Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who's the opening act?

Not too long ago, one of the Title IX bloggers (those women just rock, don't they?), wrote about the issue of double headers in intercollegiate sports. Not two games played back-to-back by the same team, but back-to-back games by a women's team and a men's team. This seems to happen most frequently in basketball. The home team hosts both the men's and women's teams from a particular institution in one night. The issue has been that often the women's games are played first making it seem like they are the opening act; the warm-up for the men's game.
Title IX is involved because the law requires equity in the scheduling of games and promotion both of which are at issue when scheduling men's games in primetime slots and relegating women to opening act status.
Some conferences have dealt with this already by switching the order of games either at some point during the season or every year.

What got me thinking about this was roller derby. Not an intercollegiate sport (wouldn't that be interesting, though?!) so it doesn't haven't to adhere to Title IX. It is also an historically women-only sport--or maybe women-dominated sport would be more appropriate.

Anyway (and I totally buried the lead here) I went to roller derby last night. This is my second time this summer and my third overall, which is odd since I am not in love with the sport, though I find it fascinating from a sociological perspective (plus it was the thing to do in town last night apparently). And since the sociocultural was foremost on my mind last night I was thinking about opening acts and sports.

Because in my neck of the woods there is both women's and men's roller derby. And both local teams were competing at the bouts I saw this summer. And the men always go first. In fact, knowing this, I opted to grab dinner and be late for the derby because I knew the men would be on first and I was more interested in seeing the women. I did see some of the men's bout and all of the women's. Not sure what the crowd thought. A lot of people left at intermission after seeing both one men's and one women's round so there wasn't seemingly a gender-based exodus or entrance as is feared will (or maybe does) happen when you put women on after men in a doubleheader set up. There were a lot of derby newbies in the crowd so maybe it was just a general fascination that kept people in their seats rather than who was competing.

There is, as I mentioned, the perception that roller derby is a women's sport and I think some newbies were surprised to see men playing. Men's participation does seem to take away some of the problematic voyeurism that has accompanied the sport.

Roller derby is ripe for analysis--and it does seem to be taken up as a hot new topic, so I think think there will be plenty more opportunities to discuss things like femininity, feminism, empowerment, sexuality, queerness, and more. This was just one not-quite-clear post about popularity, perception, and positioning.

And a good excuse to post some roller derby pics I took earlier in the summer.

PS My favorite roller derby name from last night: Bloodbath and Beyond. She was a most excellent jammer.

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