School Days

Schooldays were the happiest days,
Now they seem so far away.
I remember and I’ll always treasure
Schooldays were the happiest days of your life
But we never appreciate the good times we have
Until it’s too late.
Now I wish I hadn’t strayed,
And I’d go back if I could only find a way.

–the Kinks

Beating the dead horse

deadhorseTo continue this week’s conversation (you were dying to, weren’t you?), I’d like to respond to a late comment left on my “cheerleaders” post. “Phoenix” came back twice to weigh in and raises some interesting points in his/her (?) second comment. I’d like to respond to some of these (paraphrased) points here. (I had to paraphrase because this was, like, one of the longest comments EVER! Phoenix, do you write a blog or write for a living? If you don’t, you should.  You have a lot to say and a gift for saying it.)

If you’re new to the topic, welcome! Please fasten your safety belt and secure your tray table, then revisit the earlier post  here to get caught up.

Ready? Begin! Phoenix’s comments are indented in the quote boxes:

Do NFL Cheerleaders belong on the sidelines of an NFL game? YES, as does, beer, the band, fireworks, junk food, body painted fans, and signs.

As stated before, as long as we admit that most NFL games are about the Total Entertainment Experience, then I agree. My original premise was that if it’s simply about a football game, and the cheerleaders aren’t Leading Cheers, then what are they doing there? There are several cities (Pittsburgh among them) where a top-quality NFL product is dispensed, and the satisfied customers there don’t miss the “cheerleaders.” In fact, those fans will shrug along with me as we wonder why the other teams have ’em. But I guess that’s just us!

Do they serve an actual purpose AT THE GAME? YES…they get the crowd on their feet and loud during pivotal points in the game, they entertain between plays, they open the entire event with a performance that “hypes” the crowd in anticipation for the starting lineup and overall event, they provide that up-close interaction with dream seat ticket holders…

My position – my observation – was that there was no Leading of Cheers happening.  From my seat in section 112, it appeared that it was so much more about the dancing and that the “cheerleaders” were far more concerned with their dance moves than involving the crowd.  Perhaps that’s because it was a preseason game. But I’ve been to regular season games, too, and seen the same thing.

Is their dancing suggestive? Duh! We all know that “cheerleading” has always dealt with the stigmas of how women “should act.” The cheerleading skirt has been one of the most controversial issues in high school sports since its inception- when it was first shortened to reveal, uh oh, the knees!

Of course. But if one’s position is that the “cheerleaders” engage in feats of athletic prowess, including stunts and acrobatics, then I would have to ask, why the bikinis? Why the bump-and-grind moves?  I can’t be the only one who’s reminded of a stripper when they toss their hair around.  To me, these things cheapen the athleticism of their sport.

…I don’t think the purpose of this blog was to really get an answer, but it was more to persuade, almost ironically, a belief that women should hide what makes them women and not be seen sexually, so that they instead might cover themselves, dance with no feminine appeal, so they might look more like…men?

Phoenix misunderstands me here.  I said in my post, I have nothing against sexually suggestive dancing.  I’ve seen it; I appreciate it. I just don’t believe it belongs on the sidelines of an NFL game.  Let the cheerleaders Lead Cheers. Or else call them a dance squad. One or the other.

I know that this goes beyond your original questions, but this is that bigger issue beyond “cheerleaders” that everyone’s looking for. This is how and when you bring up women’s rights globally; that there are still young girls being “circumcised” and others killed/assaulted for trying to be educated, and adult women forced to live in poverty and covered from head to toe. In our country, we are still not equal to men in pay for the same amount of work. Why? Not because there are girls dancing suggestively on the sidelines of a solely male league, but maybe because we (both parents) aren’t teaching our children (both male and female) that sporting events are games-mere productions and that real arguments about equality should be about our roles in the home, classroom, on tests, in the workplace and in world affairs.

Excellent points, but as Phoenix admits, they are beyond the scope of my original post.  For sure, those are worthwhile conversations to be having.  I suggest that the objectification of women in the way we’ve been discussing is not the sole cause of the problems Phoenix enumerates, but it can’t be helping our case either.

We teach our kids about entertainment within an appropriate context. We demonstrate equality in our home. It’s a challenge to reinforce those qualities when the world bombards our kids with messages different from those we try to convey and model. Someone else pointed out that another reason not to take kids to sporting events is excessive drinking and foul language in the stands. I couldn’t agree more.  There are adults everywhere modeling all kinds of behaviors I hope never to see in my own children.

…I do believe that of all the things that make an NFL sporting event not family friendly, the fact that a woman would focus on the cheerleaders reeks of self reflection. Why would one care only about the cheerleaders and not fight as passionately about other non-family friendly things that are arguably just as detrimental to a mentally healthy child?

I did not so much focus on the cheerleaders as I became distracted by them. I found their routines to be incongruous with the event.   For me – and remember, this is my opinion, it’s MY BLOG – they didn’t add to it, they took away from it. To suggest, as Phoenix and others did, that this opinion “reeks of self-reflection” – and must indicate that I’m unhappy with myself or jealous of the girls or somehow lack self-confidence – is simply ridiculous.

Further, I may not have been clear about what I thought was “ridiculed and shamed”- I was not referring to cheerleaders, I was referring to the physical features (“beauties”) of women and their need to be hidden; and “loving ourselves more” was meant to point out that trying to hide or shame the female body is a form of self hatred- not a reference to any particular person.

I’m all for loving ourselves more. I appreciate physical beauty.  I am not suggesting the “cheerleaders” go out dressed in Snuggies.   I am happy in my own skin. It’s far from perfect, but I’ve come to accept it.

…it has been posted multiple times that the Little Ladies danced to “Push It.” That is indeed FALSE. The girls danced to a medley of three songs: one was a “Top 20s” dance mix that could be found at any cheerleading competition (the real sport: hs/college) this season, the second was a MJ song “Black or White” and the third was another “Top 20’s” song about a girl demanding respect from a man that lies to her.

Phoenix is correct. My mistake. I think the adult “cheerleaders” did, though. Nevertheless, the Little Ladies’ routine did include some elements, such as pelvic thrusts and a kind of bump ‘n’ grind, that, regardless of the song to which they performed, were appalling when performed by a child.

OKAY, have we beat this to death yet? I think we have.  Nevertheless, I invite anyone who cares to engage in a thoughtful debate to chime in. 

Again, I thank Phoenix and everyone else for commenting on what is obviously a hot-button issue! But please let me remind you of this: This is MY BLOG, and I write MY OPINIONS. You’re free to agree or disagree, and you’re free to say so in a respectful, thoughtful way.  And if you disagree, that doesn’t mean I have to change my mind and agree with you. We can agree to disagree!  And if I do disagree with you, that doesn’t automatically make me a fat, shy, ugly, friendless, lonely, jealous bitch (or any number of other things included in comments I didn’t approve).  Personal name-calling on blogs is the virtual version of road rage. Just because you wear the cloak of cyberspace doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) deserves any less respect than if we were sitting next to each other.

And ultimately, I think we can all agree that what we are talking about, after all, is respect.