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 Roller Derby.

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?

 

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