I was a cheerleader in high school. I wore the short skirt complete with black shiny nylon briefs (we called them "spankies," for God's sake) over my underwear to school, to class, usually three days a week, for all four years of high school and two years of junior high. I was a cheerleader every damn year, forever and ever. And when I heard today a high school banned its own cheerleaders' short skirts from class, I was happy about it.
Not for the reason you'd think.
Are the skirts these days obscenely short? Yes. I really do think they are in the context of class, when you have to sit in a desk and people are like two inches away from you. It's really hard to sit comfortably without showing more than you want to in a cheerleading skirt. Especially the newer ones without pleats. The end.
I always thought it was totally stupid that cheerleaders had to wear their uniforms to school, but I never really thought about it until today. None of the sports teams wore their uniforms to school in my high school. I'm pretty sure they don't today, either. Why make the cheerleaders do it? Or better -- why LET them even if they want to?
Issue number two: Why did the girls have to pay $300 each for their own, too-short skirts? Perhaps I've missed something in these modern times, but I didn't think athletes in school-sanctioned organized sports had to buy anything but shoes? If every athlete at old Piedmont Hills has to buy his or her own uniform, that's one thing, but if it's just cheerleaders, WTF? (It's possible they all have to in these days of my seven-year-old's school supply list containing PRINTER PAPER.)
Aylin Zafar at Time chose to focus on the fact the high school in question -- Piedmont Hills High school in San Jose, Calif. -- told the girls they should wear sweats under their uniforms. She wrote:
Would we be without one of the most commonly used archetypes for the popular/mean girl in greater film and television history? Can a cheerleader still be a queen bee, calling out lesser girls' sartorial choices, when she herself is suffering from a major case of saggy-butt?
Please. Not all cheerleaders are queen bees and queen bees will be queen bees regardless of what they are wearing. No saggy butt ever stopped a queen bee. Plus, Piedmont Hills Pep could just wear running tights under their uniforms if they wanted to be more covered and less saggy-butted. That is not the issue here! The issue is why have cheerleaders wear uniforms to school in the first place? Feeding into the cheerleader stereotype completely begs the question of why they are the one brand of athlete that wears a uniform to school.
This is going to be a hard argument for me to win, I know. In the case of Piedmont Hills, the cheerleaders don't care. In late-breaking news, the cheerleaders are now totally okay with chucking the skirts in school:
But after meeting with the principal, the girls on Tuesday said they have decided what to wear to school on game days: Their sleeveless cheer tops ... and jeans.
So. Remove every stereotype you have in your head about cheerleaders. Now forget any high school girl you actually know, and let's look at it as objectively as possible.
Administrators called cheerleaders out on their own dress code policy, even though I'm assuming the same administrators were previously aware of what their cheerleaders' skirts looked like.
I think it's fair to enforce a dress code policy unilaterally.
I think it's fair to make all athletes buy their uniforms or not buy their uniforms unilaterally.
I think it's fair to make all athletes wear their uniforms or not wear their uniforms on game day unilaterally.
I'm sure high school cheerleaders the world over might disagree with me, but here's the thing: if girls get treated differently than boys in high school, it takes a lifetime to change that thinking. I was an idiot cheerleader in high school excited that first day to wear my stupid skirt to class. All the adults acted like doing so was totally appropriate and normal. Sure, cheerleaders are there to promote school spirit, but so are the athletes -- and nobody is checking out young Danny's hot ass in the extremely revealing wrestling singlet he's not asked to wear to school on the day of the meet. If Danny wore his singlet and his package hit the locker between second and third periods, all hell would break loose.
Picture a high school boy walking through school in a wrestling singlet. That is about as revealing as a cheerleading skirt. Would we ask him to do it? Would we let him do it even if he wanted to? Why or why not?
I was just engaged in a conversation today about how many swear words are actually female body parts or related to pregnancy or what have you. There is nothing wrong with being a cheerleader and there is nothing wrong with being a girl, but that message needs to be reinforced from day one. That's what schools should be focusing on. That's what girls should be focusing on.
It's fine and right and good to be a girl, cheerleader or noncheerleader, and you shouldn't be expected to dress or not dress a certain way because of an extracurricular activity if no one else is. Your body shape should not be a determinant in whether or not you engage in that activity if you are physically able to play the sport or learn the moves. My brand of feminism isn't about short skirts or cheerleaders, it's about equality in word and deed.
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