Body Image and Derby

“Lance Hardwood” Photography I’ve got a confession to make.

As a feminist it can feel like a shameful one but in all honesty, despite my knowledge of the psychological impacts of body image and the media and my rejection of the commodification of women’s beauty and capitalism’s unrealistic beauty standards….

I don’t always like the way my body looks.

This part is too round, that part’s too flat. This part is too saggy, that part’s too soft. This part’s too big, that part’s too big, oh lawdy it’s all too big!

I look at myself in the mirror as I suck in my abdomen and flex all my muscles trying to move my squishy parts around and i think, “Come on! You’re Susan B. Slamthony! You don’t care about how your body looks!”

Sorry self, I’m still a woman who has grown up in a culture that tells her to value certain bodies and how they look over others. And in a culture that tells her to always strive to change how her body looks.

So I don’t always like the way my body looks.

But, if you had asked me how I felt about my body ten years ago, I would have told you that I never like the way my body looks.

Never liked the way my body looked.

And while I was proud of my mind and my spirit, I did not see my body as something to be proud of. Not because of how it looked and not because of what it could do.

I’m five years into derby and more than anything else I’ve ever done, it has changed how I feel about my body.

On a regular basis, other women tell me that my body is beautiful, and I tell them the same of theirs. We skate around the track and I see things that I never liked about my body in the bodies of my teammates and opponents and i realize that those things I hated are not so ugly. Sometimes, I see the things I hated about my body reflected in others and I see how beautiful they are.

Even better, for the first time I see my body as not just something to be looked at, but something that is made for doing. And it does it well.

Those big thighs are made for getting low, the bulging calves are made for propelling me across the track. My soft, squishy, flabby parts don’t matter because they’re all part of this big machine that I use to compete. And I am again surrounded by women (and others) who see their bodies and mine in that same way. Our bodies aren’t just for looks, they’re for long laps and hits and cross training.

No, I don’t love my body all the time, every day. Expecting that of myself is unreasonable and sets me up for failure. But derby has given me the gift of loving it more than I ever have, which is a pretty great thing.

- Susan B. Slamthony