Give Me An “A”

by Tracee Sioux

I’ve been super-conflicted about letting my 5-year-old daughter participate in cheerleading.

Isn’t it better to be the one cheered on, the one actually playing the sport, than to be cheering from the side-lines? I think so. I want to see my daughter actively participating in athletics, not standing on the side of the game wearing a short skirt, bopping around, cheering for the team. The boys’ team.

Have you ever seen a gang of boys jumping up and down cheering on a girl’s soccer or basketball team? Never mind that cheerleaders stand on the side of football games where girls still aren’t allowed. Also, in Texas cheerleading is highly competitive and I would argue, not the good kind. As a femimommy, I just hate the idea of cheerleading.

But, as I said in Red BMI, I need to actively seek exercise opportunities for her. The only options available were hip-hop and cheerleading. Then my friend said, Hey, let her come to my church’s vacation Bible school, the theme is sports. She can choose soccer, t-ball, basketball or cheerleading.

If I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn’t have told her she had the option of cheerleading. She’s too smart to fall for that kind of crap. Instead, I listed the options.

She gave me a sly smile, knowing I would disapprove, and said, I want to do the cheerleading.

Have you ever wondered why girls should be cheering for boys, but boys don’t cheer for girls? Do you think that’s okay?

Mama, when I went to watch Eric play basketball Emma was cheering for a girls’ basketball team.

Are you sure?

Well, you weren’t there, but they had girls playing basketball and I think Emma was cheering for that team.

Do you think it’s fair that only boys are allowed to play football but girls stand on the side and cheer for them?

I don’t even want to play football, she pointed out.

When Emma took cheerleading, she informed me, they didn’t wear belly shirts, they wore long ones and I don’t think they did anything inappropriate.

My husband didn’t think it was a big deal. My friend thought I was being too extreme. Both pointed out that boys cheer these days too. The difference is, there are not entire scantily clad gangs of boys cheering for the girls’ teams.

In the end, neither argument swayed me in favor of cheerleading. What did sway me is that my particular girl wants to try it. She thinks it will be fun.

I decided it would be more empowering for her to be able to make her own decision about which sport to try than it would be for me to forbid cheerleading on a feminist principle.

She’s just a different kind of girl than I was. She’s more of a girly kind and I was more of a tom-boy. But, I don’t think it would be empowering to make her feel bad about being a girly-girl.

The more I thought about it, I could trace my negative feelings about cheerleading back to the time my parents told me we were moving again to a town with a small enough high school, where I could make it as a cheerleader.

Upset about the umpteenth move, there I stood dressed head-to-toe in black, pale skin, red lipstick totally Mod screaming, “Why would I want to be a cheerleader?” What I really wanted to articulate was, “Have we met? Do you know anything about me at all?”

So, to avoid a similar episode with my daughter, I’ll acknowledge that she is the kind of girl who thinks being a cheerleader is fun. And I’m going to get okay with that.

I did some research and according to the Official Cheerleader’s Handbook, cheerleading was invented at Princeton in the 1860s by men. They didn’t let girls do it until the 1920s when they added gymnastics and tumbling at the University of Minnesota. It was World War II, and no boys being available, that transitioned the sport to where 90% of cheerleaders became female.

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12 comments ↓

#1 Rebecca on 07.19.07 at 2:41 pm

Great post!

#2 Staci on 07.19.07 at 7:00 pm

It’s not so much the cheerleading as it is all the baggage that is attached to it. It brings up images from most popular girl to favorite porn scenario (not to mention George W. was a cheerleader at Yale!)

It might make you feel better to know that there is a movement that started a few years ago called radical cheerleading where girls cheer for issues such as feminism and the environment.

#3 Staci on 07.19.07 at 7:03 pm

Radical Cheerleading Cheer:

RIOT DON’T DIET
GET UP GET OUT AND TRY IT
RIOT DON’T DIET
GET UP GET OUT AND TRY IT
hey girl (clap clap clap)
get yer face out of that magazine
you are more than a beauty machine
you’ve got anger soul and more
take to the street and let it roar

#4 jen on 07.19.07 at 7:05 pm

I’m proud of you taking such a big step. She is having a blast too!

#5 jeanie on 07.20.07 at 3:28 am

Thanks for the background.

Over here, cheerleading is not such a big thing so don’t have that dilemna – but great point about empowering your girly daughter.

They have recently brought in anorexic underdressed girls to wave pom poms at Rugby League matches here – we work out how absolutely freezing it must be from whether they are actually wearing anything over their bikinis.

Grrrr.

#6 stacey on 08.17.07 at 1:25 am

i think as feminists and activists we fight for freedom of choice and self-determination, even if it’s to persue something we find counterproductive. great post.

you could always do what my parents did— send your kid to a nerd school where cheerleaders don’t exist and people root on the debate team instead :P

#7 Nina on 08.20.07 at 4:30 pm

As a woman who had to fight for the colour pink in her early childhood I think it’s an important aspect of feminism to let girls make their choices and not make them fight too hard for them. It’s a sad thing to have to fight for the things you genuinely like because your mum thinks they’re too stereotypical. Don’t be hard on yourself for bending over this, it’s a difficult thing to do but your daughter will have more confidence because she is allowed the freedom to do what she wants. You’ve given her the gift of choice!

#8 Belinda on 11.18.07 at 7:12 am

I agree with Nina – pink and perfume and dresses and jewellery are just fine – forbidding them or telling someone they can’t be a girly girl is a bad mistake to make. It’s her life and her choices and personality.

#9 Tracee on 11.19.07 at 1:19 pm

Belinda,

Thank you for commenting. I agree with your statement – for the most part.

I think it is unwise to forbid girly girlness. However your body – your choice is a rather adult stance to take.

She is in Kindergarten and I believe it is my responsibility to set limits for her own wellbeing. Not all girlie girl messages or forms of expression are good for girls.

As a parent, I also have a tremendous amount of influence that I feel totally justified in using to steer her towards more “traditionally boy” areas of study like math and science and more athletic and competitive forms of recreation like soccer.

My body, My choice – is a great feminist principal. But, it applies shouldn’t always apply to children.

#10 Belinda on 11.22.07 at 2:31 am

Understood – I was just concerned because i am old enough to remember the ’70s and ’80s when many mothers were encouraged to or did things like confiscate dolls and stuffed toys and deliberately dress their daughters in clothes marked “Boyswear”.

It was a bad time that i never want to see return.

#11 Tracee on 11.22.07 at 3:19 pm

I agree – why should we criminalize girlness? It’s not as though girls or things they like are inherently bad.

But, girliness gets very narrow. I think broadening girls’ horizons into traditionally boy territory does them some good.

#12 Cheerleading: Limiting or Empowering? - Tracee Sioux, Law of Attraction Coach — Tracee Sioux, Law of Attraction Coach on 11.21.13 at 4:08 pm

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