Providence: Women's Roller Derby
by Timm Carney
What is more Punk Rock than
Womenís Roller Derby? Nothing! Everyone loves watching Punk Rock Girls on
roller blades duke it out. Itís a forgotten American tradition and itís
back. The Providence Mob Squad and The Sakonnett Rive Rats are New
Englandís only teams and they rock.
May Day 2005 was a changeable
spring day in Providence. Belly was blaring in Kennedy Plaza, the main
square of the downtown. The Womenís roller Derby was underway. The women
had commandeered the outdoor ice rink in the center of town for a Sunday
afternoon. Producing womenís roller derby outdoors in May in New England
is a tough gig. It had rained in the morning and the cement rink was
soaking wet. Womenís Roller Derby is DIY, these broads squiggied the rink
until it was dry. They must have good karma because just before the
starting time the clouds opened and a warm sun broke through.
The inside of the rink was
lousy with tattoos. People were out in their Punk Rock finery. L7, Le
Tigre, all the grrl bands got airtime as well as Melanie, ďIíve got a
brand new pair of roller skates youíve got a brand new keyÖĒ.
Roller derby does have rules,
they arenít complicated but they do exist. They are as follows:
Two periods of twenty minutes
each comprise a bout. Periods are split into two-minute jams with thirty
seconds between jams. The team with the most points at the end of the two
periods wins the bout. A roller derby bout is played between two teams of
five skaters each: 4 blockers and 1 jammer per team. The blockers from
each team skate around in a pack. The jammers from each team score points
by passing girls of the other team. Blockers help their jammer through the
pack by knocking opponents out of the way. In addition to helping their
jammer score, they also prevent the other teamís jammer from scoring by
getting in her way or knocking her on her ass.
Roller derby is over the top
funny you canít help but laugh. The drama and the mayhem is non-stop as is
the skating and fighting. Nothing goes better with roller derby than beer.
No outdoor event in Providence doesnít have a beer booth. Local brews were
flowing this day.
Hardhearted Hannah is a 22
year old RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) student and has been a
member of the Mob Squad for almost a year. She was a little girl the last
time she had skated. She met some of the other members of the team, many
of them are also RISD students and they learned to skate. A MIT student,
Sarah Doom is the founder of the Providence league and is starting a
league in Boston. New York has a league; The Gotham Girls with two teams
The Manhattan Mayhem and Brooklyn Bombshells. There are currently 30
leagues across the US. Texas, Arizona and California are some of the
states represented at the national meeting this summer in Chicago and at
the United Leagues convention in Las Vegas.
Womenís roller derby is
burlesque on wheels. Itís almost wholesome. These girls are delicate
flowers by any means. This is DIY all the way; these women have made it
happen. There is no indoor rink in Providence the nearest one is 20 miles
away in the suburbs. When the league started they would all meet up at a
club and bum a ride to their practices. They are good skaters. The pads on
their knees and elbows as well as their helmets protect them in a fall.
They do get banged up though bruises are common as well abrasions.
Womenís Roller Derby is fast
and the jams are short itís like a Ramoneís song. There is a definte camp
sensibility the girls have great names like Ivanna Clobber, Rhoda
Perdition and Heavy Flo. Punk Rock ethos combined with feminism have
morphed creating an exciting new take on the clobberfest that is Womenís
Sunday July 3rd is
the date for the next bout. The Mob Squad and The Sackonett River Rats
will meet again this time with Fireworks! Whatís more American than that?