Trigger/health warning: mentions of gender-based violence and misogyny.
March was women’s history month, and March 8th saw international women’s day. Yet the weeks that proceeded were jam-packed full of gender-based discrimination. Ironically, this year’s theme was “choose to challenge”. This meant challenge any gender-based inequality.
Action Aid have defined feminism as:
“an ideology and set of movements that work to achieve social, political and economic equality between the sexes.”
You see, feminism isn’t just a female issue, it’s an issue for everyone of every gender. Gender equality is equality for EVERYONE.
There are so many aspects of cheerleading to fall in love with. One of my favourites is that cheerleading is a female dominated industry. In gyms around the world females are both figuratively and literally lifting each other up. Teams are made up of strong, confident, sassy and talented woman. We’ve all heard the negative stereotypes that relate to cheerleaders. Why is that? Because like I said, it’s a female dominated sport and we live in a patriarchy (definition: a society controlled and powered by men). And anything female dominated is portrayed with negative connotations. That’s why I felt it relevant to write a blog on this topic. Gender inequality is something that impacts our wellbeing without even realising.
As your local feminist, I hear the same questions every time, “but why do we need feminism in the UK in 2021?”. I’ll narrow my answer down to a week of news stories from March 2021. Megan Markle (a black woman – intersectional feminism coming in here) was brutally questioned by viewers when speaking out about her struggles with mental health. Women were urged not to go out alone at night after Sarah Everard was murdered. The shocking fact arose that 97% of females aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed. Breonna Taylor’s family still have not had justice for her death a year on. Over 40,000 ASDA supermarket workers have taken ASDA to the supreme court after raising claims over equal pay. Our eyes were opened to the negative portrayal of Asian women in Hollywood and the media. Women and marginalised genders continue to be subject to gender discrimination.
But this is all really doom and gloom, so why am I being such a Negative Nelly? It’s important to know why this topic is so important prior to championing it. Otherwise, what exactly are you fighting for?
If we look specifically at sport, we see disproportionate pay, sponsorship opportunities and visibility in female athletes in comparison to their male counterparts. Even in our sport of cheerleading, a sport where there is a majority of female athletes, it’s still the males that are in the leadership positions – think coaches, choreographers, legislators, directors. Back to that patriarchal society. Let’s not forget, there are more than these two genders who even don’t seem to get a look in.
On the flip side, let me share some positive female achievements that deserve more visibility and more airtime! In the UK alone:
- 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup: England, champions
- 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup: England, third place
- 2017 ICU World Championships: Team England All Girl Cheer, WORLD CHAMPIONS
- 2018 Commonwealth Games: England Netball, gold medallists
- 2019 ICU World Championships: Team England Junior All Girl Cheer, WORLD CHAMPIONS
- Ellie Simmonds OBE: 5x Paralympic gold medallist, 14x World Champion, youngest person to achieve an MBE.
- Rebecca Adlington OBE: 2x Olympic & Commonwealth gold medallist, World Champion, first British swimmer in over a century to win 2x Olympic gold medals.
- Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic & 3x World Champion heptathlete, one of Britain’s most successful athletes.
- Allyson Felix (USA) holds the record for most gold medals won at the World Championships. She actually surpassed Usain Bolt’s record AFTER the birth of her child.
- The majority of board members across Sport Cheer UK are fierce females.
- Sport Cheer Scotland is governed entirely by females – how awesome is that!
There are so many reasons to celebrate women. These achievements are just a few that I felt relevant enough to share here at Cheer From Head to Toe. And of course, you don’t have to be the “perfect” feminist to champion female rights, what does perfect mean anyway? As Maya Angelou once said,
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”
My feminist journey has been rocky itself, even in cheer. I’m not afraid to admit that I used to be really snobby towards side-line cheer. I’m not now, I’ll add, it was my internal misogyny & unconscious bias. I thought it was un-feminist to be a female cheering on the boys’ sports teams. Then I became my university’s Club Captain where I oversaw the cheer, pom and side-line cheer teams. I then realised that these girls (and guys) just wanted to have fun by performing for a crowd and cheering on the games. It was their choice to do so, and I respected that. And that reflection seems so obvious to me now. All-star cheer is where my heart is at; side-line cheer is not for me, but neither is tennis. And that’s exactly what being a feminist is.
“A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself” – Lena Dunham.
We all have unconscious biases. That may relate to gender, sexuality, age, race, religion, you name it. What we need to do is reflect on what our unconscious biases are and be aware of them when they come into your mind. Replace those thoughts by treating everyone as a unique individual, regardless of their differences. As I said right at the beginning, feminism = gender equality. And gender equality is equality for everyone. I know we as cheerleaders love to celebrate the success of our teammates in the gym. We know that celebrating someone else’s success does not take away from our own. So let’s take that celebration from the gym out into the world. Whatever your gender, put feminism on your agenda. And most importantly, I’ll say it again for the people at the back, respect females enough to allow them to make choices that you wouldn’t necessarily make yourself.
To continue championing gender equality, follow feminist accounts to educate yourself on the cause. They often share female icons throughout history that perhaps haven’t been given the recognition they deserve. Accounts I recommend are Feminist News Now, UK Feminism, Munroe Bergdorf and Florence Given (a little less PG).
If any of the topics mentioned have impacted you directly, know there is support out there for you. For grounding techniques and tips to manage flashbacks, follow the link below from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC):
For further advice regarding your legal rights as a female, explore the Rights of Women’s website below:
Another fantastic resource if you have been a victim of any crime is Victim Support. They also have an email and telephone support line:
I hope you’ve found something useful in this month’s blog post. As always, if there is anything in particular that you’d like us to cover, drop us a message on any of our socials. If you would like to feature online, tag us in your photos and use the hashtags #CFHTT and #UpsideDownTime