Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Members of Cheer Squad in CT Just Say NO to Immodesty

Cheerleading is a wonderful way to support various athletic endeavors in a school or in the community. For ages, cheers have been raised from the sidelines of such events and have rallied the crowds to inspire action on the field of play. But, what has become of this past-time in the last several decades? What has happened to this means of uplifting the crowd to support its team? It has become a means of sexualizing sports. Often times, the cheers have nothing to do with rallying a team or getting a crowd pumped to spur a team to victory. Rather, it is about dance routines and skimpy outfits that objectify women and distract from the sport.

Cheer squads start as young as five years old in some community sports organizations. And, while the emphasis at that early age is on being a member of a team, most likely a team that will have age appropriate cheer uniforms, one must look further down the line to what and who a child will be emulating. Modesty and femininity are not high on the list of priorities for most college or professional cheering squads.

At one High School in Connecticut, however, several members of the cheer squad voiced their objections to the new uniform that was issued to them this year. While the world of less is better surrounds them, these girls, one of whom was a former team captain, brought their concerns to the school board.

The girls are to be commended for their character and their courage. Unfortunately, the assistant superintendent of their district seems to lack that same character having cast the onus back on the students for the uniform "failure":
Denise Clemons, the assistant superintendent for secondary school, said the new uniforms, which cost $77 each, are appropriate and were based on the sizes the students gave last spring. She said the girls got size forms and that perhaps the cut of the material ran small or the girls' sizes changed since they were measured. She emphasized that only a handful of the 19-member squad had complained.
 Really, does it matter how many of the girls complained? Does that make the discomfort of those girls, who wished not to expose their mid-section to the crowd, any less important? If this were about any other subject -- race, sexual orientation, intolerance -- the minority would be heard and respected. But, not when it comes to modesty.

As if their personal concerns of "over exposure" were not enough for adults to come to their aid, the girls cited in their argument to the school board the "2010-11 National Federation Spirit Rules book, which guides cheerleading competitions in Connecticut and across the country, has a rule, Section 2 Article 6, that states: "When standing at attention, apparel must cover the midriff."

The assistant superintendent's response to that information was sadly inadequate. She offered:
...neither she nor City Athletic Director James Denton were aware of a rule prohibiting exposed midriffs but that Denton would purchase black body suits the girls can wear underneath the uniform.
Is ignorance ever an excuse we should expect from our educational leadership? We didn't know the rules is something that would get most children detention or suspension from school if they were to commit an offense against the rules. What is the appropriate consequence for the assistant superintendent and the athletic director, whose job it is to know the rules and regulations for all the sports under his direction? And, what message does that send to the children? We parents expect adults who take on our role of parent for 8 or more hours a day to be there to listen, hear and address a child's concerns with care and consideration. The above statements from a senior official in education smack of "passing the buck" and a sentiment that the girl's issues are an irritation, not a concern. This is disturbing.

It is marvelous progress, to say the least, that young women are rising to the occasion of protecting their purity and modesty. They should be commended not sloughed aside as if their desire to remain modest is puritanical. These amazing young women should receive accolades from the school board and their peers for caring enough to know that their uniforms are inappropriate for a High School cheer squad.

As St. Padre Pio once said, "Modesty is important because it is the fort that protects the castle, but it is also the frame that enhances the picture." It's more than fair to conclude that these particular young women from Connecticut who stood up for their sense of modesty, femininity and decency have some idea of this already. Our culture needs to promote this level of modest sensibility in all our children!

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