Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cheerleader voices her opinion

In an editorial in response to the recent ruling in New York state that requires cheerleaders at both girls' and boys' sports, this cheerleader states her resentment that the adults are telling her and other cheerleaders what to do.
She does acknowledge that, having seen a girls' basketball game, she agrees that girls' teams should get support too. But she still does not want the powers-that-be telling her where, when and for whom to cheer.
It seems a fairly typical teenage response to authority. But additionally I think the writer fails to see what her role really entails. Why I have always had a problem truly considering cheerleading a sport--despite the obvious athleticism involved--is because its purpose is to support another activity. Cheerleaders are basically service workers of a sort--without pay of course. They support athletes.
This aspect of their activity, I think, is part of the cheerleaders' discontent over the ruling; it highlights their service role. Usually we think of cheerleaders as popular, pretty, talented. There exists the myth that cheerleading not only is a choice--but it's an attractive one at that. But when administrators start telling cheerleaders they must cheer for other girls, some of the illusion goes away. The activity becomes more job-like and the agency--indeed the privilege--involved in being a cheerleader begins to dissipate.


Kevin T. Keith said...

Is it possible that she's right - that we should respect her perspective on what she's doing and evaluate it in those terms? Maybe cheerleading really is a sport in its own right - one that happens to piggyback on more visible sports like football to find an audience, but is embraced by its own participants for their own reasons. Maybe cheerleading is like discus throwing or curling at the Olympics - something nobody would ever notice except that it happens to be in proximity to more popular sports. We don't begrudge the obscure sports their time in the spotlight at the Olympics; maybe we shouldn't relegate cheerleaders to the less visible performance spaces when they already have a place at the most popular one.

(That said, I don't actually support cheerleading. But, as sexist as cheerleading is, it seems to me anti-feminist not to let cheerleaders make their own statement about what it is and what they're trying to achieve.)

ken said...

Thanks for playing devil's advocate, Kevin. I do respect her opinion that what she does is a sport. I do not believe she has the power or the right, however, to say "I want to cheer for this group only."
As for it being anti-feminist to not support cheerleading, I would disagree. It's a myth that feminists have to support every "choice" every woman makes and it's a myth that I believe has really harmed the thing we call "feminism" in this country.
And finally, regarding curling. When I went to Salt Lake City in 2002, curling was SOLD OUT! :)