Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let"s Ban Cheerleaders from Women's Sports

A long time ago I took my daughter to her first women's basketball game. I wanted to expose her to a sport I loved and give her an idea of how young women can play a sport with strength, intensity and beauty. She loved the game and squealed and yelled and devoured food. When we got home she excitedly told her lawyer mom, "I want to be one of the girls that wears the cute dresses." Needless to say, my wife was not pleased that I had inspired my daughter to aspire to be a cheerleader.

I still go to women's athletics events and endure cheerleaders on the side. Yelling, twirling, wearing very short skirts and bare midriffs, and hunky guys who hold them up after they kick and grind and unveil rictus smiles to the crowd. Cheerleaders at women's games make no sense. They parade an alternative definition of women projecting sexualized supporting objects on the sidelines. If you want you can go to the site "hottest girls of cheerleading" to comparison shop.

Women's sports exists to provide an arena for young women to excel in areas of body and space denied them in the past but now open to them. It expands the definition of physical and moral attributes available to women. Young women who play sports develop strengths and self images not available in the normal course to women thirty years ago except as pathfinders and outliers. Now sports and its excellence exist as a normal aspiration from the age of five on.

So why do we continue to parade cheerleaders on the sidelines? It makes a distorted sense that they shout and pout on the sides during men's basketball games with its preening ego exalted  show boat  ethos. How nice to have supportive little women on the sidelines. And of course they seem to belong amid the militarized splendor of football with its ultra-montane exaggeration of male violence and swaggering corporate dedication to gaining TV exposure. Having cute girls (sorry I mean young women) on the sidelines bumping, grinding, yelling and doing whatever diluted hooker moves are allowed these days, all fit with the spectacle. They shouldn't be there, but they are. I once asked a very thoughtful senior female administrator why we still have cheerleaders. She looked at me and said, "marketing, marketing pure and simple, look at the demographics." She was not smiling.

OK. I get it, but it makes no emotional or moral sense to have this alternative vision of  girls (sorry I mean young women) can be co-existing with the proud secure accomplished women of college athletics.

The terrible irony here is that the cheerleaders are there because of Title Nine. If the men's basketball team gets the band; the women's basketball team should get the band. If men's basketball teams get spandex encased dancers; women's teams get dancers. If men's team's get cheerleaders, then women's teams should have cheerleaders.  The logic makes a bizarre sort of sense, but women cheerleaders mock the deep intent of Title Nine.

Let's just get rid of them.

11 comments:

  1. Good points. Another (rhetorical) question I have is: why don't the women teams have all-men cheerleaders?

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  2. Idiotic post. Cheerleaders are there because the fans like them, period. Girls become cheerleaders because they want to and because they enjoy it. Stop being such a p*ssy whipped little girly man. Your wife is the one who has the problem for being angry because her daughter wants to be a cheerleader - there's nothing wrong with that.

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    1. enjoys flaunting his little girl around a field in her underwear. f@ck yea robert. at least you'll be there to take care of the kids right :)

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  3. I agree with Robert Park's opinion, however not the way he presented it. The internet is polluted enough as it is, I hate when insults get in the way of what could otherwise be an intelligent conversation.

    Anyway, here's my opinion: For evolutionary reasons, women are hardwired to seek to be sexy and beautiful. They have always sought to make themselves more desirable. Their charm is the edge they have over the physically stronger men, and allows them to obtain protection/care for herself, and her offspring she will spend a temendous amount of energy to take care of. Knowing that, we understand why men enjoy seeing sexy women and why women enjoy being/acting sexy. Has nothing to do with objectification of women, it's just the way we're made.

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    1. That is such bullshit. Women don't love being sexualized. I am a female and I do not want to dress in skimpy outfits and grind on the sidelines so some guy will notice me. I don't know where you're getting your "scientific facts." But as a woman, I want to be taken seriously when playing a sport.

      Ask yourself these questions: Why are there very little male cheerleaders? Why are there no cheerleaders for women's sports? And why are they dressed in skimpy outfits if this is a legitimate sport? Why do NFL cheerleaders get hired based on looks? Why are they barely paid?

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  4. And the reason the cheerleaders are there is because men need to be encouraged, their egos are hardwired for praise and inspiration from a woman. I totally agree that young women should wear clothing that becomes a young woman and not a woman of ill repute. It's distracting for the viewers, How can a young man keep his eye on the ball instead of the midriff and whatever else is being shown. Even if these gals are hardwired to attract men with their bodies they can control that animalistic urge and attract men with their intelligence or virtue.

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    1. Once again, someone thinks that women are hardwired for attracting men. Yes, we all wake up in the morning and think, "Hmmm...how can I be sexy today so some guy will notice me?" NO. WOMEN ARE NOT HARDWIRED FOR ATTRACTING MEN. Both genders get attracted to each other. Why can't we have men in skimpy outfits cheering women on at sporting events? Cheerleading is inherently sexist.

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  5. I think that the context matters quite a bit; cheerleading in high school, college, and professionally are all quite different experiences, based on what I've observed.

    I was a varsity cheerleader and dancer in high school. High school cheerleading/songleading/dance team is not a huge issue in my opinion. It's fun, it's certainly a great workout, and the majority of the emphasis at the high school level is on preparation for dance/cheer competitions. The sideline cheering was something to do on Friday evenings, but the goal was always success at competition - winning trophies of our own for the school. The uniforms were within reason in terms of modesty, unbecoming behavior or poor academic performance was a cause for suspension from the team, and we spent much more time with each other than with the male teams. My experience of cheerleading in high school was actually remarkably female-centered and achievement-oriented. I really enjoyed it.

    Side note: To be honest, Marlene, the boys playing sports at my high school (early 2000s) didn't really care whether or not we were even there. Guys who were serious about sports were focused on their own achievement, and those who were not had plenty of other options for ogling women who were much more scantily-clad than we ever were, thanks to magazines, TV, the internet, etc. Cheerleaders frankly aren't all that captivating as sexualized images to a generation of boys who have grown up with internet pornography and graphic music videos. They've already seen a *lot* more than a midriff by age 14 - sad but true. People watched us for the gymnastics and stunts, not the rather unremarkable outfits.

    With regard to collegiate cheerleading associated with a nationally-ranked football program, I would have to agree with the administrator cited in this post - yes, it does seem that it's all about the money. As I understood it from the way things were structured at my university, competitions are de-emphasized or absent in Division I spirit programs, and appearances at games, fundraising events, media events, and private donor events are the emphasis. I would imagine that this explains the trend toward "hooker lite" choreography as the author noted; the squads are probably considered to be competing for audience attention with the above-mentioned internet and music video content.

    To be fair, I have gotten the impression from former high school classmates that schools without prominent football programs that have cheer and dance teams tend to follow the high school model a bit more, going to competitions regularly and treating cheer/dance as sports in their own right rather than auxiliary entertainment for male sports. Modern cheerleading is basically dance performance combined with gymnastics; it shines best off the field and under the stage lights!

    At the NFL level, in light of recent lawsuits from former squad members, I have to wonder if "professional cheerleading" is little more than unpaid burlesque on behalf of corporate sponsors (well, and a windfall for local tanning, hair, and fitness companies), disguised as professional dance.

    Anyhow, to the author - I appreciate your concern about your daughter's interest in cheerleading. If she really wants to explore it (perhaps alongside other sports - I also swam and ran cross-country before I became interested in cheer), you might find that the experience can be a bit more female-promoting and athletically challenging than you'd expect at the high school level if the team's emphasis is on regional/national competition, but I do agree with your concerns about collegiate cheerleading, and I also think it can be an odd presence at women's sporting events (although...perhaps this can actually be a more comfortable environment for the cheerleaders, supporting fellow women athletes for a change?). I know this is an old post and an extremely long reply, but you've made some important points on an activity that was once somewhat important to me.

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