What is it that we find so riveting about roller derby girls breastfeeding?
Perhaps it's the contrast. The idea of rollerderby, the fact it's a contact sport and a little bad-ass, combined with the soft, nurturing role of breastfeeding mother. It's also an archetypal image- the Madonna and Child image- but with a twist. It's slightly subversive to combine the image of a full contact sport with the role of motherhood, especially breastfeeding. Even the visual contrast of the hard equipment with the softness of breastfeeding is interesting. It's wonderful, because it questions our notions of what women are, and what it means to be female.
Blister Sister and Scarlet by Kate Wilhelm
I included the above photo in my Sunday Feature on Kate Wilhelm. Wilhelm herself writes: "Derby throws any notions of femininity in your face. Yet many derby girls are mothers, (perhaps the ultimate "feminine" vocation), and the bouts are extremely family friendly. Immediately I wanted to get to know more about the women behind the derby personas. So, I invited myself into their homes, their private domestic spaces, the arena that is historically and culturally seen as women's space. I want the apparent incongruity of a derby girl in a domestic setting to cause the viewer to think about that incongruity and wonder if it is perhaps nothing more than a construct."
I love these images because they broaden our idea of what it means to be a woman. These women are all strong and a little dangerous, but undeniably female and maternal as well. It shows different layers and facets of what it means to be female. It also shows a unique perspective on breastfeeding, and the more breastfeeding images we have out there the less likely it will be taboo.
Honestly. Roller derby, motherhood, feminism... how could you possibly go wrong? I saw Kate Wilhelm's portfolio and I was instantly drawn to it. Obviously the photographs attract me partly because they reflect my own life and my own interests. Each photograph depicts a woman decked in derby gear but set in her own home environment.
Baroness Von Spike
I love the contrast of the derby women with their domestic scenes. I love the juxtapostion of the derby gear with the softer qualities of home life. I think these are actually a fascinating exploration of women- the complexity of what makes us female. The most classic is the one below, which mimics the classic Madonna and Child theme but with derby gear and skates. I love the contrast of hard and soft- the hard gear with soft breasts and soft babies. I think it says a lot about who we are as women, the different aspects and contradictions of what makes us female.
Blister Sister and Scarlet
Teargas Tamara with Jala, Eshe, Marco and Kez
These two remind me of classic family portrait paintings, especially the one below. The family is pictured in their environment, stoic looks on their faces, and the incongruity of derby skates and coloured, dreaded hair. I think it's wonderful.
Inna'Goddess Da-Vida with Simon, Bert and Levi
"Derby throws any notions of femininity in your face. Yet many derby girls are mothers, (perhaps the ultimate "feminine" vocation), and the bouts are extremely family friendly. Immediately I wanted to get to know more about the women behind the derby personas. So, I invited myself into their homes, their private domestic spaces, the arena that is historically and culturally seen as women's space. I want the apparent incongruity of a derby girl in a domestic setting to cause the viewer to think about that incongruity and wonder if it is perhaps nothing more than a construct." -Kate Wilhelm
Spunky Rooster and Jamie
So, as many of you might already know... I joined roller derby. I've joined The Dodge City Rollers, an enthusiastic rookie team here in Cumberland BC. I've since become a little obsessed, promoting roller derby, watching roller derby, even making roller derby art like the picture below:
I haven't given up on the Madonna and Child Project, in fact I may have a roller derby madonna to add to the lineup, but I'm just finding I have some new interests in my life. It's been quite a revelation that my body is still capable of something so physical. Childbirth took such a toll on my body and my energy levels that I almost felt like I would never get my old athletic body back. I felt like that was ok- I was willing to make that sacrifice for my kids, I was willing to give up my body for the bodies of my children. What a revelation to realize I don't have to make that choice! It's been amazing to realize that I can sometimes make myself a priority, to make sure I have a life outside of my children.
Here are some before and after photos of my progress. I have not lost much weight mind you, because I'm building a lot of muscle, but I've lost a lot of belly fat. If this doesn't inspire you to join roller derby I don't know what will.
This photo is from April 5th, when I was already feeling pretty good about my progress.
This is April 15th- only 10 days later. Maybe my bikini days aren't over after all!
So... if you ever wonder about pursuing your own interests, putting yourself first occasionally... if you ever feel guilty like I did for wanting to spend a little time away from your kids... just do it. I find I have so much more patience, so much more joy to offer my kids since I started taking care of myself. If roller derby hasn't saved my soul it at least saved my sanity!
A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.