Thursday, October 08, 2009

Funny or Offensive?

I remember at my high school there was a group of male seniors that called them selves "The Math Team Cheerleaders." We really did have a math team - they did academic competitions, but their cheerleaders were just an excuse for some guys to dress like girls and dance around looking silly at a pep rally or two. In the schools I've taught in, the same activity is carried out by the "Powder Puff Football Cheerleaders." The girls play football and the guys cheer.

Here in the South, the practice usually involves the boys dressing as girls, complete with wig, makeup, fake bosoms, and skirts. Up North where I was last year, they allowed the practice, but no wig, make up or boobs. They did dance and cheer at the pep rally and powder puff game and wore cheerleading skirts.

The difference here is that the girls actually LEARN football and a really PLAY football and sometimes play it really well. The boys jump around swishing (like no women friends of mine do) and flitting and acting like silly goofy drag queens. The girls don't show out like stereotypes of men - no croch-grabbing or spitting on the field. But on the track there is a showdown of flamboyant behavior that makes any drag queer shudder.

Our Powder Puff event was yesterday. Tack tacky tacky. That's my three words for it. The boys did stuff I have never done or ever heard of any woman friend of mine doing - bumping (balloon) boobies, wearing a thong OVER shorts - what!?

I mean I get it. It's laughable. They get a kick out of blowing kisses and walking with that feminine hip sway for a while. We laughed. They looked silly. They did some good high jumps and lifting stunts (not clean, but their strength was evident). They shook their butts and the students thought it was hilarious.

I am no women's libber and I ride the fence on most issues because I can usually see both sides. I hate debate and extremists telling others theat I am right and they are wrong. I avoid political arenas.

But isn't this a bit passé? I was reading an article on Comcast about Harry Connick's comments about how offended he was when an Australian TV show he was on also showed a Jackson 5 lip sync - done by white people in blackface. He was quoted as saying, "I know it was done humorously, but we've spent so much time trying not to make black people look like buffoons." Can the same thing be said about women? IS it that big a deal? Can blacks just say, "Hey that blackface routine was funny - it was about the Jackson 5 and they're black!" Can women say "Oh those POwder Puff boys were silly. They aren't making women look like dumb floozies." I asked a cheerleader what she thought. I asked if she thought they were making fun of what cheerleaders do or how they look. She said , "We made them look like that - they were hot!" Hot - they were some of the ugliest girls I've ever seen! :P

I don't know why blackface would not be allowed but this activity is. I think they are both really disrespectful and derogatory. Why don't the guys get together and do a serious cheer routine? There are really great and strong male cheerleaders - why not emulate them? The role reversal is a fine exercise, but the inequality that concerns me is in that the girls don't make fun of the guys and the guys are allowed to make girls look silly. Blackface minstrel shows that were performed in the 1800's presented cruel and demeaning stereotypes of black people. Aren't puff cheerleaders doing the same thing - presenting an offensive stereotype of teenaged girls and cheerleaders?

1 comment:

Anne Stesney said...

I never thought of Powderpuff that way, but boy, I agree with you 100%. I mean, I'm all for a good,fun, parody but there's something subtle at work here that says, "That cheerleading thing you girls do? It's not serious like our football."

As a young women growing up in the South, I was confused and hurt by how often women's accomplishments were undermined and even discouraged. And if I expressed anger over it I was being "agressive" and "unladylike." I remember when Ms. Q made Mike a co-editor of our HS paper with Teresa, even though Teresa was more qualified, because Ms Q didn't think Teresa could "command" the staff. What? Shouldn't she have been given the opportunity to learn? Isn't that what high school is about? This was seen as a completely acceptable way to make a decision.