of awesome volunteers who keep us running smoothly and fans who support us.  I love the kids who are so excited to be at the bouts.  We now have co-ed junior derby in the twin cities for youngsters interested in becoming future players. It melts my heart when they want my autograph.  It’s strange to have these kids look up to us; I mean I get it, but I never thought I would be in that position.  Playing has also given me the opportunity to develop leadership skills, as our organization is owned and run by the skaters, for the skaters.

What’s the worst thing (if any) about playing roller derby?

I wish we had more public bouts. 🙂

How does your team travel? Are you sponsored? Do you get paid for playing or is it strictly volunteer?

We have a travel team called the All-Stars. They are comprised of skaters from
all 4 home teams. They are the ones that do the inter-league travel and
tournaments that count towards our rankings. This year though, our home teams have had opportunities to travel in the region to play other teams. It’s always a lot of fun to play new and unfamiliar people.  We are very fortunate to have a lot of support with awesome sponsors like PBR.  But we are unpaid athletes. We donate proceeds to charity.

How would you describe yourself? Age? Occupation? What else do you enjoy outside the arena?

I’m 38 and have historically earned my income in the non-profit/government/health care/education sectors. Currently I’m back in school through a great program made to retrain folks in “green” careers.  I’m now involved with starting a Transition Town in my neighborhood, something that’s been really exciting for me.  I tend to have a lot of interests that are all over the board. Off the bat, I can say I’m crazy about cats, organic gardening, low-impact living, science fiction, antiques and traveling. I also like to play tennis and ride my bike, and I want to learn how to sew.

So there you have it, folks.  Roller derby – one of the most empowering sports for women EVER, is growing exponentially and is only getting better.  A sport played by women, with teams owned by the players themselves, who – rather than capitalize on the proceeds, donate it all to charity.  Could it get any better??  My sincere thanks to Supersonik! for allowing me to do this interview, and to both Lucas Saugen & Peter Worth for kindly allowing me to reprint their photographs.

Think you’ve got what it takes?
Watch Supersonik! in MNRG’s 2009 Season Trailer: Bad Mother Rollers.

America’s Kitchens (and the women who shaped them)

Back in January, I went to the New Hampshire Historical Society to take in a long-awaited exhibit called America’s Kitchens.

Sponsored by Historic New England, this exhibit covered the entire history of the kitchen in this country, as well as recipes, cooking techniques, and most importantly, the role/s of women in these important chores.  Although fairly small in scale, it featured not only print materials, but some fascinating antiques, a vintage 50s kitchen complete with appliances, and even a few hands-on displays.  As a real foodie, I’d gone into the exhibit thinking this glimpse into the past would be pure entertainment.  But it left me grappling with my own ignorance.  Although I can recollect recounted snippets of my great grandmother’s and my grandmother’s childhood chores, they’re fuzzy at best.  As a modern woman, I have never known the kitchen as anything but fun.  This exhibit reminded me that until very recent times, the kitchen was anything but.

Historically, cooking and kitchen work fell principally if not solely to females, and before the advent of today’s convenience technologies, the preparation, storage and keeping of food, and all associated & very necessary cleaning tasks were nothing short of grueling.  It’s one thing today to make a choice to cook or clean, but back in the day, women (unless they were wealthy) had NO CHOICE.  Sun up to sun down was devoted to maintaining fires, tending to livestock, working fields, preparing food, feeding families, raising children – and by raising I mean everything involved with their upbringing, be it nursing, changing, teaching, playing, and so on.  All day long there was cleaning to be done, not to mention seasonal activities, like canning, pickling, the smoking and salting of meats, butter making, and more.  And let’s not forget other important tasks like the making and mending of clothes, along with their maintenance.  Laundry alone would take hours of backbreaking labor.  The Whirlpool Corporation (well, technically its predecessor) wasn’t even founded until 1911!!

Women Worked (with a capital W) all day, every day, until they finally dropped dead of exhaustion.  Rarely was there expectation of eventual betterment or any other role to fill.

Home life for our predecessors was more than thankless; it was mandatory indentured servitude.  No wonder women were so eager to escape!  The kitchen was and is the heart of the home, but historically it was also a place of undeniable struggle.  Against hunger, against nature, and against gender roles.  While some women embraced their expected place, you can understand why others railed against it.  Choice, my friends, can make even unappealing tasks palatable.  Which brings me to another interesting point raised by the exhibit.  When American housewives had the finance and good fortune to pass their labor onto others, they happily did so, in the form of paid servants and unpaid slaves.  Interesting to note how often these unburdened women were quick to complain about the poor performance of those toiling on their behalf.

Many modern women, such as yours truly, complain about having to do simple household chores.  We gripe about having to push a vacuum across the floor or wipe down counters with magical germ killing cleaners.  We grudgingly toss clothes into big shiny machines which do ALL THE WORK FOR US.  In comparison to what our forebears had to slog through daily, we’re a bunch of pampered pansies.  But even now, some women struggle just as they always have.  They wash clothes by hand in filthy streams, they draw water from wells, carrying it miles back to their homes – often with their children in tow.  Women are still scraping by, cooking meager food, making clothes by hand, even here in America.  Fortunately, most of us reading this have a choice.  Whether you love or hate the kitchen, you’re not bound to it.  In 2010, women have the luxury of opting out of cooking altogether if they so desire, and some do.

I have been thinking about this exhibit a lot lately, not only because I recently finished reading the excellent accompanying book, but because of my own life circumstance.  I am someone who loves the kitchen, but who is forced to cook out of necessity.  When I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease and told I’d have to give up salt, I traded freedom for health.  Living in a 250 year old home, and spending hours each day in my modern-yet-historic kitchen

I wonder about the women who used to work in these walls.  I envision them laboring in front of the open hearth, baking bread in the beehive oven, having to constantly maintain the fire.  How exhausting it must all have been.  It makes me further appreciate all of the advantages I do have, circa 2010.  Like my beautiful new appliances!  Which do EVERYTHING FOR ME, including cool, cook and clean..  God bless them.

JUST SAY NO! Part 2.

Last week marked the inaugural debut of a new column here on The Daily Dish called JUST SAY NO!.

JUST SAY NO! is intended to help women (and future women) make better choices for themselves by JUST SAYING NO! to something I have deemed 100% truly awful.

For the Second installment of JUST SAY NO!, I would like to talk about this article. For those who have not heard of this brand new phenomenon, the article is about (prepare yourselves) … A MAN Having a Baby.

WOW. Pregnancy. Once thought to be the exclusive realm of females planet-wide – now being co-opted by none other than… a Man.

My knee-jerk reaction, in order:

HOLY SH*T!!!!
and HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YES. Definitely something we did not discuss in 8th, 10th nor indeed 12th grade health class. This is something I had never, frankly, even thought about EVER. Except in jokes. But now, folks, it is reality. A bearded man is now indeed pregnant. And I for one am (in semi-equal parts) THRILLED!!!! as well as NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT. AT ALL.

Men. FINALLLLLLLLLY will be PAYING THEIR DUES.

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

No more knocking us up and then hitting the road. SAY SO LONG fellas to cheap tawdry flings. B/c Now you MIGHT JUST HAVE TO PAY. And I ain’t talking about paternity. Yup. Time to break out those pouchy pants, and say hello to stretch marks. Get ready for MOOD SWING CENTRAL, Boys! It’s all about YOU now!!! WOOHOO!

Men. I love them. My dad is great. My husband is MARRRRVELOUS. But. BUT.

BUT WHATTHEHELL??? Men already get a whole heaping helping of perks. They get better pay than us. They get better jobs than us. As Hillary will tell you, The whole world is geared and run by MEN as a sexist elite-est paradise.. Right?

SO. We WOMEN used to have ONE THING WE COULD DO THAT MEN COULDN’T. WE could have babies. WE were the REASON we were all around. RIGHT> Right! If it weren’t for us women, the whole human race would just drop dead, never to be repopulated. Those men. What can they do, really???

Except NOW.

EXCEPT that if you read the fine print, you will find this Man is reaaaaaaaaallllllllyyyy deep down inside, a Woman. With woman parts. You know. A uterus. Fallopian tubes. Vagina. Hmmm.

So. Is this really a MAN having a baby??

If the definition of female is:

1. a person bearing two X chromosomes in the cell nuclei and normally having a vagina, a uterus and ovaries, and developing at puberty a relatively rounded body and enlarged breasts, and retaining a beardless face; a girl or woman.
2. an organism of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells.

wouldn’t this MAN still technically be a woman? Really? Even though he/she has a beard and no breasts??

I am confused. But apparently I am not the only one.

So, for now, I am JUST SAYING NO! To Men Having Babies. Just b/c.