Gender roles roll


Roller derby, once known for scripted theatricality that made it more like a stage play than a sport, has reinvented itself as a legitimate athletic endeavour. Since its rebirth as the Women's Flat Track Derby Association in the early 2000s, it has experienced exponential growth, from 30 flat track derby leagues in 2005 to more than 450 leagues in 2010. This translates to more than 15,000 skaters worldwide. Roller derby provides a unique case of a women's sport that is not derived from, or a diminutive version of, a men's sport, proudly stating as its philosophy a commitment to be by the skaters, for the skaters. This do-it-yourself aspect opens the way for examination of what a sport wholly created by women looks like and how that differs from sports created by men. The WFTDA claims that roller derby is empowering and revolutionary, yet some critics have claimed that the skaters reinforce rather than dismantle gender stereotypes. Using tools from previous gender critiques, I analyse several aspects of roller derby for their emancipatory potential and conclude that, while not completely unproblematic, the sport can function as a force for reshaping ideas about women, femininity, and sport.



Document Type





gender, identity, roller derby

Publication Date


Journal Title

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy