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The Unladylike Ladies of Roller Derby?: How Spectators, Players and Derby Wives Do and Redo Gender and Heteronormativity in All-Female Roller Derby

Murray, Megan Geneva (2012) The Unladylike Ladies of Roller Derby?: How Spectators, Players and Derby Wives Do and Redo Gender and Heteronormativity in All-Female Roller Derby. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

All-female roller derby is a rapidly growing full-contact sport played on quad roller skates, with a highly popularized punk, feminine, sexual and tough aesthetic. Utilising theories on the institution of heterosexuality, I conducted a qualitative study on all-female roller derby which evaluated the way in which derby aligns with or challenges heteronormativity. In order to approach this question, I analysed, firstly, thirty-eight interviews with spectators, and twelve with players about their interactions with spectators. Secondly, I interviewed twenty-six players about the phenomenon of “derby wives,” a term used to describe particular female friendships in roller derby. My findings relate the complex relationship between players and spectators by focusing on: (i) spectators’ interpretations of the dress, pseudonyms, and identities of players, as well as the ways in which they were actively involved in doing gender through their discussions of all-female, coed, and all-male roller derby; (ii) players’ descriptions of their interactions with spectators, family members, romantic partners, friends and strangers, regarding roller derby. Additionally, I address the reformulation of the role “wife” to meet the needs of female players within the community, and “derby wives” as an example of Adrienne Rich’s (1980) “lesbian continuum.” “Derby girls” are described as “super heroes” and “rock stars.” Their pseudonyms are believed to help them “transform” once they take to the track. Roller derby is seen as providing a venue to showcase women’s strength and new conceptualizations of femininity and motherhood. However, my findings also indicate that with its many challenges to gender stereotypes, heterosexuality and gender dualism are pervasive and evident in the sport. Even though derby has done much to expand gender expectations, these expectations have only been expanded; they are not diminished or eradicated. Despite this, through all-female roller derby, women are seen as acting in new, transformative ways.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Women's Studies (York)
Depositing User: Ms M Geneva Murray
Date Deposited: 16 May 2012 08:32
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2327

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