If you thought that the Japan Open was the only exciting thing happening in Asia with Roller Derby, you were wrong.
Beijing Roller Derby have been working on a project in collaboration with United Nations Women (the UN Entity responsible for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women), and today they have announced it publicly.
The “International HeForShe Roller Derby Invitational” will be a co-ed tournament, featuring skaters from Shanghai Roller Derby and Bangkok Roller Derby as well as the hosts Beijing. Hosted in Ditan Olympic Park, Beijing, from 7pm on the 3rd of May, the event will be the first ever Roller Derby tournament of any kind in China.
“The event was first a dream to bring a team to Beijing so we could finally hold a bout or a scrimmage. Our teammate Sustainable Devilment saw something bigger. With the new domestic violence law in China and the HeforShe campaign, she felt derby was a great way to show a sport that encourages women empowerment” said Bejing Roller Derby’s Jessica Jabbit.
The event is being described as a ‘scrimmage’ and an ‘informal tournament’, which we take to mean that it is not being undertaken for ranking purposes. In fact, the purpose of this event is more serious than sporting rankings; as part of the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, the aim is to show solidarity between all sexes with women across the globe, by the symbolic means of a full-contact sport where women are the dominant force.
Bangkok Roller Derby’s Jean-Claude Von Slamme spoke to us about the event, saying:
“Our team is really excited to be a part of this event as it will be our first chance to meet with other roller derby teams and play a full game together. For some of our skaters it will be the first time they have ever played on a full sized track (ours is a little small) so the experience will be hugely beneficial to not only individual development but also in inspiring a new motivation and enthusiasm in our team by giving them a real taste of Roller Derby as a professional sport and as a worldwide community. We’re extremely grateful to Beijing Roller Derby and UN Women for giving us this opportunity and working so hard to get us all there. They have been so supportive and I hope we can show our appreciation when we arrive by making this a really memorable event for everyone involved.”
There’s a draw from a high level Roller Derby perspective here, too: Gotham Girls Roller Derby‘s Sexy Slaydie and Miss Tea Maven, and New York Shock Exchange‘s Willverine, will be attending, providing a training bootcamp ahead of the tournament event itself! From Beijing Roller Derby’s perspective, this is also a great opportunity to further increase the visibility of Roller Derby in China, an aim which they have been pursuing with some success over the past 3 years. (The topic of the promotion of Roller Derby in such contexts is something which is also close to this Blog’s interests, and we will be following up on this with an article later in the year.)
Gotham’s Miss Tea Maven was keen to emphasise the wider importance of the event’s context. “Gender Equality is incredibly important for me. As a self identified cis-gendered straight female, every single person should be able to self identify how they would like to. I feel like parts of the world are taking great strides in moving forward with movements like ‘HeForShe’ but there is still a lot of work to be done. The recent North Carolina transgender bill is a very saddening example of this. We as human beings need to support our fellow human beings, and make sure that rights are equal for everyone no matter how you identify or what your birth certificate says. It shouldn’t matter – you are a human.
I am beyond excited to help support this cause through my favorite medium – roller derby – and being able to go to China is just an amazing experience… I can’t wait for the event to start!”
For more information on the UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign, go here: heforshe.org
You can watch the tournament itself live at: http://lady.163.com/special/sense/heforshe2016.html 7:00pm Beijing time (midday, UK time – although, actually, the bout is currently just being introduced at 1pm UK time…)