Before I get into this, we’ll all need to grant the premise that cheerleading is a valid and productive activity for girls with athletic skill.
Okay. So this feminist rant is coming from a place of extreme bias and undying love. My baby sister is a senior in high school, and playing her fourth and final season on the varsity girls’ basketball team. Last Friday night they had a big league game and they played really well, but the other team fought hard and tied it up with thirty seconds left.
It was intense.
You know who didn’t find the game intense? My alma mater’s cheer squad, who, while their peers were playing their hearts out, sat together in the bleachers staring at their phones. The other high school’s squad was cheering like no cheer squad’s ever cheered before (okay that’s a dramatic exaggeration, but they were being really loud and doing their thing and supporting their team). When the game was tied up, I made eye contact with one of our girls and clapped my hands together and gave her the “do your effing job” look. This young cheerleader gave me a look that was so teenager it was actually kind of impressive. She rolled her eyes, clapped twice, then went back to her phone.
Was it our cheerleaders’ fault that the other team hit some clutch shots and won the game? Absolutely not. Those things happen.
HOWEVER. The second the game was over, our cheerleaders put their phones away, adjusted their ponytails, and moved into position to cheer for the boys’ varsity team that was playing immediately after.
And I was furious.
Sexism is a huge problem in sports at any level of game play. Men’s sports always get more funding, make more money, and draw bigger crowds. The cheerleaders’ behavior during the game was not only extremely rude, it sent the message that girls playing sports are clearly not as important as boys playing sports. The squad was there. They sat together. They did not give a flying you know what. And they did not do the one thing that they’re supposed to do. Cheer.
I decided to have a little chat with the cheer coach before the boys’ game. I let her know (in front of the squad) just how much it sucks that our cheerleaders don’t find it necessary to support the girls’ team. Also, if any other “athlete” in uniform spent an entire sporting event looking at their phone, it would be reprehensible. I told her that if the cheerleaders were going to be in the stands for the girls’ game, they should cheer. If not, they shouldn’t be in the gym at all. It’s rude, disrespectful, and perpetuates the institutional sexism in sports.
The cheer coach said she would talk to the girls, and at the game last night a small group of them showed up to cheer on the girls’ varsity team.
And they won.
Sexism in sports isn’t something that can be fixed overnight, but when girls play…the least we can do is cheer for them.