Meet Feline Distemper: May’s Title IX Hero

Meet Feline Distemper: May’s Title IX Hero

Photo Credit: Danny Ngan

Growing up in my family, extracurricular activities were mandatory. I joined the Girl Scouts, I was in the school band, and every season I played a sport. On some level, every sport I played was made possible by Title IX.  But you could argue that I could have done basketball, softball and swimming without it- that they were pretty socially acceptable for girls by the time I was in school. What changed my life the most was wrestling, and I fully believe that without Title IX, I would have been shut out of such a male-dominated sport.

I should tell you that I am about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weigh well over 200 pounds. In a full contact sport like roller derby, that is an advantage, and my size isn’t so unusual for this sport. What is unusual is that I’ve been this size since about the sixth grade. I took ballet for years, but once we were ready to try toe shoes, I knew that it wasn’t going to last.

Photo Credit: Danny Ngan

I started leaning towards team sports that had more physical contact. Even then, my positions were limited by what others believed I was capable of. I wasn’t trained to be faster for softball or more agile for basketball. I was trained to be a power hitter and a pitcher, to jump for free throws and block shots.

Then in junior high my best friend, who I loved to wrestle with, told me how much he loved being on the wrestling team. Myself and a few female friends wanted in, but since there weren’t enough girls to form a team we were told (much to our surprise) that we could play with the boys. And that’s exactly what we did.
That year I trained harder than I ever had before. My size was seen as a strength, not a limitation. If my 110-pound teammate could train to throw opponents, I could train to do rolls and flips. If she could be strong, I could be fast. During my one season wrestling, I lost 30 pounds in two months and then stayed that weight. I kept getting stronger, faster, and more fit. I realized that if I never in my life fit into a single digit pant size it wouldn’t mean that I was lazy or weak. I started to bragging about being able to beat up boys, not hiding it. I gained a new respect for my gender, realizing that we could step onto the mat against male opponents and wrestle them into submission. We could compete in spite of pain, soreness and injury. I learned that we (that I) could do anything. And if it wasn’t for that, I can’t say for sure if I would have had the perseverance and self confidence to come, alone, to my first practice with Humboldt Roller Derby. I never would have believed that I could be here, 3 1/2 years later, skating with the Rat City Rollergirls.