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Published on July 8th, 2015 | by Em Dash

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Your Feet Are Fine: Female Bodies and Sports

I read an excellent interview with Amanda Bingson, the total badass Team USA Track & Field hammer thrower in ESPN The Magazine‘s 2015 Body Issue. I’m so psyched that she’s out there in the world helping represent the huge range of athletic female bodies. But something from the piece struck me like…well, like a hammer.

“You have all this weight just hanging on the edge of your fingers, and with the velocity coming around it, it just destroys your hands. I get manicures every two weeks on my ugly hands and I’m all apologetic: ‘I know my hands are disgusting. I throw stuff. I’m sorry.'”

This stopped me dead. I’ve said this exact thing about my feet, which have been destroyed by roller derby and my (former) habit of wearing high heels. And I’ve heard it from pretty much every derby player I’ve ever talked to about feet. Don’t look at my feet. They’re so ugly. I can’t wear open-toed shoes. Etc. etc. etc.

What does it mean that women who are tough and strong and doing incredibly cool things are apologizing for how we inhabit our bodies and the marks that leaves on them? That some mothers are ashamed of their stretch marks and the weight they gain when they’re pregnant with their children?

It took hearing it from someone else to make me realize how unacceptable it is to me that I’ve internalized this idea that I need to look a certain way. I both love what my body can do and sometimes hate that it doesn’t look “perfect” the way magazines and TV define that word. But that concept of perfect is a wall we all build one brick at a time. All of us are responsible for tearing that wall down.

I was psyched to get further in the article, where Amanda says:

I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.

Me too, Amanda. And all the scars, the lumps, the tweaks, the missing toenails, all of that is a record of what I’ve accomplished and what I can do now. I’m going to strive to like everything about my body, too. It’s not perfect. It’s lived in. And that’s just great.

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Em Dash is a skater with Gotham Girls Roller Derby, which she joined in 2008 after a brief stint with Suburbia Roller Derby. She is also a founding member and Editor-in-Chief of Derbylife.com. For more of her writing, check out her new book, Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby. (July 2015) http://www.gutpunchpress.com/

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About the Author

Em Dash is a skater with Gotham Girls Roller Derby, which she joined in 2008 after a brief stint with Suburbia Roller Derby. She is also a founding member and Editor-in-Chief of Derbylife.com. For more of her writing, check out her new book, Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby. (July 2015) http://www.gutpunchpress.com/



  • Kenneth Nielsen

    Derby is the best sport for learning to love and appreciate your body just the way it is. There is no perfect body for Derby. At every position from jammer to blocker you have skaters of every size and shape that not only play the sport but excel at it. Being strong and athletic does not mean looking like a fitness model from a magazine. Derby let’s you discover what you and your body are capable of in a situation where no one is judging you by some ideal body type. Bruises and scars aren’t hidden away. They are part of what every skater experiences and accepted as such. Acceptance is a big part of Derby and learning to accept and love yourself just as you are is the start of sharing that acceptance with others.

  • Named Tawny

    As a runner, I can entirely sympathise. It took me a while to get to love my dead toenails and other foot ephemera that come with running (and derby). Still, now when I look down at my muscled, taut feet, I love every inch of them.

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