The Rollergirl Project, and redefining female strength

If you haven’t heard about Cory Layman’s Rollergirl Project: Body By Derby, then it’s your lucky day.

Spearheaded by an Indiana-based photographer, the Rollergirl Project is a collection of profiles on women who play roller derby, featuring a bare-all photo of the skater in her skates, shorts, a sports bra, and little else. These photos are accompanied by stats on the skater, including their height and weight, how long they’ve played derby, whether they exercised before starting derby, and how they exercise now.

According to Layman, the project is:

…to show the different body types of active skaters and the physical effects derby has on the players.  The main focus of the pictures will be on the form and definition and to show the shapes of derby athletes.  The ultimate goal is to show all of the different shapes and forms a derby athlete can take and that perfection is not required to be a strong, capable skater.

I love this project so hard, and was reminded of that love by a recent story by the Huffington Post. That’s because the reason I still play roller derby today – and it’s been almost four years now – is because of the sense of empowerment roller derby lends me on a daily basis. I am accepted on the track in a way I have never experienced before, especially when it comes to being accepted by other women. I mentioned this in my post on how to work out like a roller derby girl, but it wasn’t until  I started playing roller derby in 2011, when I was 24, that I truly felt comfortable in my own skin.

That’s because what I love about roller derby is the way it encourages skaters to accept, and love, your body. When you’re playing derby, your body is your weapon. In addition, roller derby requires power and strength (both mental and physical). However, the beauty is that skaters can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, be considered “heavy” or “skinny,” and yet, they’re all considered just as powerful, and just as effective, on the track.

Women are very hard on themselves when it comes to accepting their bodies, oftentimes holding themselves to impossible standards. What roller derby does is empower you as an athlete – it makes you feel strong and powerful. That then translates into a similar sense of empowerment as a woman, encouraging you to think about your body in new waysI mean, look at what you can do on the track – you just skated 27 laps in five minutes! So, who cares if you have a little bit of a muffin top? Who cares if you weigh 5-10 lbs more than you want? Your body is a MACHINE. You’ll want to fine-tune that body, of course, and work on keeping yourself strong and healthy. But if you’re focusing on building strength and becoming a better athlete, “working out” becomes less about losing weight and meeting some impossible standard of “beauty.” It’s absolutely freeing.

OK, admission: playing roller derby isn’t going to automatically get rid of all your body issues overnight. For some people, that requires something more than just twice-a-week derby practice. This is a personal journey more than anything. However, never have I felt so comfortable in my own skin than when I play derby. As I mentioned before, I was self-conscious about my body for a long time. I was always “thin,” but people were never particularly nice when they referenced how I looked. When you’re awkward, shy, and 13 years old, even a back-handed compliment about your weight can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, and so even if you actually don’t have a weight problem, you grow up never fully comfortable with how you look, and how clothes fit you, how other people look at you.

Roller derby changed that for me. My derby sisters don’t say, “Geez Rose, you’re so skinny!” Instead, they say, “Man, that was a good hit Rose!” And if they do reference my weight, it’s to point out how effective my pointy hip bones are when executing a block (heh heh … skinny girl’s secret weapon). Now, my body is mine, and I’m proud of it. It’s not perfect, and I’m no bodybuilder or super healthy-eater (I’m drinking wine … right now), but it’s strong, and it can do amazing things. You can see that same confidence in the eyes of every woman profiled as part of the Rollergirl Project, and it’s moments like these that I’m most proud to call myself a roller derby girl.

read thisCheck out the Rollergirl Project as well as Gorgeous Roller Derby Photos Redefine Strength at the Huffington Post.

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