Scars and Stripes

About the Project


“Scars & Stripes: American Roller Derby” is an inquiry into social class, subculture, and counterculture. What motivates people to form individual identities and groups outside of widely accepted social norms? It seeks to capture the entrepreneurial spirit that brings modern roller derby alive; the extraordinary bonds that are created among the participants, the invigorating and infectious fanaticism, the exploitation of sexual stereotypes, and our cultural fascination with extreme sports. Ultimately the project is about passion: passion for community, and for participating in bold activities; and how such passion finds a place in our everyday lives.

While this unique American-born sport has its roots in sports entertainment, modern derby is committed to “facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportsmanship, and goodwill among member leagues” with leagues governed “by the skaters, for the skaters”—the primary owners, managers, and operators of each member league of associations such as the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) are the skaters themselves.

In part because of its non-discriminatory nature, roller derby is currently the fastest growing sport in America, quickly moving from obscure sub-culture to mainstream pastime with more than 750 teams in the United States, and more than 1,300 worldwide. While the modern version initially featured only all-female leagues; they now include an increasing number of male, co-ed, and junior leagues, all sharing a strong “do it yourself” (DIY) ethic which uniquely combines athleticism and elements from punk, camp, and third-wave feminist aesthetics.

The DIY spirit that drives the sport allows roller derby leagues to create their own unique identities and adapt their structures to reflect their local communities. It attracts women and men from small towns and large cities alike, housewives and working professionals, and bridges socio-economic classes.