Previous research has demonstrated that female athletes draw sexist and homophobic remarks, especially in contact sports, which are more highly valued and dominated by men. As such, female athletes have used a variety of responses to combat stigma they face; however, these responses have reaffirmed sexist and homophobic assumptions rather than contest them. In the last decade roller derby has emerged as a contact sport which is female-dominated and whose members seek to complicate gendered assumptions about sport. Analysis of semistructured, in-depth interviews with 17 female flat-track roller derby players shows that although skaters face similar challenges of sexism and homophobia skaters resist these challenges in innovative ways including demonstrating the legitimacy of the sport, educating outsiders on the diversity of players, shrugging off or defending themselves, and adopting new uniforms. This study concludes by arguing that roller derby, as a unique sport within the particular historical moment of increased LGTBQ acceptance, has implications for altering women’s relationship to sport by resisting homophobic and sexist assumptions. The altered relationship includes skaters being more open to different expressions of sexuality and gender in sport, taking control over their athletic status, and fostering a more accepting place for female athletes. In addition, this resistance has the potential to impact female athletes in contact sports other than roller derby by identifying and adopting these resistive strategies creating larger change.
Streeter is with the Department of Sociology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.