Wednesday 24 February 2016

Cheerleaders & Fearleaders

Cheerleaders can be male or female; professional cheerleading, however, is still rigidly feminised. Some describe female cheerleaders' main task as providing "support for male athletes and voyouristic interest for a male audience" while male cheerleaders contribute in strength in stunts. This "sexual division of labor in cheerleading", as Laurel Davis puts it, "reinforces traditional gender beliefs, including notions of men's natural physcial superiority". Others argue that female cheerleaders "perform the same demanding stunts without male assistance" (Hanson, 1995).

"The reputation of having been a valiant 'cheer-leader' is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college." The Nation, 1911
Interestingly, cheerleading started out as a boys' club as it was considered to be too masculine for girls. Johnny Campbell, a University of Minnesota student, is said to have been the first cheerleader in 1899. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan carried on his legacy, all of them cheerleaders. In the 1920s, the inclusion of female cheerleaders started until in the 1960s it became female-dominated (via).

"We are constantly being asked if we are gay."
Max, Vienna Fearleaders (his girl friend is a member of the Vienna Rollergirls)

"As long as what we do raises questions, we need to continue."
Jakob, Vienna Fearleaders

The Vienna Fearleaders are the official cheerleading/fearleading squad of the Vienna Rollergirls. Both the Fearleaders and the Rollergirls have fun switching and playing with stereotypical gender roles: Women in full-contact sport and their male cheerleaders who publish a "Fearelly Calendar" every year (via and via). A unique, marvellous and hilarious combination.

::: Fearleaders, The Movie: WATCH
::: Fearleaders, Summer Camp: WATCH
::: Fearleaders, Heartbeat (campaign against sudden cardiac death): WATCH

"We think [cheerleading] would be a fantastic, inclusive, activity for young people to work together at, and a place where gender norms could be challenged and played with."
Amy Pressland

- Hanson, M. E. (1995). Go! Fight! Win! Cheerleading In American Culture. Bowling Green State University Popular Press
- photographs of Robin Williams as a Broncos cheerleader in 1979 via and via and via and via