Masters Thesis

A League of their own: an exploration of identity construction and negotiation in the Bakersfield Diamond Divas Roller Derby Team

The Diamond Divas are an all-female roller derby team from Bakersfield, California. Established approximately in 2009, the Divas are composed of a diverse group of women from a variety of class, educational, and professional backgrounds; however, these women are united by their participation in this sport and the culture that revolves around it. Previous research has been primarily performed in the fields of sociology and philosophy, for only recently has much attention been paid to women's roller derby as an area of anthropological study, particularly in terms of gender, with little emphasis on the culture of roller derby itself. The present study examines the construction of the “roller girl” identity, a complex, and often contradictory, negotiation of more traditional conceptions of femininity, aggressive competition, and exaggerated expressions of sexuality. Some Divas function within the constraints of femininity (Hauser 2011), others actively challenge hegemonic femininity (Finley 2010), while still others are somewhere in the middle as suggest by Williams (2002) or fluctuate between these two realms depending on the situation at hand. Additionally, identity construction is also informed by the adherence, or lack thereof, to the socio-cultural norms and values of the specific geocultural context of Bakersfield. This research seeks to illuminate a growing subculture found in many cities and towns throughout the United States and documents a cultural movement that is quite active within this particular community. More importantly, it contributes to the rapidly accumulating pool of current cumulative research by presenting information from an anthropological perspective, widening our understanding of roller derby by contextualizing this specific team and these specific women, adding their voices to the ongoing dialogue concerning women and sports. 3

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