What is the role/function of cheerleaders? What is their specific role in Professional sports?
When I was in high school, cheerleaders—at times—tended to be social outcasts-cum-“spirit leaders.” Contrary to the media stereotype that cheerleaders were blond, skinny, bimbos and that cheerleading was an exclusionary activity for the popular kids, cheerleading at my high school was rather a democratization of coolness; it was a process of social mobility where nerds and honor students faked rhythm, hoping that their public support of jocks at games would translate into less beatdowns or acceptance into lunchtime social circles.
Far from the high school gymnasiums and the extremely robotic cheers (this might exclude cheerleading done in urban areas) and moves that make ballet look like breakdancing, Cheerleaders of professional sports are breaking all the rules, creating some tsunami type waves in the media, almost as much as high profile stars that they root and dance floor. While players along the lines of Artest, Owens, J.O’Neil, Shaq, Sprewell, Reggie White, Muhammad Ali, etc. have been policed for saying their piece (poignant critiques about race in sports), sexuality—what is and isn’t—seems to be the center of much debate the role of cheerleaders. Yet, from recent news about cheerleaders and their overflowing homo/sexuality, I think that we can conclude that Americans (men specifically) are rather schizophrenic when it comes to their attitudes about women’s sexuality.
A few weeks ago, the Detroit Piston’s cheerleader’s swimsuit calendar was blasted by the Michigan-based American Deceny Association for being, like myself, too sexy. This organization considered these representations of scantily-clad—some topless—women as equivalent to forms of prostitution (see here for recap
). Ironically, a portion of the money made from the calendar goes to charity. A few months earlier, two Panthers Cheerleaders were dismissed from the squad for violating team conduct. But from the news report, its unclear what the violation clearly is. What is considered MOST important in the article is that the two cheerleaders were caught by club patrons for having sex with each other in the bathroom; what didn’t come until more than half way through the report is that they were belligerent, provided false information to police, and were publicly drunk. They were charged with battery, which is I guess the reason they were kicked off the team, but its interesting that that their sexuality is somewhat assumed to be part of their “violations of conduct.”
As much as professional sports try to market themselves, athletes, etc. as “family fun,” c’mon… you know that shit ain’t true! Based on my recent experience at the Warriors game (and the Warrior girls wearin’ some of the best outfits outside of strip clubs that won’t give you the ‘ho’ ‘slut’ or ‘prostitute’ label), the very sexuality that is being contested is in fact the very things that some—I would almost say MANY—men watching sports enjoy. Hell I admit it, I enjoy it!
Example: At the one game I attended this season, the cheerleaders were lined up along the stairs, staggered about 20 steps from each other. Atma, Hash and I were sitting next to some rowdy fans that the HBN approves of for their great high fives. Yet as one of the many beautiful Warrior girls danced right next to us, the fans behind began whistling and yelling what some/most might consider degrading statements. The one I remember most was, “Yea! I just wanna touch you girl!”
I will say that NOT everyone in the stadium is like this, nor are male arousals to cheerleader gyrations a recent phenomenon @ Warrior games (maybe more recently than before tho). I think the HBN can all agree that their outfits—along with other teams—have gotten progressively more exposed. But what has struck me in the recent news is the contradictory desire for cheerleaders to fulfill our heterosexual desires optically yet also needing to contain this sexuality at the same time. Professional sports strategically traverses the boundary between satisfying and objectifying women for their largely male audience, but simultaneously conscious of how not to offend another huge market—women and children. Is capitalism to blame for the unfair treatment of women—representations of sexuality as cheerleaders—in a society that perhaps instead of challenges the exploitative capacity of capitalism, rather criticizes and attacks women for doing jobs that many men are setting up for them? To what extent are capitalism and professional sports reflective and reproductive of our stereotypes and desires about women?
Well, I’m not proposing any solutions, nor am I criticizing men for the sexism that we’ve learned socially, but I am just raising some questions about the treatment of cheerleaders in mass media. Anyhoo…
Here at the HBN, we stand in solidarity with women in fighting sexism, homophobia (people gettin’ some in the bathroom is alright by me), and misogyny! We celebrate the Warriors for their commitment to racial diversity, local dance talent, and dancing in general. The lone bright spot in the Mullin “dynasty” of (mis)management is the increased visibility of dancers of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry—more than any other team in the NBA! Below is my tribute to, in my opinion, the top 5 dancers on the Warriors! Here is my “STARTING FINE” (or Starting Five)
The NEW SOLID GOLD DANCERS! I haven't seen gold look this good since the Golden Age of Rap and the heigh of Mr. T's popularity!
My friend knows her from high school, plus she's FINE!
I'm not normally into White girls, but Allyson makes this list cause she is a non-stop Warrior Wonder! She's got some crazy back for a White girl; the type of back that makes Black women freak out that White people are not only appropriating their culture, but their booties too. No joke: My friend and I were both at different meetings where a groups of young Black women were discussing the state of white girls asses and the crisis of Black racial identity if white girls are now contesting them for having back.
Man, Shania deserves rookie of the year. I swear she's Asian, too.
Rounding out the starting fine is Audrey, who offers veteran leadership on this all-star, all-nba cheerleading squad. As a 5th year, she knows exactly what moves provide the spark during timeouts.
Sixth Wo/Man of the Bench!
For Atma Brother #1....
I once ran into Sanae as i was picking up tickets for a Warriors game. She was walking out of the colesium and i said "Hey! You're a Warrior girl!" She looked at me and kept walking without saying anything... She's so awesome!