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Published August 13 2010

Morast: A gender clash on the track

Since debuting their roller derby league last November, the FM Derby Girls have been the stars of the local counter-culture scene, filling the void that should be occupied by a rock band too cool to be ignored.

But tonight the Derby Girls’ status as the coolest thing in town gets a little competition as a men’s derby league provides some gender balance to the local roller derby scene.

The Rock City Riot will make its debut tonight at the Fargo Civic Center as an appetizer for the Derby Girls’ main course of sweat, blood and beers (in the crowd).

There isn’t anything wrong with some gender competition. And it’s cool that some guys want to give it a go on the roller derby’s flat track.

But why does this feel wrong to me?

More importantly, why are some women in town mildly outraged that men are stepping into the sport?

Well, if you listen to my wife – who has a feminist tattoo so militant it scares away timid women – there’s concern that men are going to steal something that’s been cultivated, refined and popularized by women.

Look at the rise of roller derby in the past decade, and it’s a story told by and featuring women. They’ve dominated the sport that’s become the equivalent of football for alternative hipsters and social outsiders.

With roller derby, women found a sport that they can excel in while the guys stand on the sidelines. And in a post-feminist world, the derby’s aesthetic design allows women to be pretty and tough, aggressive and sweet all at once – all while being praised for the dynamic display.

That won’t end tonight. But it’s worth wondering if this is the first domino falling in a series of events that leads to men’s roller derby outpacing the original, feminine version.

In the Twin Cities a men’s roller derby league is gaining steam. And given the male tendency to get more primal and dangerous in the sporting arena, it’s easy to envision male roller derby gaining popularity, particularly with the hooligan fans who disregard women’s derby as too timid.

From what I understand, the Rock City Riot derby guys have no intentions of upstaging the women tonight, or ever. But I can understand why some women are worried about the men playing their game.

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time men took something from their gender counterparts and claimed it as their own invention.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum Features Editor Robert Morast at (701) 241-5518 or rmorast@forumcomm.com