Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Are you Ready for Some Football? Gender and Sports

We’re now 7 weeks into the NCAA football season and I couldn’t be happier.  A true Georgia girl, I can’t stand winter and football is the only redemption the colder temperatures get in my heart.  I finally took my son to his first and second Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets games this season and he did great.  He loved tailgating and cheering for our team and, of course, has already begun asking for sports paraphernalia I couldn’t afford.  Hey, at least he’s getting passionate early.

I have always loved college football, though, admittedly, the past three years I’ve really begun to understand the game more, getting into predictions, analysis and statistics (thank you, Dr. Sawtell!)  For the first time, I have a beau who’s a huge fan of the same team as I am and who’ll toss the pigskin to me instead of regulating me to the sidelines during rainball.

Like everything I’m into, sports gets a critical eye over what societal forces are at work and how they can be changed for the betterment of all of us.  Last Sunday, I watched the Falcons get destroyed by the Eagles (because, really, any football is better than no football in my world, even if it is the NFL) and I was shocked at how little the Eagles cheerleaders were wearing.  I’m not sure why.  By most standards they had on at least as much as a “modest” bikini, if not more.  The Boyfriend was obviously thrilled and I’m not gonna lie, a good-lookin’ woman is nothing to sneeze at for me either, but…I was also annoyed.

At a Connecticut high school, cheerleaders went before the board of education to demand more coverage from their uniforms.   High school cheer regulations mandate that a girl’s midriff must be covered when she stands at attention.  A recent study shows that college cheerleaders who are required to expose more skin are at significantly higher risk of eating disorders.

This is a compliment to the fantastic news story a week ago about an Ohio high school student who scored her first three points as the new place kicker for the Chipps and was then crowned homecoming queen on the same night.  She loves football and decided she could add something to her team, got her dad on board and learned to put her soccer skills to use on the football field.  Now, granted, I have no clue if this girl is really, really good or just good because she’s such an anomaly, but this story combined with my reaction to the cheerleaders last Sunday got me thinking.

It’s obvious that girls and women are regulated to the sidelines to cheer on the brave warriors of football.  But why don’t we let girls who have the goods (like what does that even mean, anyway) play?

Activities like football, wrestling and mosh pits allow men and boys to interact with each other physically in a safe environment that does not threaten their feelings of self-sexuality.  In a society where men are not supposed to touch each other, physically violent, male-only behaviors allow for homo-erotic conduct without judgment or even recognition by anyone, including the actors, (except pseudo-sociologists like myself!)

The second we allow women to participate in male-dominated sports alongside men and not in their own leagues or associations the whole system breaks down.  This, in my opinion, is a good thing.  We still manage to hold onto this idea that women are too frail, too fragile, and too meek to roughhouse with “the guys.”  But, that’s just an excuse to keep women out of the boys’ club.  Eventually, women will be allowed to play whatever they want.  For college football, it’ll be a total game changer.  Speed and finesse will become a greater focus allowing for a variety of options, particularly in the Paul Johnson special, the triple option which counts on both of those things to succeed.

But, this isn’t just about sports opening up to women, but about normalizing women in the sports, like cheerleading, that they are allowed to participate in.  These young high school women are opening up frontiers in two totally different ways, but both are important.  Society needs to become more realistic about a lot of things.  Women can play ball.  Women should not be turned into over-sexualized, side-lined Barbie dolls just because they cheer for a football team…and certainly not at 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old.  Women are still feminine if they feel that way no matter what sport they play.  As a society, we need to work to allow women, especially our young women, to explore and project all facets of who we are.

Written by thelittlepecan

October 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Chris, no offense, but I would. Or wouldn't notice to start with. But I do tend to be extra-oblivious in public, especially concerning the female of the species. I would rather watch paint dry than watch sports. I'd rather watch someone else watch paint dry than watch sports. It's funny I could watch TV 24/7, but watching real people do stupid stuff I have no interest in? Nope, not even a few minutes. Or even TV sports. No thanks.I'm not that much better about participating. I can remember when I was 7 and the "boyfriend" played Little League and I wanted to play, but when I look at it honestly that, and my very few other moments of sports-nearness, was more about being told "no" than wanting to participate. Because I was also told "no, that's for boys" about the clothes I wanted to wear, the books I wanted to read, and the toys I wanted to play with, and I fought much harder to win those battles. However, when I was in 10th grade I had a bubble gum baseball card of the SF Giants' really hot third baseman, and I nearly gave my dad another heart attack by asking to go a Braves game. Poor foolish dad, who did not realize his kid wanted seats behind third base to cheer for the Giants right smack in the middle of Braves' turf. :o) He shouldn't have been at all surprised; at the game he'd forced me to 6 years before that, I got my revenge by sitting in the same stadium cheering my head off for the Pirates.I have no idea what I would have done if my kids had been interested in sports. It's hard enough for me to muster the 'supportive parent outside myself thing' for things I don't hate. And every time I think of the boy at Clemson (he went to his first game a few weeks ago) I do have to wonder where I went so very wrong with him?


    October 21, 2010 at 2:33 am

  2. As a high and then college scholarship athlete I could tell you a whole lot about how wrong the system is for females..I could also share that while at track camp at Stanford in 1989 my team of grrls beat the boys in a game of pick up football one afternoon.. they were mortified by it too!!! We killed 'em!!!I felt fat- although I know now I was incredible.. partly due to an early coach, partly due to only hanging around athletes and thinking that their body standards were the world's standards.. we had a great nationally award winning cheer team at my high school- we also had ATHLETES not *cute girls* on our squad. I attract a ton of attention male and female when out and about because I still have an athletic build with curves on top and who can look away from a 6 foot tall 225 pound good looking woman who is wearing a dress and makeup?? And then I go over and pick up a 45 lb bag of dog food and throw it over my shoulder… my husband is a true man who lets me be tough and strong, and then lets me cry on his shoulder..sorry about the ramble Alana, could have been worse.. this subject is near to my heart.


    October 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  3. This is interesting. I will think about this. I am showing my support for your blog here, but must admit I completely missed Sports, especially Football, in my upbringing. Don't understand it at all. Actually, the cute cheerleaders seemed to be the only sensible part of the game.

    Mother Phoenix

    October 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm

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