A long time ago I took my daughter to her first women's basketball game. I wanted to expose her to a sport I loved and give her an idea of how young women can play a sport with strength, intensity and beauty. She loved the game and squealed and yelled and devoured food.
When we got home she excitedly told her lawyer mom, "I want to be one of the girls that wears the cute dresses." Needless to say, my wife was not pleased that I had inspired my daughter to aspire to be a cheerleader.
I still go to women's athletics events and endure cheerleaders on the side. Yelling, twirling, wearing very short skirts and bare midriffs, and hunky guys who hold them up after they kick and grind and unveil rictus smiles to the crowd. Cheerleaders at women's games make no sense. They parade an alternative definition of women projecting sexualized supporting objects on the sidelines. If you want you can go to the site "hottest girls of cheerleading" to comparison shop.
Women's sports exists to provide an arena for young women to excel in areas of body and space denied them in the past but now open to them. It expands the definition of physical and moral attributes available to women. Young women who play sports develop strengths and self images not available in the normal course to women thirty years ago except as pathfinders and outliers. Now sports and its excellence exist as a normal aspiration from the age of five on.
So why do we continue to parade cheerleaders on the sidelines? It makes a distorted sense that they shout and pout on the sides during men's basketball games with its preening ego exalted show boat ethos. How nice to have supportive little women on the sidelines. And of course they seem to belong amid the militarized splendor of football with its ultra-montane exaggeration of male violence and swaggering corporate dedication to gaining TV exposure. Having cute girls (sorry I mean young women) on the sidelines bumping, grinding, yelling and doing whatever diluted hooker moves are allowed these days, all fit with the spectacle. They shouldn't be there, but they are. I once asked a very thoughtful senior female administrator why we still have cheerleaders. She looked at me and said, "marketing, marketing pure and simple, look at the demographics." She was not smiling.
OK. I get it, but it makes no emotional or moral sense to have this alternative vision of girls (sorry I mean young women) can be co-existing with the proud secure accomplished women of college athletics.
The terrible irony here is that the cheerleaders are there because of Title Nine. If the men's basketball team gets the band; the women's basketball team should get the band. If men's basketball teams get spandex encased dancers; women's teams get dancers. If men's team's get cheerleaders, then women's teams should have cheerleaders. The logic makes a bizarre sort of sense, but women cheerleaders mock the deep intent of Title Nine.
Let's just get rid of them.