High Heels and Fast Wheels: Alternative Femininities in Neo-Burlesque and Flat-Track Roller Derby

Date of Completion

January 2010


Women's Studies|Sociology, General|Gender Studies|Recreation




This research explores the ways in which notions of gender, sexuality, identity, and body are reified, destabilized, complicated, and in some cases, politicized by participants within two contemporary, female-dominated, leisure-based activities. I argue that neo-burlesque dance and flat-track roller derby offer women performative opportunities to transgress cultural norms regarding gender and sexual identities, and the appearance and performance of the physical body. My research investigates how neo-burlesque dancers and flat-track roller derby skaters negotiate their “alternative femininities” interactionally, performatively, corporeally, and rhetorically. Using a combination of ethnography, participant observation, in-depth interviewing, and content analysis, I examine how femininities are constructed in subcultures created explicitly by and for women, how burlesque dancers and derby skaters embody and perform these potentially transgressive femininities, how femininities are “queered” and/or deconstructed rhetorically, and whether modern-day burlesque dancers and derby skaters view what they do as oppositional or political. ^