Monday, October 25, 2010
Shining Stars and Black Holes of Cheerleading
Recently, girls on the cheerleading team complained to the Bridgeport board of education about the skimpy cheerleading outfits they were given, saying that the uniforms show too much skin, especially the midriff. One team member pointed out that the outfits violate the National Federation Spirit Rules, stating that the midriff must be covered when the wearer is standing, while other cheerleaders mentioned their personal feelings towards the outfits: “I don’t feel comfortable wearing this” and “It really hurts our self-esteem” were the comments of two cheer squad members.
I really commend these girls for standing up for themselves and not being afraid of making waves, in addition to trying to break the stereotype most of us have of promiscuous cheerleaders. They didn’t want to be objectified by bringing attention their bodies rather than their athletic talent. (Some of the things cheerleaders do are amazing - I’m not terribly sporty, so I can appreciate how amazing the people who are athletically gifted are.) They succeeded in bringing this issue to the attention of the nation, and eventually got black body suits to wear underneath the objectionable outfits.
I’m also glad that they’re stomping on every stereotype of the brainless cheerleader who walks around school in skimpy outfits. These girls showed that they’re bright young women who aren’t afraid of demanding that their voices are heard.
While I’m discussing cheerleading and women’s rights, I would also like to mention the sexual assault case in Silsbee, Texas. A cheerleader, a minor identified as HS, had been sexually assaulted by three of her peers at a post-game party in 2008, two of which (Rakheem Bolton and Christian Rountree) were on the team. Bolton was sentenced to a year in jail, but the judge gave him two years of probation, a $2,500 fine, community service, and anger management courses instead.
Not only did the judge in Bolton’s case pervert justice, but so did school officials. Instead of suspending or expelling Bolton and the other assaulters, the school authorities told HS to keep a low profile and to avoid homecoming activities. HS had the courage and bravery to ignore their suggestion and continued cheerleading. When Bolton went back on the team, she refused to cheer for him, resulting in her suspension from the squad. When her parents sued, the court threw out the case. So not only does HS have to suffer from the psychological aftereffects of the assault, she can’t even be a cheerleader anymore and live as normal a life she can lead. What a horrific, misogynistic way to look at this situation.
I beg of you readers to send an email to Richard Bain (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Silsbee school district superintendent, and Eldon Franco (email@example.com), the school’s principal. I CCed them and sent this:
I think it's horrible that you not only told HS, a female student who was sexually assaulted at your school, to cheer for her attacker (Rakheem Bolton), but then kicked her off of the cheerleading squad for rightly refusing to do so. If you have any sense of decency, you will issue her an apology and reinstate her to the team. You are adding insult to injury. If she was your daughter, would you want her to cheer for her attacker?
I induct the Central High School in Bridgeport’s cheerleading squad, and HS, into the Shining Stars of Davida, and Silsbee High School and school district into the Black Holes of Davida.