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April 29, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Dear Mr Smythe, how about you go fuck yourself

A kind friend alerted me to this letter to the editor in The Wellingtonian a couple of weeks ago. He made sure to stand well clear while I read it. Because, the person who wrote it is a douchecanoe.

Is Rollerball a sport?

In the past few editions of your newspaper “roller derby” has been referred to as a sport. I find this laughable.

Too often hobbies and pastimes are lifted to the status of a sport for no apparent reason.

These faux sports are littered everywhere you look – synchronised swimming, table tennis, walking- the list goes on. Even more disturbing is the willingness of the Olympic organisers to allow some of these weekend fancies to compete for medals on the world stage.

True sport involves physical prowess and stamina, skill and finesse, history and tradition. Rugby (union) and cricket embody the beauty of a sport – not a time-filling fad which involves chasing people around while wearing shoes with wheels.

Leave roller skating to children in the park, and waitresses at crass American diners in the 1950s, and let the real sportsmen (and sportswomen in those few sports suitable for the fairer sex) get on with the job of competing in the real sports.

Ronald Smythe

Mt Cook.

To repeat. Dear Mr Smythe, how about you go fuck yourself? Let’s start with Roller Derby. I am lucky enough to know some of the skaters in Richter City Roller Derby. My name, Tallulah Spankhead, owes quite a lot to the tradition of derby names, and would be a great one. I have been lucky enough to attend several bouts. Dude. These chicks are athletes. You want physical prowess and stamina? They train four times a week, sometimes more. Skating is hard. It’s not a kid in a playground skating around in circles. They learn how to fall, how to block opposing skaters, how to turn and plough and whip. They are fast. Seriously fast. And I don’t know if you have ever been on skates, but even staying upright and not falling on your ass every thirty seconds is hard work. It is a cardio-intense activity, my friend.

You want skills? Before anyone is allowed to play in a game, they have to pass a skills test that has a shedload of requirements. Not to mention knowing a number of rules, most of which are designed to keep people safe, because this shit is hardcore.I have seen skaters break arms, tear ligaments, and get concussions. Finesse? Oh, honey. You have no idea. Watch some video. You’ll see finesse aplenty. And it isn’t just in the fishnets. It is in the skating, the ability and the fucking skill.

You want history and tradition? How about you do some research? Derby has been around in some form or another, since the early 1900s. It has a rich history. Yes, contemporary roller derby is different, but it pays homage to the past, intensely.

If you can’t see skill, grace, strength, teamwork and competitiveness in this, then I don’t know where you can see it:

Photo courtesy of Mike Roseingrave

But you see, none of that means anything, because that’s not really the point, is it? We chicks, the “fairer sex”, should just fuck off back to the kitchen and stop encroaching on the male domain, right? God, it must gall you that the Black Ferns have a better record at world cups than the All Blacks. And just what sports are suitable for the fairer sex? Competitive knitting? Extreme needlecraft? Team cupcake icing? I bet you long for the days when women played netball in long skirts and buttoned up blouses.

I like rugby (union. HAH!) and cricket as much as the next girl. Significantly more so. I like them more than many men. I apologise for the misogyny and rape culture and hyper-masculinity of those sports on a pretty regular basis. And I do it because what athletes can do astounds and enthralls me. In fact, I like most sports, though I will agree with you on not understanding synchronised swimming. However, I wouldn’t dismiss it as not a sport, because you know what? I couldn’t do that shit, and it looks pretty hard to me.

If roller derby is just “chasing people around while wearing shoes with wheels”, surely rugby is just “chasing around an oddly-shaped ball while beating other people up”? Where’s the skill, the passion, the physical prowess? You know what I would love? To get you along to a derby training, strap you into some skates, and see how you do.

Is ‘rollerball’ a sport? Of course it fucking is, my friend. And even were it not, that still wouldn’t give you the right to dismiss an activity as “unsuitable to the fairer sex”. We’re not playthings for you to enjoy. You don’t get to dictate what activities are suitable for us. WE get to do that, individually. For ourselves.


[ In the meantime, if unlike Mr Smythe, you think roller derby is the biz, get along to the next bout. In wellington, it is May 7: Brutal Pageant vs. Smash Malice]. Come along. I will be the one in black, rocking the red lipstick. Information on the other leagues in New Zealand is here.]


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