Monday, December 10, 2007

A cheerleading apocalypse

Yes, doomsday has arrived in New York state because high school cheerleaders must cheer for girls too.
The event that has brought about such travails began almost a year ago when a parent of a female basketball player in Binghamton complained that there were no cheerleaders at the girls' games but that they were always at the boys' games--home and away. This resulted in the decision to have cheerleaders at all home games--regardless of the gender of the players. Much outrage and a lot of discourse was engendered by the decision. Cheerleaders quit and complained about how awkward it was to cheer for other girls.
The decision in Binghamton--which was a Title IX complaint (schools are required to provide equitable support and publicity for their women's teams and cheerleading falls under that category)--has lead all NY schools to make the same policy changes, at least according to this letter to the editor. The writer rails against Title IX and makes reactionary statements about the law, cheerleading, and women's sports as epitomized by this opening statement: "cheerleading as we know it is over."
His tone is apocalyptic; my view is that if it's really true that cheerleading as we know it is over (which I doubt having watched a pretty egregious epeisode of MTV's MADE yesterday) then it's a sign of the long overdue revolution.
The writer finds it completely unfair that cheerleaders can no longer attend away games (with the boys--he doesn't seem too sad that girls' teams have never had cheerleaders at any of their games unless they don't overlap with the boys' games) because they will "no longer be sharing in exciting road victories or tough losses." Here's my tough love response: if you want the excitement of good wins and tough losses, join the team and stop experiencing everything vicariously.
How ironic this all is, the writer proclaims. Title IX is now limiting the experiences of cheerleaders (it isn't, by the way) but before Title IX one of the few options open to girls, he tells us, was cheerleading. We call that progress--not irony.
The fact that he might not, if he had a young daughter, encourage her to cheer (because he feels its future is so uncertain) is also progress. We should be encouraging young girls to actually play sports and not just cheer on the boys (and actually the growing numbers of girls who play with boys). Because cheerleading, until it gets to an elite level (and I have some reservations there as well), is not a sport.


Anonymous said...

If this story isn't proof that 21st Century America is nothing but a big zone of outrageous sexism, nothing is. There really isn't anything one can say. I wouldn't have been able to compose myself well enough, I don't think, to have written a post about it; I feel like my head is going to explode any second.

Gender Blank said...

Cheerleading is not a sport? You're pokin' the hornet's nest with that one.

I'd be careful if I were you. Neanderthals will throw down for cheerleaders. Well, not for the actual people, on accounta they're girls, but for the short skirts and all.