Why The World Needs More Feminist Basketball

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I’ve never been good at sports. In the five years that I played softball, the only time I caught the ball was when it rolled into my foot. In the many seasons that I played soccer, I spent most of my time screaming whenever someone ran towards me. In the six years that I played field hockey, I perfected the art of sitting on the bench. You get the idea.

I may not be very athletic, but I love everything that goes with playing sports. Bonding, slapping butts, Gatorade (my party cocktail of choice) and, oh, how could I forget: uniforms. It’s all great, fun stuff. And you shouldn’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get in on it.

This January, I discovered feminist basketball. The Los Angeles Feminist Amateur Basketball League (L.A.F.A.B.L.) is more about making friends and having fun than it is about winning. It’s about wearing sparkly sashes and doing your best, rather than shoving someone out of the way to get the ball. It’s more than a sport; it’s a state of mind. Being part of L.A.F.A.B.L. made me realize that the world needs more feminist basketball—not just for people like me who aren’t very good at sports, but for everyone who wants to join a supportive community of ladies. For everyone who loves jock jams, winning trophies, and getting personalized trading cards to show their friends.

Effie “The London Tower” Ralli and Aerienne “Get Some Air” Russell are the founders of L.A.F.A.B.L. (which may or may not sound like “laughable” on purpose). In the year since the league was founded, Effie and Aerienne have successfully organized three six-week-long seasons with four teams of women who range in skill level. L.A.F.A.B.L. encourages ladies to meet each other and make friendships that last long after the season ends. The league includes a kick-off field day, when teams choose their names and colors, as well as a big “hoopenany” tournament at the end, when the winner of the season is finally revealed. I asked Effie and Aerienne more about what makes L.A.F.A.B.L. so special.

 

AfterEllen.com: How did you guys get the idea to start a feminist basketball league?

Aerienne Russell: About a year ago, I posted on the Internet “I want a basketball” and our friend brought us two basketballs. We suddenly realized we lived really close to lots of courts. We went and played a one on one game—

Effie Ralli: I’m very sporty—you’re sporty too.

AR: I’m not sporty.

ER: Well, I’m sporty.

AR: We played one-on-one and we thought, this is fun, it would be better if we had all our women friends here.

ER: We’re very good at planning things together.

AR: Our original name was “The Dunkin Nonuts.”

ER: I came up with it and I vetoed it myself.

AR: We thought, “Let’s make a space where we can all play basketball together and just have fun.”

 

AE: What’s the philosophy of L.A.F.A.B.L. in a sentence?

 AR: Women who may or may not be good at sports, playing sports, for friendship and fun.

ER: That’s good. I would add that trans and queer people are very welcome. And that it’s really fun. It’s almost a joke (but it’s not a joke). It’s meant to be ridiculous. It’s like, everyone is very enthusiastic—not because they are good but because it feels good.

 

AE: So you’re not supposed to take it seriously?

ER: Right. There aren’t many women’s sports teams, so when you do find them, they are really serious. There aren’t many people who just play team sports to have fun. We just want to hang.

AR: We have a lot of women on L.A.F.A.B.L. who have not played basketball before-

ER: And we still pass them the ball.

AR: We do! It’s a chance to try it out without pressure.

ER: It’s more about the community than the actual sport.

AR: It’s very non-exclusive. We don’t exclude based on skill and we don’t give preference to people we know—anyone can play.

 

AE: How do you organize the league?

ER: We reserve the court a month in advance, then we hope people sign up.

AR: When we first started, we invested in this dream and I was like I really hope people will be interested in this, because I just spent $400. And they were.

ER: We try to make it really affordable for people—it’s only $16 for the season, and it includes trading cards and trophies. Everyone gets prizes, even if they don’t win.

 

AE: What is your working relationship like?

AR: We have a very natural partnership in the way we think about planning events and how we visualize creative concepts.

ER: We love cuteness and fun.

AR: Yes! The most important thing to me in life is having fun with cool people. In L.A. so many people are driven to their careers and themselves—I just want to have fun with nice people– we are making a world where that is a reality.

 

AE: What makes L.A.F.A.B.L. unique?

ER: It’s very low pressure. We play inspirational music- pump up jams! Like Jock jams.

AR: The best part about L.A.F.A.B.L. is that it has a very summer camp vibe, which I don’t think is easy to attain as an adult. You get to create cheers and become temporary best friends with people.

ER: Maybe more than temporary, but at least that! It’s cute when someone falls over and everyone is like, “Wait, stop—are you OK?” One time, a defender and I, like, danced together as she guarded me.

 

AE: What kind of feedback have you gotten?

AR: We’ve had several people say it’s the highlight of their week, or the best thing that happened during their summer. We’ve definitely seen some partnerships and friendships form that weren’t there before.

 

AE: Do you guys have a sporty background?

ER: I’m a fitness instructor. I’m sporty in that way. But also I played soccer growing up and playing tennis. I like to ride my bike a lot. I’m ridiculous—I’m a Sagittarius.

AR: I’m an Aries. I’m not sporty. Although, maybe I am. I always thought of myself as clumsy and got made fun of in gym class all the time, but someone recently called me athletic. I take on the proud title of art jock.

ER: We are both musicians. A lot of people who are attracted to L.A.F.A.B.L. are artist types–we have an eclectic mix of funny people who you don’t usually see on the sports field.

 

AE: Anything else?

AR: I’ve always had an open call for L.A.F.A.B.L. halftime shows and the offer stands. If you know any dancers, beatboxers, cheerleaders, marching bands, etc. Let me know.

 

The next season of L.A.F.A.B.L. will start at the end of April. For information on how to sign up, join the Facebook group and watch for updates. While you’re at it, check out Effie and Aerienne’s other cool projects, like their band, Tonopah Music, and Effie’s Rock-Step (gender-free swing dancing).

 

 

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