Women on wheels

Friday, May 21, 2010

The women in this town are up to something.

They're disappearing on Monday nights. They're coming into work sore and sometimes bruised on Tuesday.

The first rule of roller derby is you tell everyone about roller derby.

A group of about 30 women have been learning to skate, learning to fall and learning the rules of roller derby from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays at the Arena Building. Their skill levels range from experienced girls from other towns to novice skaters who haven't put on a pair of traditional quad skates since they were teenagers.

The sport itself has had several ebbs and flows, most recently making a comeback in the early 2000s with the formation of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Several surrounding towns -- Marion, Ill., Paducah, Ky. -- have leagues. Cape Girardeau's fledgling team will close practices June 7, so if you're interested, you should show up soon. Men can be involved as referees.

As women in our 20s and early 30s, much of our time is devoted to school, work, family and friends. Roller derby is a chance to get active, meet new people and be a part of a team again with no stress to earn a grade or a promotion.

You just want the points. It's you and a team of powerful women.

That female camaraderie may be the strongest draw to the sport. Studies show again and again that women tend to compete more with other women in the workplace. We often form small groups in social settings that can be hard for other women to approach or join.

Skating in a circle, an inch away from other women and cheering one another on as you get more and more confident moving on wheels -- or taking a dive -- provides instant conversation, teamwork and friendship.

The sport is full of creativity from the campy outfits to the sardonic names like Grenade O'Conner, Beth before Dishonor and Holly Boo-yah.

It allows women to be show off their femininity, their strength and their resilience.

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