Last night The Sportswomen’s Ball was held at Parliament House here in Canberra. The night is part of the Sport for Women initiative, a group who aim to “… amplify the voices of people who care about the ongoing growth, development and promotion of women’s sport.” The evening was highlighted by the announcement of Australia’s Top 100 Sportswomen of All Time. Many names on this list are instantly recognisable. They are our Olympians, our ‘Golden Girls’, who no doubt have worked damn hard to excel in their chosen sports. However one in particular might not be a household name, unless of course you live and breath roller derby.
In which case the name Short Stop equates to superstar.
As someone who does indeed live derby, it is incredibly exciting to see a skater recognised for the amazing athlete she is. And I’m proud it’s a skater from my own league. I’m also excited that the nominations for this list included other skaters like Bambi Von Smash’er and many more who are all brilliant role models.
Nobody could argue that Short Stop isn’t an exceptional skater. Come along to her next CRDL home game if you aren’t convinced, where amongst a track full of amazing athletes she will be the standout. What many fans in the crowd won’t know is how hard Shorty works to be this good. She is an inspiring sportswomen and I’m pretty damn sure her training schedule would be comparable to many others on this list.
The thing is, I’m angry. Angry that this article is how The Canberra Times chose to represent Short Stop’s achievements. This list is meant to celebrate our sporting women, this article however sure reads like some disrespectful bullshit* to me. And yet being taken seriously is a challenge roller derby has to face as we move forward and grow as a sport.
Being taken seriously as a female athlete isn’t exclusive to the world of derby of course. This is a country where a daily news publication awarded their 2012 Sportswomen of the Year to a horse. Yes, yes they did. But don’t feel disheartened ladies, javelinist Leryn Franco was voted hottest Olympian at least.
The popularity of derby is growing rapidly around the world. ‘Roller sports’ has even been shortlisted for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. That’s right, a possible serious Olympic sport. Look out hot javelinist of the world, we are coming to take that title.
I do wonder what the current public perception of roller derby really is. I want you to get an image in your head. Got it?
I’m willing to bet compression tights and push ups weren’t where most of you went. In fact if by some small chance you are reading this still and aren’t involved with derby, I’d bet it was fishnets and push up bras. So I’m just going to throw this out there – so fucking what?
What does it matter how you look or what you choose to wear. I feel the days of skaters donning tutus is past as we move to a more athletic look. It’s a look I’m happy to rock, because I am an athlete. But it’s just a look and just a uniform. Women like makeup. We like our butts to look good and we like to dress however the hell we want. Whether I choose to wear hot pants and eye makeup has no bearing on my agility, or how strong I will be on the track.
It makes no difference to me as an athlete. I suspect in makes a world of difference to the perception of my sport.
* thanks to Freud, another alarming athlete, for the disrespectful bullshit line. It was indeed.