Rollin’ with the FM Derby Girls

Brittni Larson, MSUM Photojournalism

A Saturday night full of fishnet tights, sweaty kneepads and roller skates isn’t normal for most of us, but most of us aren’t the F-M Derby Girls.

Roller derby is a sport that became popular in the 1970s when roller skating and disco was at its height in the states. Roller skating was taken on by American pop culture, creating an interest for roller skating movies such as “Roller Boogie and “Skatetown, USA.”

Cher even used roller skating in her music video for “Hell on Wheels.”

The sport evolved from people racing in roller rinks into an actual sport. But is roller derby the same cheesy dance party portrayed in these videos?

Heck no! Roller derby today is an intensely challenging and physical sport. It’s not uncommon to see elbows thrown, girls knocked around or dropped to the ground.

Rachel Wippert, a fan of the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girl, has attended many roller derby bouts.

“Those girls are crazy tough,” Wippert said. “There’s no way I could do that.”

It’s true that roller derby is a tough sport and can cause injuries; prudently, the girls wear knee pads, elbow pads and sometimes butt pads, along with helmets, mouth guards and wrist guards. Many of the pads are required before skaters can even get on the track.

“The intense crashes are one of the best parts of going to the bouts,” says Wippert. “It’s like NASCAR. People watch for the crashes.”

Interest in roller derby has also increased since 2009’s release of the movie, “Whip It.” The movie is about a girl growing up in Texas. She rebels against her family and finds a passion for a sport she discovers – you guessed it – roller derby. The movie introduces the audience to how roller derby is played and shows the punk side of the sport.

While  “Whip It” portrays the alternative side of the roller derby community, the F-M Derby Girls strive to break the stereotype that follows roller derby girls. According to their Facebook page,

“…F-M Derby Girls are dedicated to the evolving culture and sport of the American pastime of modern roller derby. F-M Derby Girls challenges social stereotypes and strives to provide positive role models for young and old alike.”

Now that you’re fighting the urge to go home and dig out your roller skates (or purchase a new pair) there’s some good news: Your chance to see roller derby up close and personal isn’t far away. The F-M Derby Girls’ next home bout is this Saturday at the Fargo Civic Center. The F-M Derby Girls hold their all their home bouts at the Fargo Civic Center but also travel around the area. To check out their game schedule see their Facebook or official Web page.

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