Op-Ed: Roller Derby Encourages Positive Body Image

The skaters who make up the Queen City Roller Girls, Western New York’s first all-female roller derby league, are a group of women that are difficult to efine. It is this very challenge to traditional labels and stereotypes which league members find attractive about the sport. Each time the skaters enter the track they battle against the established western stereotypes of femininity and ideal body type, pressures which are imposed upon women through various media and learned societal norms.

Roller Derby is a physically demanding, contact sport, but it is also one of the few sports that is truly accessible to all body types and skill sets. One glance around the rink and it is clear that there is no ideal body type for roller derby, rather the sport encourages knowing how to best utilize your individual strengths. Fast skaters, heavy hitters and immovable objects, all are necessary components of a team regardless of body type. The importance of ‘looking your best’ is taught to girls from a young age and is continually stressed as necessary for success. Unfortunately, this lesson in proper self-care too often forgets about what may be your best and instead teaches us that we should aim to achieve whatever is considered to be the best, an ideal. The western ideal of an unrealistically thin, feminine and toned physique prevents many women from feeling satisfied with their own bodies, but it’s never too late to break the cycle.

Because roller derby defies the notion of an ‘ideal body type’ skaters often enjoy a more positive body image and an increased confidence in what they and their bodies are capable of, a confidence which often carries over from the track to other aspects of living. When asked how roller derby has affected her self-image one skater responded, “I was so excited to be part of a sport where you could be any body type, personality or background and still be accepted. This alone helps me to view myself as worthy and not needing to change anything.” In a society which teaches us to be dissatisfied with our bodies, the Queen City Roller Girls and the sport of roller derby are a refreshing challenge to the notion of an ideal physique and teach the valuable lesson of self-acceptance.

Research has shown that when you feel good about yourself you are more capable of helping others. The Queen City Roller Girls have done their part to spread goodwill throughout the Western New York community, having participated in such volunteer events as Brush up Buffalo, Dining Out for Life, Habitat for Humanity, and a program for women facilitated by the National MS Society Upstate New York Chapter. The league also supports the work of local charity organizations through selecting a different beneficiary for each home bout. Past beneficiaries have included the National Cancer Society, Big Brother Big Sister of WNY, Planned Parenthood of WNY, Crisis Services, Girls Sports Foundation and Girls, Inc. among others.  The Queen City Roller Girls are just getting started on their sixth season of competition and community service.