There are few things I can say with any amount of certainty—those few things pretty much restricted to declarations of pecuniary thresholds when held hostage in a third world country with a dubious grasp of proper law enforcement methods—but one thing I can say is that I’ve never wanted to be a cheerleader.
Now, it’s not too terribly hard for me, as a male, to dissociatively imagine the level of comfort I would have with such a feminine role. I mean, it’s not difficult to understand the appropriate level of desirability that being a cook or a seamstress or—before Maureen Dowd comes at me with a chemical peel—a Speaker of the House would have with me. I can cook toast and cold cereal and, on warm summer days, certain flavors of Otter Pops, so I have an endless amount of respect for those women that can prepare a meal that tastes good and simultaneously has more than one chemical on the periodic table involved. And my idea of wardrobe repair involves hanging around with people whose clothes are in worse shape than my own. And, uh, whatever else it is that women do.
Which is, apparently, jump around a lot in 4:4 time. Cheerleading is a big, big industry; often, it is the only real athletic program most high schools have aside from the occasional lacrosse team or home economics. ESPN often airs cheerleading competitions, though they also show diving, billiards, and Texas Hold ‘Em, all of which seems roughly equivalent on the me-not-caring scale of things. And, in many home-town games and small-market venues, cheerleading is often seem as the most important part of the football game except for the football game.
About once a year, though, there’s some big scandal involving a small local cheerleading squad, almost always in Texas, doing something wildly inappropriate. The lurid details of the resultant sanctions are then soon released, usually involving dismissal from the squad and, more devastatingly, being made into a TV movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. And this usually comes as a shock to those kinds of people who for some reason believe that you can involve more than eight women in an organized activity without their being some kind of a violent emotional disagreement.
The most recent scandal involved teenagers who went out underage drinking, posing in provocative poses, and hamming it up at a store called—wait for it—Condoms To Go. This would have been nothing more than standard high school hijinks—well, standard for today, anyway; hell’s bells if they were doing that kind of thing when I was in high school. No one would have made more than an improper passing comment except for the fact that 1) they did all of this while still in their cheerleading uniforms, and 2) they subsequently posted the fruits of their exploits on the Internet.
When things like this happen—and for my money, it’s not often enough and almost never recorded on a reproducible media format to my liking—but there’s something about the entire thing that seems singularly hypocritical. The cheerleader has always been a sexualized character, and modern society builds them up and pretends to be shocked when the behavior matches the role and their idealized standards crumble.
Plus men do this kind of thing on a more often than not continual basis; simply witness a group of men when there aren’t any women around to impress, or, perhaps more easily, just watch the CW on a weeknight. Though if you do, I doubt there will be as much chanting or uniform wearing; if so, you may be observing test subjects with inclinations differing from the appropriate control group. But the fact remains that if men were to post the same types of things as these young ladies did, there would hardly be any interest at all unless there was a cement brick smacking someone on the head involved.
And, in some regards, this is unfair. People enjoy the presence cheerleaders for their functional purpose—being prompted to spell out compound words and clap white-male style to songs in the public domain—but then hold them to irresponsible standards. Most cheerleaders pursue interests and intellectual activities outside of the empty-headed stereotype that has been forced upon them. In an idealized world, cheerleaders would be respected for far more than their pruriently athletic prowess.
Cad #1: I heard that after last week’s game Cindy read Proust with three football players at the same time.
Cad #2: Oh yeah? Someone told me they had to pump six quarts of Dostoevsky out of Mary Lou’s stomach.
But it’s difficult to shake such stereotypes when these scandals appear like clockwork every so many months. Then again, we all have our stereotypes to deal with, I guess; why should cheerleaders be any different? Overcoming adversity is one of those character traits I find women have in abundance. That and their unerring sense of sarcasm. I hope.