Can roller derby bring gender equality to China?

Members of Beijing Roller Derby. (Facebook)

China’s largest roller derby league is partnering with UN Women to “shine the Olympic spirit on gender equality” with an upcoming exhibition match in Beijing.

As part of the #HeForShe campaign, amateur teams from Shanghai and Bangkok will travel to the track to do battle with the Beijing team as part of the International HeForShe Roller Derby Invitational.

Beijing Roller Derby skater Loretta Perera told Time Out Beijing that the campaign and her league are about the same ideals: “Unlike men’s football where you rarely get female referees and officials, Beijing Roller Derby promotes equality between men and women in a female-dominated sport.” BRD is a co-ed league with men and women participating on and off the track.

Roller derby arrived in China in the mid 2000s and leagues sprung up in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Many players are ex-pats, but an increasing number are Chinese nationals.

Beijing Roller Derby. (Facebook)

Beijing Roller Derby. (Facebook)

“I love sports, roller skating is a new sport in China, not a traditional one. Besides, roller derby is a sport that comes from western countries, it represents western culture. It is new in China, so I love it,” one young Chinese woman told the Conversation. However, another shared her father’s displeasure with her participation, and a third pointed out how alien the concept of females competing in the rough and tumble world of roller derby still is:

“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.”

The match is also an opportunity for UN Women to highlight China’s first domestic violence laws, only recently passed, which are supposed to encourage people to report incidents.

Read the full story at The Conversation and Time Out Beijing.

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