Thursday, May 15, 2014

Give me an O! Give me a B! Give me a J.E.C.T.I.F.I.C.A.T.I.O.N. O.F. F.E.M.A.L.E. A.T.H.L.E.T.E.S!

I've always had a complicated relationship with professional sports. Growing up in a country where the national sport was soccer didn't help.

On the one hand, I like to gather round the TV in face paint and cheer for our guys while eating snacks as much as the next person. I like looking at people in peak physical condition and admiring them for it. As a person who was never any good at anything that requires me to move away from my keyboard, I always had a lot of respect for people who had it in them to train and train and work and work until they become exceptional at something. Go Patriots.

These people are objectively better at the American rugby game than
whichever guys you support! Woot!

But then again, it's... a bit of a boy's game, isn't it? And I don't just mean that in my country I was discouraged from watching and participating in sports because get back in the kitchen. Professional sports is more brutally gender-segregated than Summerisle. For strength-based sports, that maybe makes a modicum of sense perhaps. (Although not much more than that. How big is a modicum? Like, pea-sized? That seems about right.) But with endurance- and finesse-based sports like soccer and tennis and gymnastics and golf and the other 95% of all professional sports, I don't see the reason. Other than hur hur, girls can't dunk.

But throughout all that, there's was one group of professional athletes that I could turn to just to feel good about the whole affair: cheerleaders.

These people!

Let's back up.

My native country doesn't have them. The only depiction I ever got of cheerleaders was from high school movies and TV shows, where she is nasty and dates the quarterback (the what now?) They never seem to actually train and cheer in those movies, so I didn't think much of it. But I've always been fascinated with gymnasts and dancers, because of the aforementioned admiration for physical feats, and cheerleaders seemed to fit perfectly into that lineup. Over a decade later, and in the spirit of integration, I was watching the Superbowl with Mr. Danger, and I asked where all the cheerleaders were. Turns out nobody really cares about them. I thought that was a shame, so I looked up some videos online of cheerleaders leading cheers. And after wading through pages and pages of videos reaffirming for me the fact that many heterosexual men find it arousing to look at videos of skinny young women jumping up, then down, then up again, I found some.

(Flash feminism challenge! Go to youtube and try to find a video of a professional cheerleading routine:
  1. that doesn't have the word "hot" in the title
  2. isn't a slideshow with still pictures of cheerleaders bending over
  3. isn't accompanied by a song about how awesome it is to look at women who are nice to look at when they bend over
I'd ask you to post your results, but I'm afraid my comment section might break right the fuck in half under the veritable tsunami of videos that surely meet those criteria. Anyway.)

I'm not sure, but I think"tailgate" means pooper

As someone with a not inconsequential number of years of dance training under her belt, I can appreciate this, because do you have any idea how hard a split jump is? In heels and with hair lashing around your head? It is hard, sir.

So I like cheerleaders. I was under the impression that while it may not be for me, and the whole thing isn't entirely devoid of gendered problems, at least I'm looking at a bunch of independent professional women who worked hard in an athletic field and made it to the top, just like all those female athletes nobody cares about. They worked for years at their chosen career in a highly competitive field and now packed stadiums are cheering for them as much as they are cheering for their team, and despite everything, I can't help but think, this being the world we live in, there's a strange sort of power in that.

So with that established, here's the rules on how they shouldn't let tampons fester in their hoo-has.

When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.

ALWAYS shower after a work out and change undergarments. 
Intimate area's: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple, non-deodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.

Yeah, thanks, Dear NFL Abby. I had no idea how to fend off the vaginal fungus goblins until you came along.

You can read the whole thing here, if you would like to be sad for a while. It kind of makes you wonder how any of these feral women made it to adulthood without turning into reeking swamp things made entirely of BO and yeast infections.

I'm not being deliberately obtuse here. Sure, there's an element of culture shock at play for me, but I know damn well that cheerleaders are supposed to meet contemporary beauty standards and that their job is mainly to jiggle prettily, but I admire their athleticism and drive despite of that. To me they will always be athletes first, even though I might be the only person in the world who sees it that way.

I don't really care what anyone else calls it. I'm gonna go ahead and 
call it athleticism. Or possibly witchcraft.

But even if your job description includes "being pleasing to the eye," how is it anyone's business what soap you use to clean your vagina? The hair, the manicures, the eyebrows, the dinner etiquette, fine, I get that. I don't agree with it, not even a little bit, but I get it. That's the way the game has been rigged and we all know it. Those are things people will see and notice, an important aspect in a career that hinges on being seen and noticed. But unless you're clearing out the locker room with nothing but the sheer force of your vagina stank, I'm going to bravely go ahead and say do whatever the hell you please with your undercarriage. Or have I missed the part of cheerleading routines where they take off their panties and undergo the traditional pre-game sniff test? It's not that the rest of the rulebook doesn't read like a deeply insulting fifties etiquette guide for middle class white women, because I think it encapsulates the spirit of sois belle et tais-toi pretty much perfectly, but all this vagina business just seems incongruous.

I mean, it's not like we live in a culture where women are constantly and relentlessly told that their vaginas are Lovecraftian horrors from beyond the veil that must be purged with the heavenly magic of whatever product they're trying to sell us this week. That can't possibly factor into it.

I hate ending on a downer like that, so if you'd like to not be sad anymore, it's great fun imagining the male athlete equivalent to any of these rules.

Ballstank is ungentlemanly. Allow several minutes during normal hygiene routine to vigorously scrub the intimate area tip to taint.
After going number two, use the paper tissues provided to remove excess doodie from  your butthole.
Any visible tattoos are awesome, don't even worry about it.
Keep your toenails trimmed and clean. PEDICURES! Or not. Whatever's in your heart, bro.

So there goes my one handhold in this crazy world called professional sports. It doesn't help that these women are paid less than they'd make literally flipping burgers at McDonald's. With no health benefits. Mascots get health benefits, but cheerleaders don't. Because it's not like athletes need those.

It did prompt me to ask Mr. Danger if there's a women's football league that I could check out, to which he grimaced and offered a "yes, but... well..."

Looks like I ended on a downer anyway. Here's John Oliver, who hosts a funny show you should watch perhaps.

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