Tearing Down the Stigma Surrounding Roller Derby, Part 3

We have examined the stigma’s surrounding Roller Derby in respect to the pageantry/gamesmanship and perceived level of violence. Today we look at the stereotypes surrounding the crowd at a roller derby event. We also take a positive look at the inclusive nature of Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD) and the sport in general.

A) As a former ticket executive, the goal was never just to sell a ticket to Mom or Dad. The goal was always to get the whole family to come out to a game. The general preconceived notion of a Roller Derby crowd is rowdiness. What is the truth about the crowd?

Diva De Mortis

Diva De Mortis circa 2016. Credit, OCRD website.

This is just false. Misinformation. Fake news. I think this is another remnant of the derby legacy. Like the penalty wheel – which definitely was NOT family-friendly. As the sport has evolved, so has our audience.

Some of this was driven by the fact that many of the skaters and officials have children of their own. There are lots of children present at events. Some leagues even have kid-friendly activities at their games. Colouring/craft tables, penny carnivals, etc. Plus there are a growing number of kids that play derby. We support our local junior roller derby league and they have a presence at our events.

Lowkey #314

In my experience, the crowd is pretty much like any sporting event. You can have some rowdy people in the beer section. You can have a group of supporters cheering and waving signs. You can have the friends and family of a skater being there to support their loved one. You can also have a group of little old ladies wearing red hats on an outing going “oh, I saw this on tv in the 70s” (that one stands out to me). It all depends on the local and the event itself.

 Roxy Belleboa

Most people still think of roller derby from what they seen on TV back in the 1960s where skaters would fly into the crowds and there were fights and all this, but things have changed. We want this sport to be more of a family outing like an Oilers game. Yes, most places do have a beer gardens so people can have fun and get a little tipsy, but we want to promote that we are athletes and this is an actual game and not a show you would watch late night after the world goes to bed. 


Diva De Mortis

One theme that keeps coming up is gender exclusion in roller derby. OCRD is a mixed gender league that welcomes all people. I had someone once ask me about the dynamics between the genders in the league. They wondered if the masculine-identifying individuals over-shadow those who are feminine-identifying. The answer is no. All people add their own special something to a league of individuals morphing those individuals into a team. OCRD does not put limits based on anything superficial like gender. In fact we have mixed-gender teams that play against other teams that are similar. It’s fantastic! However, not everyone feels this way. There are many who see derby as an emotionally and physically safe space for feminine-identifying people to express themselves. I truly relate and understand that.

The way OCRD manages safety is to have a robust set of policies including a social contract that guides behaviour in isolation of external-facing identity. Conduct that contravenes the social contract is subject to scrutiny and consequences. This helps to create a safe space for all people. However, we recognize that this is not the same as having feminine-only spaces and that many would prefer that type of environment. There are some leagues that are feminine-identifying only. We support and applaud this choice as there is room in derby for everyone.

Roxy Belleboa

Roxy Belleboa, circa 2016, OCRD website

Roller derby is for EVERYONE! Men, woman, non-gender, all colors under the sun, tall, short, small and large people can all play roller derby. We identify our self as an all inclusive league for this reason, because everyone is welcome here.

If you want to learn the skills of roller derby but are scared, that is fine, we have elite trainers that will teach you to be safe on your skates. Even if you don’t want to play any games and just practice and be apart of a community, we are there for you. If you want to play big games and tournaments, we are there for you. These same elite skaters who play at high levels will work with you and can train with to get better.

Roller derby is not just a sport, we are all a family. 

Thank you again to all the members of the OCRD community who openly and honestly participated in this exercise trying to tear down the stigma around the wonderful sport that is Roller Derby. Stay tuned for when events begin again, I hope to see you all there. Cheers!

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