Empowering Women One Tutu at a Time

Earlier this week, it came to light that a popular women’s magazine had recently featured an article that mocked a runner for wearing a tutu during a marathon.  As it turns out, the woman pictured is an advocate for getting girls and women active and had recently been fighting cancer, which has led to controversy among the fitness and sports communities.  As a league that was founded on a platform of anti-bullying and that works hard in our community to share this message, we were sad to see this story.  A few of our skaters share their thoughts:

Serpent’s Kiss: “Keep Wearing Your Tutu”

tutuHow a fashion assessment of a runner’s wardrobe (or any stranger’s outfit for that matter) ends up on the printed page is a mystery to me, and I would guess it is to many derby girls. Unless someone is wearing full plate-mail or nothing, I don’t care to hear about it, but then again I think the best use for the vast majority of women’s magazines is lighting a noxious wood fire. Fortunately for magazine lovers and employees, it doesn’t much matter if happen to take pleasure in glossy, ad-riddled pages or not, because everyone has the right to enjoy different things, and, assuming it’s not illegal or harming anyone (beyond someone’s delicate sensibilities), to enjoy them in public without inviting attack. While a significant subset of the roller derby community is admittedly fond of ultra-feminine outerwear, that’s the real reason why this ‘controversy’ has attracted some attention from the roller derby community. We believe everyone should be able to be who they are, out in the world, without fear of being bullied. And when someone demonstrates the fortitude to run a marathon or fight cancer, never mind do both at the same time, we believe that person should be celebrated, not poked-fun at. Is that really what our society notices and believes is noteworthy, the fabric a person chooses to wrap him or herself in instead of the fabric of his or her being? Okay, that was corny. Seriously though, shouldn’t an individual’s physical and inner strength be the greater interest?

I don’t know how inclusive a sport running usually is, but roller derby leagues most often strive to be extremely embracive, so this type of thing irks us a little. Central Maine Derby certainly doesn’t care if you wear tutus, combat boots, pantsuits, or even an astronaut helmet, (okay, so you can’t wear all of those things on the track). We want you to skate with us, ref for us, watch us play, volunteer, however you want to be involved, we’re thrilled. And, despite my earlier rant, it doesn’t matter to us if your favorite reading materials are magazines, mystery novels, scientific journal articles, or if you prefer not to read at all. As long as you’re nice most of the time and we don’t find out that you’re torturing people (or animals) in your basement, we’ll love you and all your weirdness (or lack thereof) and we won’t give you a hard time about it.

CMD doesn’t like to see people criticized for who they are or how they express themselves (again bipedal forces of evil excluded), whether in the media, in our schools, or in our own lives. The founders of CMD are particularly passionate about this and created our league on an anti-bullying platform. Bullying is (ironically?) one of those very rare things for which we have no tolerance. In an effort to prevent it, CMD developed Skate Don’t Hate. In this program, members of our league travel to schools to promote the celebration of diversity and raise awareness among children about the very real and lifelong effects that bullying can have on its victims and also teach the kids a bit about roller derby. We hope to dissuade potential bullies and empower children enough to stand up against bullying in their schools.

Central Maine Derby also hopes to empower both grown women and men through our Fitness Skate program. This is a structured opportunity for adults to learn to skate, develop all levels of skating skills, and get some excellent and truly enjoyable exercise. This is the perfect chance for anyone who shies from the gym from fear of being judged, to get out and get moving. There is no judgment here, you can wear your tutu without reproach.

Maybe a few eyebrows will always be raised when one wears a tutu in public and is not a ballerina, maybe, despite our efforts, there will always be some bullies. But let’s all try to make less of them. Let’s think before we say, and certainly print, something that might be hurtful to an individual whose only crime was to be their own person. And let’s keep being who we are. I promise that derby girls will. All over the country they will be limping into the gas stations after practice in booty shorts and tights without fear of receiving funny looks or snickers. So what if one is occasionally mistaken for a streetwalker whom just had a rough go of it? We look silly, big deal, we feel great. So keep wearing the tutu, we’re, at least, behind you. And if you’ve never put yours on, give it a try. You might like how it feels.  

Amory Warrior: “Why I Wear Funny Socks”

cmdsocksRoller Derby has changed my life. That is not hyperbole and not intended to be dramatic. I’m an introvert. Socializing is hard for me and takes a lot of effort. When I’m at derby practice, the only effort I have to put forward is physical, and it’s freeing.

Derby is a group of women that exists not just for a sport, but to empower each other. Women are under scrutiny in every aspect of our daily lives. Work/life balance, slut shaming, body image, housekeeping, professionalism, just to name a few. We get up in the morning and even picking out what to wear is challenging. Women are constantly judged on their wardrobes even when it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

When Monika Allen ran the LA Marathon while being treated for brain cancer, she wore a Wonder Woman costume and a tutu. SELF Magazine criticized her outfit implying Allen was wearing the tutu “to make her run faster.” Even the younger generation can’t escape scrutiny. Middle-schoolers in Evanston, IL were banned from wearing leggings to school because “they were too distracting to boys.”

This kind of bullying (yes, it is bullying) should not be tolerated. We want everyone, children, women and men to be empowered to live their lives freely without judgement from others. The basis for Central Maine Derby is our anti-bullying Skate Don’t Hate program. When kids learn to respect each other, they impact the world in a positive way. The respect isn’t confined to schools. It’s contagious.

Central Maine Derby is about community and building each other up. We take people who think they have no skill or grace and, through our Fitness Skate program, we show them they can do something new and exciting. It builds us up physically and emotionally. If we can learn to skate again after decades, what can’t we do?

What we can do is wear tutus and leggings. Within the safety of our group, we can be whoever we want to be. We choose our own names, we choose our own style and we are accepted and encouraged. Want to wear bright pink fishnet tights? Rock ‘em. Want to wear knee socks with cupcakes all over them? Absolutely. Want to wear traditional workout gear? Way to be, Sporty Spice.

But again, it’s not about the outfit. That’s an accessory. Something fun. It’s about being part of a team. It’s about being pushed to your limits and realizing they were a lot further than you thought. It’s about being picked up when you’re down, literally and figuratively. It’s about feeling safe and solid within a community. It’s about loving yourself and loving others, tutus, glitter and all.

Share your thoughts on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/centralmainederby or email Amory or Serpent at centralmainederby@gmail.com.