"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is Cheerleading Raunchy or Innocent: A National Debate

If you’ve seen half time at a pro-basketball or football game half clad cheerleaders have become a source of audience delectation. The girls are sexy and the movements often suggestive. This is the new America that shuns modesty.

Recently, a Democratic Texas legislator, Al Edwards, sponsored a bill dealing with cheerleaders at high school football games. Needless to say, these cheerleaders tend to emulate their grown-up counterparts.

Mr. Edwards said, “Girls can get out and do all of these sexual performances and we applaud them and that’s not right.” He goes on to argue that lascivious performances distract high school students and can result in “pregnancies, school drop-outs, the contraction of HIV, and herpes… cutting off their youthful life at an early age.” He adds: “Any adult that’s been involved with sex in their lives; they know it when they see it.”

Exposed midriffs and ever shorter skirts are de rigueur for cheerleaders, but, for many, this exposure is offensive. Of course not every Texas legislator shares Mr. Edwards’ views. In fact, some call his proposed legislation “stupid” or “ridiculous.”

It is interesting to examine the evolution of cheerleading. Originally cheerleading was a male dominated activity, a way for men to assist their comrades in athletic competition and a method for displaying leadership potential. During the Second World War, with so many men at war, women replaced males in what became a source of inspiration. For the first time cheerleading became a beauty-obsessed pastime.

By the 1970’s, led in large part by the success of the Dallas Cowboys, cheerleading became highly sexualized. What worked for the Cowboys became the standard for other professional teams. In less than a decade the fully clothed high school and college cheerleader looked and moved very much like her professional counterpart.

Is this a problem?

For these who remember a more innocent time when cheerleaders were covered down to their shins, contemporary standards are vulgar. That said, the vulgar has colonized every aspect of popular culture. Even cheerleading has gone from, “Go back, go back, go back into the woods, cause you haven’t got, you haven’t got, you haven’t got the goods” to “you’re dead, you’re dead, we’ll bop you on the head.”

Yes, this is all said in good humor, but the humor has an edge to it which has changed the nature of sportsmanship. Fans routinely shout obscenities at the opposition.

On the other side of the social ledger, it could be argued that the problem is in the eye of the beholder. Cheerleaders may emulate their elders, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest they are sexually charged.

The real issue is the spread of pornography into every cultural crevice from ads on buses, to television programming and popular music. It has become inescapable. What effect it is having may be difficult to determine, but I would submit, based on empirical evidence, it is having some effect.

Cheerleading may, in fact, be one manifestation of this trend and, in its way, among the more innocent manifestations. But the trend line is a matter of concern for any American who believes the levers of popular culture affect and enhance or undermine the nation’s character.

32 comments:

Tlaloc said...

It's to be expected that in a culture in which everything...everything...is treated as a commodity that sex is simply another thing to buy and sell.

Our culture is certainly very messed up as regards to sexuality but the problem isn't that we accept sexuality too much, the problem has always been that we repress it and so it comes out as an immature junior high way. We have a immature regard for sexuality and like kids full of hormones we salivate when the pushed up bra flashes on screen.

If we actually ever managed to overcome the centuries of damage done by christianity to our ability to appreciate sex we might be able to have a much more balanced relationship with sex and sexual imagery.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

Do the cheerleaders pick their outfits and dance moves with no intervention from coaches, teachers, school principles or school boards? There have to be many complicit -- or at least uninterested -- adults for things to be the way they are.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

My typo may be more meaningful than the correct spelling.

Tlaloc said...

I still suspect if anything will kill the conservative movement in texas it will be when they gun for the cheerleaders. If there was anything I'd refrain from fighting texans over it's their football. They seem to take that all kinds of personal.

Burwell said...

Thlaloc- spoken like a true anarchist, or a closet libertarian. Why not legalize all drugs? That will reduce crime and take power from the cartels. Right?

Please. Christianity has served as a buffer to, not a repressor of, scoiety's moral ills. Though I will agree that at times the church has been too repressive (especially between a man and his wife- the Middle Ages and the Victorian era), it is not to be blamed for society's desire for license in the name of "rights."

Burwell said...

Thlaloc- you are absolutely correct, from what I understand, about TX and football. My cousin taught there for two years, Teach For America. She is from Boston and could not believe the football culture.

KeithM, Indy said...

On the one hand, as a male ex-teenager, I can tell you that it didn't take much to be sexually suggestive around the boys in our high school.

On the other hand, as a male middle aged dude, I don't like seeing young ladies being exploited in the name of "free expression."

There was a time when the innocence of children and teenagers were protected and valued. I don't think that was such a bad idea now.

Tlaloc said...

"Thlaloc- spoken like a true anarchist, or a closet libertarian."

Thanks.


"Why not legalize all drugs? That will reduce crime and take power from the cartels. Right?"

Yeah it would.


"Please. Christianity has served as a buffer to, not a repressor of, scoiety's moral ills."

Depends on which "moral ill" you want to talk about. In the case of our inability to regard sex in a mature manner then the church indeed bears a great proportion of the blame. Had they not spent two thousand years demonizing all forms of sexual expression we wouldn't be the immature people we are now who get a thrill out of oggling boobies.

Tlaloc said...

"There was a time when the innocence of children and teenagers were protected and valued."

When was that precisely?

James Elliott said...

I think he means around the time 14 year old girls were bartered to neighbors for dowries.

Tlaloc said...

Well I think it was when 8 year olds were sent to work in filthy factories for slave wages.

Tlaloc said...

Damn those socialists and their aversion to child labor! It's their fault we have to endure hotties shaking pompoms.


Sorry, been reading too much national review lately.

James Elliott said...

You poor man. Take a load off, read a copy of Dissent or something.

KeithM, Indy said...

You don't think the culture of the 50's/early-60s tried to protect the innocence of children...

Hunter Baker said...

Why did the chicken cross the road?

According to Tlaloc, because he was trying to escape the ravages of Christianity in the west and thus was willing to risk his life in the traffic, which was also due to the ill effects of Christianity.

Tlaloc said...

"You don't think the culture of the 50's/early-60s tried to protect the innocence of children... "

In a way? sure. In another way, no. Yes they tried to protect kids from the terrors of marijuana and from seeing breasts in the movies. But at the same time when a kid was routinely beaten or raped by his or her family it wasn't considered apropos to mention it.

Tlaloc said...

That's actually pretty funny for you Hunter, but let me ask you this do you deny that Christianity has demonized sex for the last two thousand yesrs and as a nation founded by PURITANS we just might possibly have developed some of our views of sex from that background?

James Elliott said...

You think?

Hunter Baker said...

I'd say it's a divided heritage on the question of sex. When it comes to the Puritans, though, I'm pretty sure they were rocking out behind closed doors given their famously affectionate marriages and emphasis on the home.

We have some who have said sex should be rare and only done for procreation. We have others who think sex between married couples should be embraced to the full. I'm in the latter camp and think it represents the most healthy way for the act to occur.

Tlaloc said...

"We have some who have said sex should be rare and only done for procreation. We have others who think sex between married couples should be embraced to the full. I'm in the latter camp and think it represents the most healthy way for the act to occur."

So in other words you believe in only one sexual act only performed by heteros and only allowable when given the permission of the church AND YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF MORE LIBERAL ON THE TOPIC THAN THE ONE OTHER PERSPECTIVE YOU RECOGNIZE.

Do you have any idea how repressed that is?

Hunter Baker said...

I don't understand why it's repressed. The male-female sexual dyad in the bond of marriage is brilliant. It's fits perfectly for the female need for intimacy and reforms many of the negative male instincts. It also ensures that children will grow up with two guides, one from each sex to help them mature.

Now, that's my reason-based argument for exalting male-female committed marriage. If we get into theology, then obviously I've accepted the message of the Bible that it is the only acceptable setting for the sex act. It's not repressed. It's just what I believe. I don't get all itchy about people doing what they do. I just think they've made the wrong choice.

Lisa Carson said...

Yes, cheerleading is raunchy. In addition, how many of us aspire for this for our daughters: cheering for the boys? Let's find something more important for our girls to do.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Well, according the comments on another thread, this is going to be culturocentric bigotry, but here goes anyway: I was raised in Indiana, and moved to Texas in 1980 to go to graduate school, I was 22 years old, and had never been out of the Midwest until then.

(1) Texas high school football culture is sick and deranged. It was 25 years ago and it just sounds like it's gotten worse. It was not unknown for parents to ask public schools to hold back their sons in junior high school so they'd be bigger when they were trying out for varsity football later on. The public hysteria over "No Pass, No Play" went on for years.

(2) Texas middle class culture is vapid and shallow and vulgar. Anyone who's seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- Mrs. Beauregard? Remember her? There are fifty million women just like her in Collin County alone. Or it seemed like it, anyway.

(3) Combine the two, throw in some MTV to fire up the kids' imaginations, and sluttish cheerleaders just rise up out of the black Texas dirt like maggots out of meat. Someone asked where the parents were when their little darlings were getting kitted out like Las Vegas whores. They were standing behind their little darlings waving their Discover cards, probably.

Tlaloc said...

"I don't understand why it's repressed."

It's repressed because of the literally thousands of healthy sexual activities you say "all but this one are EVIL!" Its completely arbitrary and unhealthy.



"The male-female sexual dyad in the bond of marriage is brilliant."

Not always it isn't, and similarly you can't say that male-female bonding outside of marriage is always bad, nor male-male, nor female-female, nor solitary gratification. They all can be just fine depending on the circumstances. Again the dividing line you've chosen between what's okay and what isn't is completely arbitrary.



"It's fits perfectly for the female need for intimacy and reforms many of the negative male instincts."

Intimacy doesn't rely on a marriage certificate. Which male instincts are you dubbing "negative"?



"It also ensures that children will grow up with two guides, one from each sex to help them mature."

This argument is irrelevent to all sexual activity for which procreation is not the end. It's furthermore suspect since while kids do better with two parents theyre is little difference between two parents of one sex and one of each according to the psychological studies on the matter.



"Now, that's my reason-based argument for exalting male-female committed marriage."

That argument is fine for saying why you accept sex within marriage but it doesn't make even a single point to support that sex outside marriage is a problem.



"It's not repressed. It's just what I believe."

It's not an either/or proposition.



"I don't get all itchy about people doing what they do. I just think they've made the wrong choice."

I respect that.

S. T. Karnick said...

Kathy, some sport or other is that way pretty much everywhere in the USA. I know of a couple who has held their son back in school for two full years in hope that he will grow tall enough to succeed at hockey. (No such luck, so far.) In football and basketball programs where I have coached and my kids have played, numerous kids are much older than the age their grade would suggest (usually because of bad grades and not because their parents deliberately held them back, although the latter is by no means uncommon), and they have a significant advantage in athleticism over their non-flunked counterparts.

As to the cheerleaders, it is a rather sad situation. Starting in kindergarten, they are put into what looks suspiciously like training to become concubines for the athletes in their high school years. To paraphrase Louis XVI in Mel Brooks's The History of the World, Part 1,, it's good to be the quarterback.

ChETHB said...

I don't know about the "concubines for athletes", however, I do know that young girls tend to obsess about becoming a cheerleader. In my town, most of the potential cheerleaders start taking gymnastics early so they will be able to qualify in that respect. Then there's the deal of buddying with the "right" group and belonging to the right high school sorority. The whole thing strikes me as being a little sick. The cheerleaders are like a bunch of clones and it's that way year after year.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I think I must be the most fortunate mother in the world. I have two daughters, now aged 17 and almost 11, and neither one has ever shown the slightest inclination to go out in public in a sports bra and a pair of hot pants and wiggle her butt at 3000 strangers. Rather the opposite. They've both belonged to a fencing club for years, and I spend two nights a week ferrying them hither so they can whack (mostly) boys with swords. A couple of days ago, the younger one thrashed the crap out of a fellow who outsized her by at least eight inches and fifty pounds, with a rapier in one hand and a dagger in the other.

James Elliott said...

Dude. Don't eff with Kathy's kids.

Tlaloc said...

yeah cause if they happen to have a rapier and a dagger handy they'll make you pay...

oh wait...

Jay D. Homnick said...

This is not a subject that I want to be lengthy about, since a lot of people close to me were once cheerleaders.

Let me just say this: a) I think it's absurd for the legal system to be used to regulate cheerleading. b) I think cheerleading is a pretty pathetic part of our culture. It promotes a very shabby role for women, sending entirely the wrong message to both the teenage boys and the teenage girls.

Tlaloc said...

I have to admit Jay captures my thoughts on the subject.

James Elliott said...

Ditto.