The sisters of no mercy
Under the harsh lights of a community sports hall, two groups of women on roller skates line up on a track, poised for take off. A whistle blows and they explode into movement, grappling, pushing and shoving each other as they try to score points. These women are copywriters, mothers and lawyers in the outside world. But put them on the track and everything changes. Ferocious and committed, they give everything for their sport.
Cape Town Rollergirls is an NPO formed in 2012 that aims to mobilise communities through the sport of roller derby. A full-contact sport played on an oval track, roller derby has grown in recent years, thanks in large part to mainstream media and the blockbuster film Whip It.
The sport consists of jams, with two teams skating in the same direction on the track. Each squad consists of five women, one of whom is a “jammer”, or point scorer. The other four are the defensive line. Points are scored when one team’s jammer laps skaters from the other team. For every skater that they pass, they earn a point for their team. It’s physically intense and mentally challenging. That’s why the women rely heavily on one other, forming a sense of community that extends beyond the boundaries of the track.
Rollergirls is not just an organisation, it’s a sisterhood. The group and its league form a space of acceptance and belonging. A strong support system exists between the women playing the sport. They help each other to get up from falling – whether on the track or in the outside world.