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Posts tagged ‘intersectionality’

Cheering for Cheerleaders…

A pale native american girl with dyed red hair and blue-grey eyes. She is wearing a white turtle-neck shirt under a red, white, and blue cheerleading uniform. She is smiling.

Is that your best "peppy cheerleader" smile? Really? Ha!

Kid has had an amazing time as a flag football cheerleader this past season.

I know, I know… many of you reading this blog maybe have a lot of biased opinions that are very steeped in stereotypes about cheerleaders and the sport of cheerleading itself.

Yes, I said sport.

I watched this season as Kid had an incredible time, and I expected her to have fun, learn a thing or two, ya know. Maybe finally get the hang of a cart-wheel.*

The very first day, with all of the girls** gathered in front of the coach, who was an active duty volunteer and handled it very matter-of-factly. I heard a lot of talk about cheerleaders being “girly” and “peppy” and how they “always smile”. I groaned to myself a lot that day, and almost rolled the eyebrows right off of my big ol’ forehead (or “fivehead” as The Guy affectionately calls it).

But in true drill sergeant style, there were push-ups, there were laps to run, and there were basics to learn, learn, learn. To anyone out there who doesn’t believe that cheerleading is a sport I will refer you to the athleticism required to repeatedly do the jumps demanded of these girls. It was a great way for these girls to burn off their energy, and wonderful exercise for them. They always came home ready for bed (bonus!) What was more, they were having fun doing it.

Eventually they were broken down into squads by age groups, and Kid’s squad was about a dozen girls, give or take. The coach of the smaller squad was less of the “you all are going to be girly” mind, and made a lot of fun cheers. She enlisted a parent volunteer who used to be a cheerleader. We all made ribbons for their hair and took turns bringing snacks, and they cheered at all of the flag football games.

What happened here was a group of young girls put on their first uniforms, which gave them pride, and they worked together, building a sense of team unity, helping each other learn routines and different moves. As the season moved along the became confident in their ability to jump, kick, and yell their hearts out. They learned how to yell the “right” way (without hurting your voice). Some of them were only able to master the moves or the words at first (remember, we are dealing with third and fourth graders), and eventually they put them together. Maybe it is because I am a mum, but really, the whole things was adorable. *squee*

They developed self-esteem. I saw girls who were shy run and grab a crowd of parents’ attention, and rouse them to cheering. I saw them have the courage to make mistakes, recover, and move on, which is a life skill that even some adults I know don’t have. I didn’t learn that until high school marching band. Recovery is a tough lesson to master.

Yes, I also saw some pettiness, I saw some mean-spirited actions, and I saw a girl kick another girl and tell her she was stupid for messing up… I am not naive enough to think that this kind of behaviour does not happen… but to be fair, I also saw the same thing on the co-ed soccer team that Kid participated in and also on the football teams that she cheered for. This behaviour is neither the sole property of girls nor cheerleaders. Pettiness and being a jerk is an equal opportunity trait, and we as adults, especially those of us who labour in social justice circles, are keenly aware of that.

Mostly, I saw how being part of a cheerleading team made my girl a better person, a more confident person (and a bit of a better speller, HA! Just kidding, she was already an ace at that one!) and a girl who knew how to be a supportive team player. At the end of season banquet when they all got their participation trophies (that reminded Kid of Amy’s mom from S1 of Buffy) they all stood around with the megaphones and altered a cheer and devoted it to their coaches, thanking them.

I honestly feel that cheerleading — even among F*eminists, who claim to be about equal opportunities and about supporting choices for women and girls, and who want them to be proud of those choices — gets a really harsh rap. It gets treated as a non-sport, as if it is an accessory worn by the boys’ and mens’ sports of the world. I have even heard cheerleaders called mouthpieces of schools, as an excuse to force a girl to cheer for her rapist. Cheerleaders are automatically presumed to be of a certain subset of people, and dismissed as stupid, ditzy, rich, stuck up, slutty, gay if you are a guy… you get the point.

As a woman who grew up as part of the Title IX Generation, I am appalled that we are not doing more to recognized cheerleading for the sport that it is, for the athleticism that it requires, and for the team spirit it inspires in the people who participate in it. I am also appalled that we do not do more to insist on giving it its due as part of athletic programs, to make sure that it is considered an equal to other sports programs, and that the people who participate in it are not stigmatized. We don’t promote the competitive events, we assume that team spirit is where it ends.

Watching my cheerleader this season confirms that there should be no shame, and that she has every reason to feel the pride that she does.

*No. She did not.

**There were only girls on the squads this year, but I checked, and the team is open to any boys and young men who are interested. I suspect that social conditioning in the military community probably curbs the interest. Maybe? Hmm…

Photo © Brandann R. Hill-Mann. All Rights Reserved.


Love, Anonymously — Racialicious’ First Ever Blog Carnival

Two red ladybugs on green, one mounted up on the other caught in the act. You naughty ladybugs!Back in August I received an email from Latoya Peterson of Racialicious about some thoughts on a piece at Jezebel called A Practical Guide to Popping Your Cherry, along with a host of other people. After reading it, she tossed some ideas around, we all tossed some ideas back, and this mammoth discussion about sex, race, religion, and many, many other facets evolved.

It rolled out like play dough in a fun factory, and Latoya stressed her wishes to broaden the conversation to the many ways in which race plays a huge factor in the way we as non-white people approach sexuality. It was an amazing discussion, but, since I wasn’t really taught to embrace much of my non-white self until later in my sexual experience, or life in general, I found myself lost in that part of the discussion. That was OK by me, because I ended up taking much away from it anyhow. Being in a mixed race/ethnicity marriage/partnership now has caused me to have to look at my relationship from many angles, but they were not things that I had to deal with when I was approaching sex for the first time. Or when I thought I was approaching sex for the first time.

The ideas being tossed around became so varied and so many that it seems that Latoya had this great idea to turn this into a Blog Carnival. The first one that Racialicious has ever done.

So here’s the first official call.  Entries are due November 30th, 2010, and we will start running the pieces in November and December.  Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid is co-editing, and we are hoping for a huge mix of participants.

What are we looking for?

Anything really. But for those of you who need a prompt, here are some things like I would like to see:

  • General commentary on sex and dating
  • First times
  • Discussions of abstinence and virginity
  • The construction of masculinity and how that impacts dating, love, and sex
  • Racial stereotypes/perceptions and their impact on your sex life
  • Being part of a “sexless” class and how that impacts dating, love, and sex

Guidelines are the same as general Racialicious ones.

Submissions can be in any format – would love to see poems, erotica, comics, illustrations, video, and audio, as well as straight text. Please include a transcript with video/audio.  Anonymity can be arranged – the best way I can see it to upload your file to a drop.io, send it to team@racialicious.com and just use a fake email address. But we can figure that out as we go.


I hope that some of you out there will consider submitting to this. I will be doing a featured piece that will focus on the intersection of disability, but I would like to see more non-white/PoC voices from the disability community be involved if they are willing. I am really excited about this opportunity, and can’t hardly wait to see what comes of it.

Photo Credit:  cygnus921

The Chat

So, I think some of you might have heard about that Open Letter?

Some stuff was said, some things were arranged, and long story short (too late) a chat was arranged w/ representatives from Feministing so that we could discuss the differences that we had, and voice our concerns, and hopefully work towards a common understanding of what could be fixed.  We agreed at the beginning that this would be public, and the full transcript of the chat can be found here.  I didn’t feel the need to reprint the whole thing here.

What I do want to show here is how seriously I think our position was taken.  Here is an excerpt from that chat (emphasis mine):

Miriam: I also want to challenge the idea that we’re responsible for how our commenters think
I know comment moderation is a huge challenge at feministing
one that we have not addressed adequately
annaham: Okay, but aren’t y’all responsible for stepping in when things get rough?
Miriam: we should be–and we’re constantly trying to find new strategies for how to do so
its about capacity for us
that’s not to say anyone is wrong for calling it out
amandaw: There is a reason commenters feel comfortable saying certain things.
Also, it does not matter who you intend to target. What matters is how your site is understood.
And your site is demonstrably understood as exactly how it was described.
Miriam: I’m not sure that can be blamed on our content. You could be right, but we also have to recognize it;s not a static community of commenters. We get about 500,000 visitors a month, some of those commenters may never read the majority of posts we right.
Do you think we have control over that?
annaham: No
Anna: No one here thinks you have control over what people actually do.
amandaw: You control comments.
Do not tell us you do not control your comments.
You control comments lightly, but you still control them.
You watch for certain things.
And you take care of them.
We are saying: we are excluded from “certain things.”
Miriam: We need to moderate them better, we’ve never had the capacity to actually monitor them.
amandaw: Rape apologism is quickly taken care of.
Miriam: I hear that
annaham: Okay, here’s an example of a problematic comment thread: http://www.feministing.com/archives/015536.html
amandaw: We know you are a large site.
We KNOW this.
We are not somehow unaware that there is a lot to manage and that it is very complicated.
annaham: Comments were closed down on the post, but a lot of them are extremely ableist
Anna: Miriam, I’m not sure if you recall we had a back and forth about this a few months ago in the comments on Feminsting. It was when we were discussing trans* inclusion on the blog.
you mentioned then that you all were working on a comments policy.
Courtney: Amanda [Last Name], your tone isn’t appreciated FYI. We’re trying to be real about where we’re coming from while really taking in the criticism.
amandaw: Excuse me?
Can we stop for a moment?
Courtney: sure (more…)

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