The Female Signifiant in All-Women’s Amateur Roller Derby

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Jennifer Carlson University of California at Berkeley

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I analyze women’s flat-track amateur roller derby by asking: how do derby skaters negotiate the requirements associated with emphasized femininity? By drawing on Hebdige’s (1979) analysis of punk, I develop the term female signifiant to argue that roller derby is an aggressive contact sport with a theatrical edge. It provides a rich, adventurous space to satirize athletic and feminine norms. Specifically, skaters’ sport participation is characterized by an interrogation of emphasized femininity without necessarily undermining the masculine/feminine gender binary.

Carlson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley.

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