By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Her roller derby teammates know her as “Cagey Kajee,” but she can now be referred to as a nationally published essay-writer.
Kajee Kodrich-Quick, a State University College at Oneonta junior from Unadilla, said she was surprised and excited when she found out that her essay “Hitting up the ladder: Leadership Lessons from a Derby Girl” would be published in the March issue of “Women in Higher Education,” a nationally recognized, monthly journal.
The essay, which began as an independent study, discusses the growing sport of roller derby and the ways in which it has defied many ingrained ideologies regarding women and gender, 20-year-old Kodrich-Quick said.
A member of Oneonta’s Hill City Rollers, Kodrich-Quick said roller derby, which she has been involved in since 2012, has given her more confidence. She said increased confidence is a common effect of the sport.
“We can wear whatever we want,” Kodrich-Quick said, “instead of being told what to wear. We often wear fishnet stockings and short shorts.”
But the confidence stems not just from the ability to choose one’s own outfit, Kodrich-Quick said, but from the way in which roller derby challenges societal norms regarding strength, beauty and a woman’s body. She said her team is very close, and does not discriminate based on body type, an issue she said she’s all too familiar with.
“There are no cliques like there were in many of my high school sports teams,” she said. “Derby is an all-inclusive sport,which embraces and needs all body types to make a strong team. Everyone has the chance to grow as players and try different positions.”
Professor of English at SUNY Oneonta and Chairwoman of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department Susan Bernardin said Kodrich-Quick approached her last summer with a unusual idea for an independent study, in which she would examine how roller derby participants are challenging ideas of beauty, strength and sexuality. Bernardin said, after attending a bout, she was amazed at the number of people involved, and the energy and fun that was apparent.
“Roller derby’s explosive growth across the country among women from diverse backgrounds offers us interesting opportunities to address the sport’s relationship between athleticism and performance, femininity and masculinity,” Bernardin said. “I think the sport speaks to the desire of women across the nation to challenge traditional gender norms and reshape them.”
Bernardin said Kodrich-Quick, a physics education major with a minor in women’s and gender studies, showed great initiative in researching and writing the essay, reading articles by sociologists and other social scientists and interviewing players on her team about how roller derby has shaped their perception of feminism, of themselves and their bodies.
Kodrich-Quick said the opportunity to be published in “Women in Higher Education” came after the college’s Women’s and Gender Studies and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences departments in November hosted Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, president of Southern Polytechnic State University.
“We had a small sit-down get together with her and discussed being a woman in a science field,” Kodrich-Quick said. “Dr. Bernardin had me explain my ideas to Lisa Rossbacher, who was very interested and encouraged me to submit an essay about my experiences with roller derby to the journal.”
Bernardin called Kodrich-Quick’s published essay “awesome,” and said the editor at the respected national journal was also very excited about the topic.
“I’m so proud of Kajee,” Bernardin said. “She models excellence in everything she does. It was a pleasure to work with her and learn from her.”
Kodrich-Quick’s coach, Beth Ashbaugh, otherwise known as “Shear Terror,” said Kodrich-Quick is “incredibly dedicated.”
“She’s injured right now,” Ashbaugh said, “but she still attends every practice. She’s really involved, and an incredible asset to the team. For someone her age to be taking on these kinds of issues is outstanding.”
As a woman entering the physics teaching field, Kodrich-Quick said, she wants to show other young women that they can succeed in the scientific world. She hopes her essay helps get more women interested in roller derby, she said, and makes them realize that there are sports out there that accept and need women from all walks of life and of all body types.
“I want people to know that women can be aggressive,” Kodrich-Quick said. “And they can be role-models.”