Derby Diary #6: Roller Derby vs. Pillow Fight League…

By Roadside BombShel

Photograph by davidartimew photography 2010

Sadly, the Rollergettes’ off season is upon us. However, I know that there is really no such thing as an “off season.” There is cardio to do, muscle to gain, endurance to build, and many more laps at Scooters to be had to prepare for the games to come in the spring.  So, I was looking for something to keep me fit, hopefully something derby-esque…and then I saw it: Pillow Fight League (PFL) tryouts.

I had heard a bit about the Pillow Fight League, and know a lot of people see it as similar to roller derby.  Both involve girls fighting, crazy outfits like gold lamé hot shorts, and a tough-yet-sexy subculture.  I checked out the tryout video where they listed the attributes of a successful PFL candidate: outgoing, fit, and cute with what they described as the “Eye of the Tiger”.  I was a little intimidated by the list of requirements, but knowing that I am already on a team of strong, athletic, cool-as-hell women gave me the confidence to go through with it anyway.  I figured I already have Scorched Earth locked down, and the rest is just a matter of opinion.

The day of the tryouts I was joined by Rollergette teammate Kill Face.  We had to fill out a six page personality questionnaire, take a fitness test, and then get to the fightin’.  I squared off against last year’s PFL champion, Dinah Mite.  Refs brought us to opposing corners.  At the call “Fight Like a girl” we charged to the centre of the mats where our “weapons” were waiting, grabbed a pillow, and started swinging.  I had a few shining moments, but she quickly got the best of me.

Afterwards we talked to the guy in charge of the whole thing.  He explained that the winner of the Pillow Fighting matches is already established in advance, and the girls train to learn wrestling moves that audiences love.  He was skeptical of us being Rollergettes, saying that the problem he has had with derby girls in the past is that they just want to win.  He emphasized that unlike roller derby, PFL is all about entertaining the audience.

After seeing for myself what Pillow Fight League is about, I concluded that once you scratch the surface, it is very different from roller derby.  Here’s a chart of comparison:


Roller Derby Pillow Fight League

Is the activity inclusive and open to everyone?

Anyone who is willing to learn to skate can join regardless of previous athletic ability, stamina, or physical appearance  

You should be outgoing, fit, and cute

Does the activity involve athletic skill You need endurance and strength You need endurance and strength

Does the activity showcase the players’ athletic ability?


Yes, the outcome of matches depends on skill of the players


Yes-ish, the girls show their strength but the fights have moments that are staged and the outcome is pre-determined

I had a lot of fun at the tryouts, but I was not comfortable the call “fight like a girl” to start the match.  The girls in PFL are in impressive physical shape, but the pillows are a gimmick that makes it impossible to forget that the primary goal is to “entertain the audience”, ie/ perform for the male gaze. Is this what it means to fight like a girl?

Derby girls like to fight, too.  We fight like girls who know that how we play is more important than how we look.  We fight like girls who would never agree to throw a game because we put blood, sweat and tears into our practices.  We fight like girls who rise up to the challenge of our rivals…and we watch them all in the eye of the tiger.

I did get a call back for second tryout with the PFL, but I politely declined and opted instead to join the YMCA as a way to keep fit on the off-season.  You can catch me on the treadmill, fighting like a derby girl against my own personal best.


3 thoughts on “Derby Diary #6: Roller Derby vs. Pillow Fight League…

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