Roller derby is a booming new sport across the world, with Chinese women the latest to get their skates on.
Erin Byrnes, Presented by

The Conversation
2 Jun 2016 - 11:30 AM  UPDATED 2 Jun 2016 - 11:30 AM

Sport. Is there anything it can’t do?

Recently we saw a massive human rights conference place the importance of sport on the agenda, another huge step in recognising all the ways in which women are empowered through sport.

Last month, we saw yet another example of this, with UN Women partnering with Beijing Roller Derby to stage an exhibition event - the first ever public roller derby match in China.

UN Women ran the event under the #HeForShe  campaign, which promote gender equality as a human rights issue, not a “women’s issue”.

It’s wasn’t the first time roller derby has been played in China - it’s been around since the mid 2000s - though many players are ex-pats. However, an increasing number are Chinese nationals.

While China is certainly no stranger to the idea of female athletes, they tend to come in the form of swimmers and gymnasts - certainly not high contact sports such as roller derby.

As one roller told The Conversation;

“The idea of a woman being athletic is strange but the idea of a woman being athletic hitting another woman is also out of this world.”

As The Conversation discovered, those involved in derby note that feminist values such as gender fluidity, equality, democracy and empowerment are an important part of the sport.

It might have only been a small step for derby, but it could prove to be the beginning of a much larger one for women’s rights in China.

The Roller Girl Project: celebrating the diverse bodies of Roller Derby
This online photo project explores the diversity and acceptance amongst the fierce and powerful competitors of this gruelling sport.