By Kimberly Johnson
The Inland Empire Derby Divas formed in 2006 as a product of love and admiration for the fast-paced and unforgiving nature of roller derby—no incentives of cash flow, no promise of admiration, basically just a crazed desire to add an unexpected layer of excitement to their already jam-packed lives.
Varying from ages 19-49, the 40+ all-female roster of college students, stay at home moms, teachers, a mortuary hair stylist and an archaeologist, juggle a grueling practice regime and seasons of equally grueling games.
For the novice roller derby fan, there are a few things you need to know before stopping by a Derby Divas game next season. First, you have two teams consisting of five skaters that are simultaneously competing to score points—each team has one pivot, three blockers and one jammer. A pivot’s responsibility is to skate in front of the pack, controlling the speed, but also acting as the last line of defense against the opposing team’s jammer. Jammers are there for their stealthy speed, they are the only team player who can score. Blockers, speaking true to their name, aid in keeping the opposing team’s jammer from skating past and securing points—if you can imagine, this is all marginally more exciting when you’re viewing an actual game in motion.
While roller derby is a sport like any other—enjoyed and revered, yet still trivial in nature—phrases like “it’s just a game” don’t do much justice to the bigger picture. With the history of all-female derby teams barely exceeding a decade, current derby dolls nationwide are making sports history. These dolls are a different breed of women; aiding a movement geared towards female empowerment and pretty much reshaping gender norms left over from perplexing Leave it to Beaver-esque 1950s traditions.
The carelessness to adhere to socially constructed norms of male and female roles is pretty evident in the ladies’ game play. They are spitting, hitting, kicking, shoving, hurling and all around dominating the essence of unexpected female physicality. The game is not for the faint of heart to say the least. Blood and bruises are no rarity and taking hard falls comes with the territory. However, novice players and skaters are welcomed with open arms.
With the team currently in between seasons, trails of bobby pins and blood won’t be lining the rink floor for a while. However, that does mean the Inland Empire Derby Divas will be resurfacing with a roster stronger than ever, ready to pillage the rinks of opposing teams and stand their ground as one IE team you don’t want to f*ck with.