I have a sister three years younger than I am and we couldn’t be more different. She loves small towns and I’m a big city person, she is the outgoing social butterfly and I’m more of the reserved observer, she prefers to stay at home and I like to paint the town red. But for all of the many differences, there are a few similarities and one of the most notable is our trigger happy impulse to passionately argue a point. Due to logistics and more pressing priorities, our time together has been reduced to a couple of days a few times each year. But invariably all of our visits will eventually send us off debating the finer points of subjects ranging from finances to philosophy.
Among her many accomplishments was being a member of the high-school cheerleading squad. As with most schools, being a part of this elite group put her in the upper echelons of the student social class; not to mention we went to one of the largest schools in the Tennessee (I graduated with over 500 students), making the grade wasn’t an easy task. Even though it’s been years since her last herkie, she has maintained an appreciation for the sport that I don’t posses. I guess you can take the girl out of cheerleading but you can’t take the cheerleader out of the girl.
Several weeks ago she made her annual pilgrimage down to Atlanta for Bubba’s birthday. As we were spending time in the spring weather we got on the subject of her passion and she proceeded to show us a YouTube video of a half dozen eight year old girls in a dance competition from last year. Her aim was to highlight the skills of these kids and while her goal was met it also produced in me a far more concerning reaction. This eventually led to a very spirited dialogue on the acceptability of children’s attire, especially for girls, in our current culture.
(For a full appreciation of the post, I recommend watching the video before reading further)
You don’t have to be a member of NOW to immediately appreciate where I was coming from. Candidly these little girls look like they should be on the main stage at the Pink Pony Show-bar. As the video gained traction after hitting the internet naysayers began their protests of the girls’ appearance, the dance moves, and the music. The disagreement between those who saw it as no big deal and those that didn’t escalated into a national debate featured on several news stations.
Machiavelli wrote in his legendary volume The Prince, “the ends justifies the means”. Without question the talent of these young girls is remarkable, to exhibit that level of skill and ability at such a young age is astonishing. Even with my neophyte knowledge and aversion for this activity I can appreciate the hard work and effort that was put forth to get to them to that point. But while the detractors bellowed at how could parents allow these little girls to look and dance this way, I think the much greater question is why is it necessary?
To put it another way, does the ends (the showcasing of these girls extraordinary talent) justify the means (that they need to look like hookers)? Why do they need to wear bra tops and tight short bottoms to exhibit their skills? Why must they have make-up plastered, eye-lashes glued and hair extensions weaved? What purpose does it serve? I dated a woman once whose daughter was a competition cheerleader at the age of nine. According to her, the intent is to make the girls look older than they actually are, but she couldn’t explain why that’s relevant. I’m convinced that the laws of marketing are in full effect – sex sells. The more suggestive the attire, alluring the make-up, or arousing the moves the greater the chances of winning. It wasn’t coincidence that the more sexual the girls’ moves the louder the crowd got.
In interviews with the parents, one stated that the video was taken out of context as it was at a competition with similar acts and wasn’t intended for the world to see. Which begs the question why post it for on Youtube for the world to see? While another claimed how was their costumes any different than going to the swimming pool? The last time I checked most parents don’t carry mascara and lipstick with the Finding Nemo SPF 50 to the pool. It appears to me that some parent’s hope of getting on Oprah backfired on them.
While some may ask how could a mother do this, I have to ask where was the dad? How can any father, in our sex-induced society, not have a problem with his daughter looking like that? Where Sunshine asked to dress that way I’d lose my mind! Why didn’t the dads step up and question why they needed to turn their daughters into Tammy Faye Baker? Or maybe it was just easier to assume that’s mom’s department and head out to the golf course instead?
The end result was unfortunate, what should have been an opportunity to spotlight the talent and accomplishments of some very special little girls became corrupted by the poor judgement of some very short-sighted adults. And that was something my sister and I could agree on.