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'Rollergirls'

Is A&E's new reality show a feminist-influenced 'go girl'-fest -- or just another excuse to show women traipsing around in their underwear?
 
 
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Tonight at 10 pm, A&E will premiere its much-hyped new reality show, "Rollergirls."

Created by the producers of MTV's rich-teen angstfest "Laguna Beach," "Rollergirls" promises to follow "the exploit [ sic] of these fearless females as their teams compete in the league created by the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls, an Austin, Texas-based sports and entertainment company."

With cutesy, sweet 'n' vicious names like "Punky Bruiser," "Miss Conduct," and "Venis Envy," the women of Austin's competing roller derby teams look like Suicide Girls on wheels. A&E claims the ladies "put their all into each bout and sometimes don't let little things like the rules get in the way of their quest for victory."

Yawn. Yes, I admit: I derive a tiny bit of guilty pleasure from watching women beat people up -- I was a massive fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and nary a horror flick goes by without earning my $10 ticket. Still, I'm tired of the hyper-sexualization of women in sports. (OK, so roller derby isn't the NFL; it's still an athletic pursuit, yes?)

It's like men (and some women) can't handle the notion of ladies being strong, fierce, or angry unless they're also wearing fishnets, push-up bras and plaid mini-kilts. But why do we enjoy seeing women beat and maim other women, anyway? Is it just the whole naughty-girl thing -- oooh, the sexy young vixens using their fists to channel their competitive streaks? Is it appealing because of its rebelliousness -- watching women break the stereotypical, passive good-girl mold? Or is "Rollergirls" just -- as I suspect -- another voyeuristic excuse to show young women traipsing around in their panties?

I don't have the answers yet, but maybe the show's first episode tonight will help me figure it out.

Laura Barcella is AlterNet's front page editor.