Just when you think it’s safe to take your kids out to a public event…
I probably should have known better. We took the girls to a professional sports event, an indoor soccer game. They both play soccer (sort of), so I thought it would be fun to get up close and see what the game is supposed to look like. It started out exciting — lots of people, plenty of loud, thumping music, flashing lights flickering across a vast arena. It was the last game of the season and as the players were introduced, they ran out with their own children, boys and girls. Everyone was cheering, getting fired up. It was going to be a great night.
And then the announcer boomed, “And now…it’s time…for…the Socker Girls!” As the fans hooted and hollered, a dozen scantily-clad “cheerleaders” hopped out to midfield. They pranced around for a couple minutes, gyrated their hips, and stuck their butts teasingly in the air, leaving only a little bit to one’s imagination. Suddenly an inclusive athletic event celebrating physical skill turned into a mildly pornographic event showcasing sexual desire. My daughters’ eyes widened, and my wife and I tried vainly to distract them from the peep show in front of them. The raunchy old men in the crowd loved it.
Yes, I know. It’s entertainment. The more naked (or nearly naked) women you can put out there, the more people (or men, at least) will pay for your show. Yes, I know. The people who run the sports teams are not idiots; they wouldn’t put on a peep show if they didn’t think it would make them more money. Yes, I know. Sports and sex have always gone together.
But it’s still wrong and exclusive and demeaning, particularly when you have young girls in the crowd. I feel the same way about these kind of so-called “cheerleaders” as I do about fighting in hockey. It’s embarrassing and silly and anachronistic, and we don’t need to teach our kids to enjoy it. Just as hockey fights showcase all the worst parts of masculinity — the machismo, the uncontrolled violence, the showboating anger, the over-amped testosterone — these “cheerleaders” embody the worst of our society’s stereotypes about femininity — the ceaseless emphasis on appearance over ability, the unrelenting pressure to reveal more and more skin, the shameless appeal to the leering masses. It’s long past time to get rid of both the fights and the “cheerleaders.”