In the wake of the Kavanagh accusations, roller derby officials show their true colors

Anyone who has been following current events, even just a little, already knows that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is currently facing several accusations of sexual assault. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was the first to make an accusation, and she testified yesterday before Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both in high school during the summer of 1982.

Survivors of sexual assault have watched as people have accused Dr. Ford lying and of partaking in a partisan “witch hunt” and “lynch mob” designed to drag out the confirmation process until after the mid-term elections. Many have been re-traumatized as they have seen their own experiences of not being believed — of being accused of lying about their experiences — writ large across the world’s stage.

And in the derbyverse, we have watched as some men have shows their true colors.

On September 26, Infinity Roller Derby official Nick Castrillon (derby name Snatch A Ho) posted a series of FB responses suggesting that he, too, drank too much and assaulted women. When called out by a woman on Facebook, he responded that she wouldn’t have to worry about being sexually assaulted, implying that she wasn’t attractive enough to be raped.

Within hours, Infinity Roller Derby removed him from the league.

Yesterday, official Desmon Bryant, of Inland Empire Derby Divas posted his reaction to a social media post that had been circulating. The text of the original post reads:

Dear Men:
Don’t try to be clever today.
Don’t try to make light of what’s happening.
Don’t offer what you think is a comforting hug.
Don’t ask, now, what we think about what’s happening.
Don’t ask if we believe her.
Don’t question if it’s happened to us.
Sit down.
Shut up.
LISTEN.
Access your humanity and decency and just pay effing attention.
Google your questions.
Reflect on yourself, on your life, on your behaviors, habits, words.
Reflect on how you can do better.
Reflect on your sexism, your bias, your misogyny.
Reflect on your privilege, your power, your entitlement.
Take a step back for just. one. day. I promise you, you’re all still in charge, in control, in power.
But right in this moment. Just, step back.
Or I swear to God, I will push you.

His reaction was:

Roller derby, we need to do better. Clearly, we are not immune from the toxic attitudes we are seeing all over television and all over social media. While leagues like Infinity Roller Derby should be lauded by taking decisive action in an effort remove people with these attitudes from these spaces, there is more we can all do. A fellow roller derby official posted a status on social media that eloquently states what must be done is is reprinted below:

Friends, I am super glad that folks are signalboosting the recent comments of a derby referee in California who yesterday posted a slew of sexist, horrifying comments on a thread (that thread is circulating; if you haven’t seen it, find it). I’m glad the league he most often worked with tossed him and made a public statement about doing so. I hope their their next step will be to remove him from their website. (Edit: they have done so.) I also hope other leagues in the area won’t staff him, because, holy moly, people who support rape culture sure as hell shouldn’t be officials — or be allowed to participate in derby at all.

But just because this is happening today in CA doesn’t mean it’s not also an issue in New England. It wasn’t all that long ago that a known rapist was officiating games, with leagues defending and staffing him. There’s still an official who’s known for flashing his testicles in the locker room at games. He still gets staffed. A official who left my former league was accepted to transfer to not one but two! other! leagues! after being removed after years of concerns about him. There’s still someone active in many roles in derby, who made derby toxic and traumatic for many people in the region through her harassment, abuse, and bullying, and yet is still active in New England in a variety of roles.

And this is just officiating. Imagine what else is happening.

Here’s what else I want you to do:

Someone in your league has a terrible derby name — this official chose “Snatch-a-Ho” for his. Shut it down. Leagues, do you have regulations about names? Maybe you should. Skaters, officials — you have derby names from a by-gone era? CHANGE THEM. Clever nicknames to get around your gross, sexist derby name aren’t enough, btw.

You’re not able to get officials to work your games? ASK WHY. Maybe it’s not that you are in a geographically isolated region. Maybe it’s because you’re still staffing the dude who gets off on flashing his testicles in the locker room.

Stop staffing jerks. The rules do not require you to have 7 on-skates officials. Sometimes it’s better to run a game short.

Listen. When your officials relay information about this stuff, really listen. Ask us before you book games with leagues. It’s a horrifying experience to show up to work a game and discover that the person who bullied, harassed, and stalked you to the point where you left a league to get away from them because leadership wasn’t helping is bench managing the opposing team. I’d rather work less than deal with that. Even if it’s a home game. Even if it’s the best home game of the year.

Vote with your damn feet. If a league is maintaining an environment that is sexist, racist, generally gross, bad to officials, toxic, etc. etc. DON’T WORK THEIR GAMES. Even if it’s last minute. Even if they’re short staffed. Even if a team you feel connected to is playing against them. If folks aren’t actively working to make derby a safer space, and are instead being complacent about these issues, why would you help support this league with your time, your labor, and your expertise?

Someone asked me last year if I’d retired from derby since they didn’t see me working so many games any more.

No, I said. I just stopped working for leagues that support rapists.

We need to do better.

As always, if you have an experience to share or just want someone to listen to you, we are here for you. We see you. We support you. We believe you. Please take care of each other during this difficult time.

 

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13 comments

  • How about getting rid of the misogynistic skate names for the refs. Really, Snatch-A-Ho? I have seen my share of “winners” over the years. If roller derby is going to be a safe place for women and girls, it needs to remove the innuendo and the misogyny. Its sending the wrong message and is yet another reason why the mainstream will never take DIY derby seriously as a television worthy sport.

  • Where do I even begin! My post yesterday is not an attack on any victims of abuse in any way and I am sorry that you the masses are so MISINFORMED. That being said it is time to get serious. We now live in a world where it is totally ok to slander and smear someone’s reputation and livelihood over a disagreement. Let me be clear so there is no confusion. I support any victim and the legal system that we ALL must participate in to get true JUSTICE! Sadly we now live in a time where the perception is that the legal system has let us down sadly it has in some cases, but this perception has led to the masses holding their own form of trial in print and on social media. I am not ok with this and neither should you be. I take offence to the way the Snatch situation was handled after he was told he is no longer welcome within the derby community. His actions and words were wrong and he has paid the price for that. No argument here!!! What I took offense to was the garbage being spewed about him by people that have never interacted with him outside of the internet. The suggestions of bodily harm and threats upon his ability to make a living go far beyond justice into bullying and lynch mob mentality and that should not be accepted as well.
    Now to my actions yesterday. I took offense to the original post when I saw it. I take offense as a person being told sit down and shut up! I take offense as a person being told that I need to reflect on my life, behaviors, words, sexism, bias, misogyny and habits! Yes, I know that the original statement wasn’t directed at be but I took offense none the less. Was my timing bad, maybe but when is a good time!?! If you cannot support the growth of women’s rights and the strong support for victims without putting men as a whole down then you and I don’t need to be friends. You are on notice! I support the due process that every victim and the accused must go through when actually seeking justice. This social media guilty until proven innocent bullshit is not ok and goes completely against the equality we all so dearly want. I’m sorry if you feel like my timing was insensitive and you are rightfully entitled to your opinions. What has transpired since my message is a SHIT SHOW. EACH and every one of you out there spreading lies, rumors, and placing false judgement on my character are the PROBLEM not the solution! I will not be the target of your simple minded, weak spirited witch hunt. I AM A PERSON WITH AN OPINION, YOU WILL NOT INTIMIDATE ME!!! Anyone that has sent more than 5 minutes with me knows that I am not the villain you are trying to make me out to be. I treat everyone with the respect that they show me, but will defend myself when I must. This is not me making excuses and back peddling at all. I stand behind my post however ill-timed you might feel it was and hope that this sheds more light on my motives.
    As to the nature of my name. It was given to me, and all parties involved in the events that led up to me being named where consulted before it was given to me. Rainbow SmasHer has absolutely nothing to do with violence towards anyone. Your assumption is incorrect!
    As the original post said! Reflect on how you can do better as will I, because the fact that I’m even having to write this shows just how backwards the world and derby really is! WE CAN ALL DO BETTER!

  • “I take offense as a person being told that I need to reflect on my life, behaviors, words, sexism, bias, misogyny and habits!”

    This. This is the problem. This is the problem with America, and probably life. God, have an ounce of self awareness.

  • I have known Desmon for many years. My parent’s funerals. My children’s Graduation from elementary school and up. Traveling for derby for more seasons than I can count, sharing hotel rooms even the same bed while I have been extremely intoxicated. Not once was he inappropriate ever. I have called him in the middle of the night needing help and no questions asked he was there for me. I have never seen or even heard of him disrespecting, talking down, belittling or harming a soul. He has given his time, his heart and his love to derby. Ask anyone who knows him personally and you will hear the same experience as me over and over again. He should not be lumped into this article with a person like Nick. He is nothing what so ever like that man. Everyone is entitilted to thier opinion even Desmon. The malicious things I have seen is beyond me. If a group of men singled out a women for posting her opinion on her on Facebook weather we agreed or not, we would be defending her right to free speech in a heartbeat. I do not condone Nicks actions in any way what so ever. I do stand behind Desmon. His opinons are his own and he has the right to have them. I do not have the right to threaten, verbally abuse and spread lies on things i know nothing about because i do not agree with him.i know the kind of man Desmon is. Almost 10 years given to derby with out question and with out fail. I’m in shock this is where we are at.

  • “I know this guy, he’s my friend and *I’ve* never seen him do this” seems to be the reaction whether the guy is an assaulter or not. No one has accused him if assault, only of being an a**hole. Stop defending a**holes.

  • Sounds a lot like the people who cape for rapists because they’ve been decent people to their friends for years. You sound exactly like the rape apologists who are continually being blasted publicly, as they should be.

  • Desmon, from one man to another, let me suggest that it is you, rather than your critics, who are drastically misinformed about what happened here.

    Because of the biases in our culture and society, a man who has a credible accusation of sexual assault against him is about to be appointed for a lifetime post to the highest court in the land. Dr. Ford has information that speaks to his worthiness for that post, and the nature of that information is such that many, many women are being forced to relive trauma visited upon them by men, whether they want to or not. Their pain is being put on display, and its validity is being questioned at every turn.

    In that context, you saw a post addressed to the general public from someone you don’t know and who didn’t know you. In that situation, rather than understand the post for what it was, you chose to center yourself and make it about how this post offended you personally. Not about Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh, you decided that you were the most important factor relating to this post, and you responded in that context. You took a thing about the pain other people were feeling and you made it about you. Understand that you did that thing, and that’s a big piece of why people are justifiably criticizing your statements. Not bad timing, not misunderstanding, and certainly not some weird perceived reverse sexism. What you did in and of itself are what people are pissed about, and rightly so. Listen to them and understand why what you did pissed them off.

    Any man worth his salt read that post and did not take offense because they were already realised that their own voice was overrepresented in the situation, and thus were sitting down, shutting up, and listening. They didn’t need to be told to do it, and they didn’t want a cookie for doing what they were supposed to do. That being told to do those thing rankles you tells me that you have a lot of work to do if you want to be usefully involved in a community with the ideals that the derby community is striving for.

    Don’t be defensive. Just take this experience and go learn to be better.

  • ” I take offense as a person being told sit down and shut up!”
    NOW YOU KNOW HOW WOMEN HAVE BEEN FEELING FOR CENTURIES!

    … The tears of the fragile male are DELICIOUS!

  • I am in no way condoning either of the above mentioned refs when I say I understand the knee jerk defensive reaction. I would not liked being lumped in with every misogynistic/sexist piece of crap male in the world because that is how I reacted when I first read this.

    I stepped back and put my fragile male ego aside and really read the words. I can say from personal experience I have never sexually harassed anybody. I have been sexually exploited by an ex-girlfriend (far too personal to elaborate on) and been sexually harassed by female skaters (specifically having my head/helmet and once even my face humped by different female skater during equipment check back in the day when I was very new to reffing and didn’t realize this was not acceptable behavior. These were isolated incidents so I feel it was the exception and not the norm.

    Since then I have seen much more respect directed at me which is sad because I have seen a total lack of respect by other male refs at the skaters (heterosexual, gender fluid and LGBTQ female skaters).

    Now this is not intended on being a “we’re not all like this” post because a frightening amount are. Here’s the thing, if you are a male witnessing these behaviors and not actively speaking out against it to hold our fellow males accountable you are somewhat guilty by enabling them to thinking it is okay.

    I am no longer a roller derby ref but when I started over a decade ago my mentor seemed like an honorable man until I heard him make an off-handed comment about taking advantage of one of the skaters on our league while she was passed out drunk at an after party. He was dating her at the time but that is not a valid reason for making the statement that “the great things is when she passes out I can do whatever I want with her.” It saddens me that a sport that helped my really discover who I am as a person, an official and a man is potentially a breading ground for guys to perpetuate out-dated sexual predator behaviors that were never okay but simply ignored to avoid conflict and short-staffing officials for bouts.

    This whole situation reminds me of a quote from the movie Say Anything which is “Don’t do that…..be a guy. There are millions of guys out there in the world, be a man.” By that I mean show women the respect you would show your mother/sister/cousin/niece/daughter and leave them alone if they are not interested. Not everybody in the world is going to want you in a sexual or even in a platonic capacity. If they don’t, respect that and don’t call them a bitch or try to change their minds by force.

    There is only one true word that demonstrates consent and that is “yes”. Not maybe, not I don’t know, only yes. Unless you hear that said to you under sober/non-intimidated circumstances just back the eff off and let them be. I am sorry for the length of this post but I could not keep silent about this. To repeat what was stated earlier “we need to be better”, if we can’t be then we are no better than savages and animals flinging our feces at each other and pissing on everything and everybody we feel is ours.

    To respond the “Dear Men” letter,
    Sexual mistreatment of women by men is never okay to be clever about and make light of. I would only be there to provide a comforting hug if it was requested. I don’t need to ask to know there is understandable outrage over what is happening and this has happened too many times to even have to ask if you believe her. I would never ask if it has happened to you because if it happens to one, it happens to all. I will not just sit down and shut up, I will also stand behind you whenever you need it and always listen even if all you have to say is “men are trash.” My humanity is what compels me to be better and not have have sexist/biased/misogynistic behaviors/habits/words. Every day I strive to be a better person for myself and everyone around me. The only power and control I have is over myself and my actions. I choose to not abuse that and give all of the respect I can to all people.

    I have worked a tournament with the woman who originally posted this on Facebook and I had then, and still have, the utmost respect for her and her feelings of anger towards this. I am posting this out of my respect for those who have endured this type of terror, not out of anger.

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