Is the sport of cheerleading to blame? Is the age-old activity one of the reasons why women stand on the sidelines even today? I'm not sure, and my daughter recently asked me about the sport. She's heard of some older siblings of her classmates that cheer and so she was curious as to what it was all about. I tried to put my own personal feelings aside and give her the scoop. She's a gymnast and dancer at 8 years old, and I suppose that cheerleading would be a natural progression for girls who like gymnastics and dance. She's young, so I'm happy with her choice of activities and yet I am secretly hoping she will find a team sport that she loves in the near future.
And, the one sport I was hoping she would skip is cheerleading. I know, that sounds horrible and I feel a bit ashamed to admit that since I did Pop Warner cheerleading with my friends in middle school (and there are incriminating photos to prove it).
It's not that I don't think it is a sport, because I do. And I know it requires teamwork, strength, a positive spirit and other great skills. What bugs me is that it's mainly a supporting role with an inferior status to the sport (and overall game) that it is associated to. And I believe it affects young girls in ways that we are too afraid to admit or in ways that our society is too ashamed to discuss.
I believe that this supporting role mentality is ingrained in their minds and stays with girls long into adulthood when they are women working in a corporate or similar environment. Instead of raising their hand, speaking up or taking the lead, they choose to remain in a supporting role where they won't "rock the boat". A role that encourages and reinforces the male as the authority and leader. This mentality also exists in households today where women are often afraid to speak their mind, are often forced to act submissive, and where daughters are praised for being "well behaved" (or quiet) compared to boys.
Well, this woman… she isn't afraid to rock the boat or to be misbehaved.
I want my daughter to be in the game. I want her to be taken seriously. I want her to feel confident that she is capable and powerful. I want her to know that her knowledge and character are far more important than her looks.
I'm sure you've seen the ad campaigns for #BANBOSSY and Verizon's #InspireHerMind that are hoping to empower girls, encourage leadership, and change the confidence gap - and I think they are brilliant! I applaud them for continuing the conversation, and in case you haven't seen the new Pantene commercial that challenges women to stop apologizing and to instead share her strength, watch it here!
It's time for us to take a stand as women, wives and mothers and to embrace the idea of girls as leaders! We need to work hard to close the confidence gap that exists today, and to show our girls that ambition, success, strength, leadership and confidence are all traits to be proud of.
What will I say if she asks me if she can be a cheerleader one day? I will tell her to try out for the boys football or basketball team. If that doesn't work, I might say yes... and let her try it (like I did)... but only if she joins the science, math and engineering club as well or lets me coach her squad (in hopes that I can change the future of cheerleading and girls NO LONGER standing on the sidelines). It's time for us to be in the game ladies and more importantly -- leading the effort! I hope you'll join me.