Petra Mayer, NPR
Members of the Charm City Roller Girls get their stretching in before practice at Putty Hill Skateland in Baltimore.
Members of the Charm City Roller Girls get their stretching in before practice at Putty Hill Skateland in Baltimore. Petra Mayer, NPR
Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images
Oakland Outlaws team member Racey Lane (L) of the Bay Area Derby Girls is blocked by San Francisco Shevil Dead members Miss Moxxxie and Molly Mayhem.
Oakland Outlaws team member Racey Lane (L) of the Bay Area Derby Girls is blocked by San Francisco Shevil Dead members Miss Moxxxie and Molly Mayhem. Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images
The Mobtown Mods, The Night Terrors, The Junkyard Dolls… these are just a few of the teams that compete with the Baltimore-based Charm City Roller Girls, the latest throwback to the bygone era of the American roller derby.
Taking their cue from other women’s leagues from Minnesota to Texas, the Baltimore group is redefining the roller girl of the 21st century as different from the violent vamps made popular by 1970s era shows like Roller Games. These gals own and run the league themselves. They pride themselves on athleticism and sportsmanship in the style of derby-great Ann Calvello, who died of cancer last month after an athletic career that spanned seven decades.
Established last year, Charm City Roller Girls, LLC has grown much beyond its humble beginnings of informal afternoons at Skateland. It's a league with 46 members. The group has attendance and dues requirements and adheres to the rules and regulations established by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, a collection of skater-owned leagues that CCGR intends to join. Tattoos are optional.
"We can we can control our own image and the way the sport is played," says Kristin "Mercy Less" Hendrick, a member of Charm City’s Mobtown Mods. She describes the group as "a really tight, really supportive community" with a strong emphasis on feminism and sisterhood. Rules against gossiping and other negative behavior are incorporated into the league's bylaws.
Many league members are working moms but on the rink, they take on alter egos: Betsy Battleaxe, Roxy Toxic and Cindy Lop-her, to name a few. "We're leading double lives," Hendrick says. The bouts, which are drawing large crowds, are family events. Still, when adrenaline gets pumping, real fights do happen.
Teams also act as social support networks. From birthday to divorce parties, the league is a unique community one member described as "a twisted sorority."
It's a way to blow off steam, too.
"There just aren't enough places for women to form a community and play a contact sport in adult life," Hendrick says.