The idea that you have to be skinny to participate in sports isn't new.

The plus-size swimsuit model from "Sports Illustrated" posted a picture of herself in the gym, to prove that she is both overweight and fit. A video of a plus-size yogi has been making the rounds on Facebook, to the collective awe of social media. Gasp. "She can do inversions even though she has cellulite!"

It's de rigueur for big-boned humans to prove that they are athletic, since the default opinion is that if you're not a size zero you must sit on the couch all day eating bonbons. Overweight people are often assumed to be lazy, but criticized for exercising. They've been told they shouldn't wear certain yoga pants and shamed for running marathons. Imagine my shock to learn that there exists a sport that not only encourages, but actually celebrates different body types.

Liz Marsh
Liz Marsh

Enter roller derby.

I knew roller derby had a history of being punk, feminist and body-positive, but I wasn't sure how that culture would translate into actual strategy.

The basics: There are five women on each team and one of the five is called the jammer. The jammer earns points for breaking through, then lapping the rest of the pack. During the first bout, both of the jammers were the smallest girls, which made sense. They were the quickest and they fit through the spaces between blockers. They were light on their feet and used their toe stops to dance right along the boundaries to pass the pack.


During the second bout, the strategy changed completely. The jammer was one of the larger girls on the team. She was about a foot taller than anyone else, with a generous rear end. Her strategy was to fly around the track using speed and pure force to break through the blockers. She was wildly different from the other jammers, but equally as effective.

I'm a sucker for sports, particularly ones with cool costumes and good music, but roller derby provided a whole new level of enjoyment. It was a delight to watch a sport in which completely different women play in completely different ways depending on their shapes.

I don't think I'm brave enough to participate, but I love the idea of a sport in which my big ass could be the team's biggest asset.

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