Every Little Girl Wants To Be A Cheerleader

Scicurious is a cheerhater.  How awful!  Science Cheerleaders is just a new kind of role model for young girls! Boo, you negative scientists and science bloggers!  Get over it!  It works!

Let me explain it to you.  As I understand it from reading Andrea Kuszewski's post, cheerleaders are there to support the team.  They aren't on the team.  They are typically attractive, and are supposed to do stunts to draw attention of the crowd to the team, and to the larger institution.  That is definitely a great role model for drawing young girls into science!

Scene: Friday lab meeting

PI:  "Jane, what results do you have to present this week?"

Jane: "Goooooooooo SCIENCE! "

PI:  "WTF?"

Jane:  "e to the x dy dx! e to the x dy! cosine secant tangent sine! 3.14159!"

PI: "WTFingF?"

Andrea asks, "[What is wrong with] being intelligent AND a sex object?"  And I answer, what is wrong  indeed.  If one has no problem with being a sex object in the first place, then it hardly matters if one is also intelligent. So it totally makes sense when Andrea implores

Feminists should be screaming at the top of their lungs in SUPPORT of [Science Cheerleaders]—strong, intelligent, independent, confident women who are trying to be good role models for young girls—showing them you don't have to give up your womanhood or your femininity in order to be a successful career person.

Right on!

Here's my top of the lungs scream in SUPPORT of Science Cheerleaders:

All girls love cheerleaders, unless they are (a) ugly hairy legged feminazis who can't get laid, (b) ugly hairy legged feminazi lesbian bulldyke ballcrushers, or (c) ugly sad pathetic uncoordinated wannabes who didn't make cheerleader in high school. It's a fact. Groups (a), (b), and (c) are at high risk of becoming scientists. This is unattractive and unappealing for dudes in science. Occasionally, a hot cheerleader sneaks through and becomes a scientist. In the interests of Dude Nation, it would be good if more Hot Babe Cheerleaders became scientists and focused on Looking Hot While Doing Science. In the interests of Women Who Support Dude Nation, it would be good to draw attention away from the gender non-normative aspects of doing science or engineering by emphasizing Hot Babe Cheerleaders Of Science - And You Can Be A Hot Cheerleader Sciencey Babe, Too! No ugly lesbians over here in nanotechnology, nosiree! Genomics is chockfull of pom pom waving blond bombshells in booty shorts! Rest assured, Science will not make you less of a Real Woman! Dude Nation will still want to fuck you up the ass!

Goooooooooooooo SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

36 responses so far

  • Isabel says:

    This is so embarrassing. As a science promoter to kids myself I am truly sickened by all this. It is truly disheartening. I think for my own sanity I will have to pretend I never saw it. It is just so sad to see things getting worse instead of better. There are real problems to solve as well regarding women in science, which this effort refuses to even acknowledge. It's hard to accept how brainwashed people are. Here are the messages I just left on Andrea's website.

    Please show some evidence that feminists want to suppress womens' sexuality. You seem to be totally confused about what feminism is! I suggest you study it. Do you even appreciate the battles feminists fought for you? How has Sci or anyone suggested women scientists should suppress their sexuality? Of course they should not. The truth about feminism is the exact opposite of this.

    The science cheerleaders website badmouths feminists as "hating hot chicks" right on the front page. How can you justify teaching young girls to disrespect feminists?

    Newsflash- shaking your booty and waving pom poms is not every woman's definition of sexual expression. It's just embarrassing. Stick to cheering for the football team, please.

    "The rehabilitation of the messed-up thinking about human sexuality and feminism begins by coming out of the closet—as human beings, sexual and all. "

    Huh? I've been a sexual creature and a feminist all my life. Please stop putting something down that you appear to know absolutely nothing about.

    It seems you are mixing up sexual exploitation, sexual stereotypes (which are limiting, not liberating) and sexuality. Big differences!

    It is heartbreaking that any woman would equate bopping around and waving pom poms in revealing outfits at a family event with expressing her sexuality. It's media-driven artificiality you are supporting, not sexual expression.

    Sorry you are completely ignorant about feminism, slandering the very people who fought for your freedoms, and swallowing the false stereotypes about them hook, line and sinker.

    This is a tragedy for women. It's especially sad because young girls are faced with pressures to be sexy at every turn.

    One last comment- this whole thing isn't about sexual expression, it's about the use of womens' sexuality for *another* purpose.

    And since you like Tom's comment so much, I will look forward to the promotion of women shaking their tits and asses for global warming. There's probably a Fb page already:(

  • Arikia says:

    Zuska!! Haha I love your hairy-legged feminist self.

    Anyway, the point of mine that you quoted without quoting was not that cheerleaders should be role models for science or young girls (though there's no reason why they shouldn't), it was to draw an analogy between what cheerleaders are for football and what non-scientists who support science and use their social currency to draw people into science are for science. I also gave Chris Mooney as an example. He's not a hot chick in short shorts, but I find his Science Rockstars campaign akin to Darlene's in way. I know I didn't do the best job of articulating this point (my coworker was pestering the shit out of me while I was writing it), and can see how it would be easy to get caught up on the first part though.

    Also, Isabel, you can suck it. If I want to shake my ass for global warming, I will.

    • Isabel says:

      I don't even know who you are. Are you Andrea? Nice, telling a woman who disagrees with you to 'suck it'. You mean like 'suck a dick'? You are a great role model.

      The saddest thing about this campaign is the woman *hating* and public feminist-bashing, right on the main page of their website.

  • El Picador says:

    Chris Mooney is *totally* a hot chick in short shorts. or, the equivalent anyway.

  • Nepenthe says:

    Groups (a), (b), and (c) are at high risk of becoming scientists. This is unattractive and unappealing for dudes in science.

    Back when I used to work problem sets with other people in my math classes, it was common for the doods (and it was just the doods and me) to bemoan how very unattractive the women in math were. For some reason, they never thought I would mind. Perhaps, as an unattractive woman, they thought I also missed the beauty standard compliant ladies? Perhaps they just never noticed that I was there? (That would explain their mystified expression when I solved problems. Chalk can't move itself!)

    But now that I know from Science Cheerleaders that women can be scientists AND be sexy, I'll make sure to wear miniskirts in to lab. I've had some difficulty finding miniskirts in a size 24, but I'll have to soldier on. And I'm not sure how my limited mobility is going to work with all that jumping up and down, but we'll have to see. Everyone's going to be so happy that I'm going along with this campaign, right? Women in science, expressing their sexuality! Gooooo Science!

    • Isabel says:

      "women can be scientists AND be sexy"

      And amazingly, black people can be articulate! Who knew?

      Let's keep breaking down those stereotypes!

  • dmabu says:





  • Kaija says:

    Excellent post and loving the discussions in comments here and other Scientopia blogs! This is spot on:
    "All girls love cheerleaders, unless they are (a) ugly hairy legged feminazis who can’t get laid, (b) ugly hairy legged feminazi lesbian bulldyke ballcrushers, or (c) ugly sad pathetic uncoordinated wannabes who didn’t make cheerleader in high school." And if you DON'T fit any of those tired pigeonholes, then you're really messed up/socially confused instead of hey, being human and therefore one of many variations in a large population.

    I was a cute girl (and a smart straight athletic feminist...one of many I might add) and it pissed me off to no end that people ASSUMED I wanted to be a cheerleader (or a princess or a dancer or a model) and even as a kid, I recognized that for girls, people focus on your gender/looks more than they do on you as a person. As a high school student tied with a male student for first in my class, HE got lots of attention for his academics and was encouraged to aim for grad school. I did everything that he did but got little to no encouragement for my intelligence but a lot of concern about my social life b/c I didn't have a boyfriend and seemed stuck up because I didn't dumb myself down for the boys or bow to the queen bees for the girls. (Luckily, I read a lot and had some evidence that I would find my own kind in college, which I did).

    This “science cheerleader” thing probably has the best intentions, but to the community of females (and we are as varied in our personalities, interests, and traits as any other biological population), the focus STILL seems very much on appearance/looks/adherence to the conventional feminine norm. If the message is “hey you cute girly girls, you can do science AND be a hot chick”, the cute girls who are into science get PLENTY of approval and pressure to keep being hot but they need/want some support that totally ignores that and encourages them AS A PERSON in their science interests. If the message is “hey you not-so-cute girls, you can do science and it’s totally hot and the next best thing to being the smokin' cheerleader”, that the message is going to ring false because it still focuses on appearance and carries the same old cultural message that “appearance trumps smarts if you’re female”.

    The message “you can do science too” comes with the ever-present gendered link to appearance/sex appeal…”you can do this even if you’re not that cute girl/you can do this even if you’re that cute girl”. Enough with the cute girl already. What many people are reacting to negatively is that constant link with appearance. The message seems positive but it still comes with yet another helping of the “whatever you are/whatever you do, you are first and foremost a person with a vagina and therefore you must adhere to all these things that we expect from your gender”.

    Same crap goes for a professional female scientists who are always judged on how well they balance their careers with family/relationship/other responsibilities in a way that male scientists are not. "Yes you can be a scientist, but you also had better be a stellar wife/mother/housekeeper/entertainer/etc. but don't let that keep you away from 80-hr weeks in the lab or it will be your own fault/life choices that prevent you from getting tenure/recognition/chair/directorship."

  • DNLee says:

    Hmm. All of this is interesting. I've met SciCheerleader and is a very nice person. At least how I understand it from her, the Science Cheerleader thing came about because:
    1. She really was a pro team cheerleader. That's just what she did in college.
    2. However she was always a fan of science. She started working then writing for Discovery. She found herself again cheering for something she loved - Science.
    3. Then lo & behold, she discovered an unexpected number of former football/basketball cheerleaders who went on to become scientist/engineers.

    It really all started as a novelty but an important one: Looka here, these ladies who know one ever really took notice of individually, were actually working their pom poms off in school. Cheering was teir side game, not the big game. These pretty ladies were studying math and science and kicking but at it. So hey, don't be so dull when you're at the game. The lady on the side line might turn out to be your doctor.

    But obviously, something has gone awry since I first became aquainted with the SciCheer way.

  • jc says:

    O! KAY!
    I am TOTES ELEVENTY!!!111!!111!!!1
    O! KAY!
    O! KAY!
    O! KAY?
    O! KAY!
    O! KAY!
    O! KAY?
    O! KAY!!!
    NO WAY!
    I WANNA DO SCIENCE!!!!!! I DON'T WANNA DO *YOU*!!! GET AWAY U CREEP!!!*throws down pom poms* *runs* *cries*

    • Zuska says:

      JC, in this case I agree with Becca's comment below - love the sarcasm, but not the implication that it's ever a woman's fault for being sexually harassed or raped.

      There is an interesting recent CHE essay on this topic...will look for linky and add in later.

      • jc says:

        The SciCheerleader gig is geared to "making science sexy" by getting men excited, like everything else on the fucking planet, while promoting smart hot women as funny, entertaining, tolerable, enjoyable, and non-threatening to their male hierarchy and organizational pissing structure. NFL cheerleaders aren't trying to make the NFL football team by running around the sidelines during the manly games, while entertaining the male-dominated crowds at halftime. The cheerleaders are there for male gaze.

        Ut oh, attractive women are equipped with scibrains and can do everything Dude Nation can do? DOOM IMPENDING DOOM! As always, women have to prove they are better by the standards of some dood-moveable goal post, but in this case, the SciCheerleaders think they can control of how men view them with some pompoms! SMILE! CHEER! BE HAPPY! SHAKE YOUR ASS! RAH RAH! BE THIN! BE ATTRACTIVE! BE FUNNY! YAY! Everything will be OKAY! if the science men view you as their cheerleader, on their team, existing for them! O for the love of DooD, please like me. GO MALE-DOMINATED SCIENCE!

        Science is not fun and games for women. We are not welcome on their field. Women take away positions from men. The Horror. I die a little every time a college student or little girl tells me she wants to do what I do. My instant thought every time is "no, you don't," and I bite my tongue, give her my email, and tell her I will help her any way she needs me. I wouldn't wish the systematic abuse of women scientists by men on anyone. Women are sidelined by men along their entire career paths. Male eyes may be gazing at you, but we know all the balls are hidden and who has control of the game.

        Recruiting young girls into science isn't as steep as a hill anymore, it's retaining women in the sciences at the ages when they are fuck fantasies (age 18-40+!) that's difficult. SciCheerleaders as role models are pukeworthy because the message is about trying to control how the men view smart hot women. WOMEN CANNOT CONTROL THAT. Who knew Brett Favre would email pics of his dick to Jenn Sterger and stalk her? A cheerleader was recently kicked off her cheer squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist!!! My sarcasm wasn't about blaming the victim. My message was that cheering for and siding with men in P2K compliance doesn't make women immune to the abuse.

        • Zuska says:

          I am extremely grateful that any initial misunderstanding of your original comment resulted in this excellent follow up. And I appreciate from the top of my screaming feminist lungs that you took the time to write it.

        • becca says:

          I don't think the goal is advancing women in science. The primary goal is advancing science in society. Can women control how a wide cross-section of society views science? If they can control how a large cross-section of society views a particular football team, or a car, or beer, or any of the million other things advertising with sex *works* with...

          If you had written that *as a cheerleader*, it might have been it a rueful acknowledgment of how incredibly challenging it is to change the way men view women. It could have been very compelling (in addition to hilarious). But writing as an outsider, who is attributing a particular set of motivations and then pointing out how laughably impossible they are... it's snarky (which, coming from me, is a compliment), but also a little smarmy. You are right to say they aren't immune from the abuse, but I don't think *they* think they are going to be (if you read the website, several acknowledge they have to prove themselves in ways they wouldn't if they weren't cheerleaders). So laughing at it doesn't sound like you're taking down hopelessly arrogant jackhats a peg, it just sounds like you're delighting in somebody else's struggle (although I'm glad you at least aren't trying to *blame* them for their struggle).

          • Zuska says:

            YOU don't think the goal is advancing women in science, becca, but the SciCheer folks and defenders keep telling us what an awesome recruiting strategy SciCheer is. So they are either disingenuous, or confused about their own project.

  • becca says:

    Zuska- out of curiosity, what's your take on co-ed competitive cheerleading?

    El picador- nah, hot chicks in short shorts are viewed as *essential femininity*. Mooney, while attractive, is no more *essential masculinity* than the cheerleaders. It's the difference between the Backstreet Boys and football or basketball stars.
    And do we really need to hold up the magnifying glass on why it's so EASY to have a quick one-line putdown by 'insulting' a guy by likening him to women? *tsk*

    jc- love the sarcasm. hate this particular message. Is it incredibly naive for anyone to assume they are making it easier for themselves to be taken seriously as scientists *in society as it exists* by joining up with science cheerleaders? Yes. Is it incredibly naive for anyone to assume they deserve to walk down any street naked *in society as it exists* without being raped? Yes.
    I don't want to end discrimination for women that act/look like what I think they should, I want to end it for everyone. I don't want to end rape for women that are nice girls and don't go out alone at night, and never wear anything 'provocative', I want to end it for everyone.

    Sidenote- I find it highly interesting and entertaining how strong the 'cheerleader' = straight cultural meme apparently is. Has everyone else seen "But I'm a cheerleader!"? And if not, why are you reading blogs? GO WATCH

    • Zuska says:

      Do I have to have a "take" on coed competitive cheerleading?

      I appreciate the rest of your very thoughtful comment.

      And yeah, while I am sure that in reality not all cheerleaders are straight, the cheerleader fantasy is totally a heteronormative Dude Nation wet dream.

  • bill says:

    Yay Zuska! That is all.

  • skeptifem says:

    Fucking wow.

    If being feminine is about being a cheerleader, why the hell would I want to "hold on" to it? I have been attractive and feminine- you get treated like shit in a different way than you do if you don't try anymore, but it really wasn't that much better. Cheerleaders are another piece of the bullshit lie that girls are told about how great it is to be attractive to men. It isn't. It sucks. Attractive women are treated like fuckable children, unattractive women ignored. Both groups are ridiculed for choosing what they did. I don't want either thing, I want respect god damn it. I want to not have to *think* about my femininity when I consider being a scientist- men don't have to think about retaining their masculinity when they sign up for science.

    Argh I must blog it....

    • Isabel says:

      And we are still waiting for evidence that this is an issue for young girls in the first place.

      And the worst stereotype this campaign has going against it is as Zuska points out

      "cheerleaders are there to support the team. They aren’t on the team. "

  • Thegoodman says:

    I just watched the video...I'm embarrassed for humanity.

    This is like saying that Sex and the City 2 is about Feminism.

  • becca says:

    No, no, of course you don't *have* to have a take on it. It was, however, one thing I brought up that I thought could somewhat improve the campaign.
    On sober reflection and googling, I feel I have identified the science cheerleader campaign we all really need: male PI cheerleaders
    The rationale? If you give a d00d a cheerleading costume...
    "Virtually all informants who had not previously respected women’s athleticism reported changing their attitudes;
    and all informants said that they had learned to better respect women’s leadership abilities and to value their friendship."


    And the heteronormivity issue is blindingly obvious for me, but it fit well in the context of sarcasm you used. I just wanted any possible excuse to plug that movie. It's lovely stuff.

  • Nepenthe says:

    Another thought: what's up with the whole "you don't have to be ugly to do X" idea? It's been going around feminism too, with the feminist-buts. (You know, "I'm a feminist, but I like men." "I'm a feminist, but I shave my legs." blah blah blah) Now we do this in science too?

    It's a more than a little disheartening to see my primary identities (feminist, scientist) promoted by saying that not all who identify that way are the kind of undesirable person that I am!

  • thebewilderness says:

    You would think that a person who rubs elbows with scientists would know that it isn't humanly possible for a woman to give up their womanhood. It isn't an accessory, yanno?

    • Zuska says:

      This comment is so full of win I could laugh and cry at the same time!

      • becca says:

        That, on the other hand, may be scoldworthy. Or can you explain how cis privilege does not apply?

        • skeptifem says:

          Trans women can't give their womanhood away either- dressing as their assigned at birth sex isn't exactly a viable option, considering the stress that produces for trans people. It depends more on your definition of "womanhood" than if you are cis or trans, imo.

        • Zuska says:

          One of the reasons it makes me laugh and cry is that you truly cannot give up your womanhood even if you want to. Try being a person who other human beings identify as a woman - however you entered that state - and then telling those other human beings "For the purposes of spending my designated number of hours in the workplace, I would like to give up my womanhood, and just be evaluated, promoted, paid, and interacted with by my coworkers as a human being." Hahahahahahahaha! Sob.

          • becca says:

            Skeptifem, I can't quite parse what you're saying there; trans men would presumably be part of how we examine this question.
            If you "can't give away your womanhood" either 1) trans men were always men, and never had womanhood (which isn't really how society sees it) or 2) trans men still have womanhood (which doesn't really seem like how *they* would see it).
            My point is simple. "Womanhood" is a ridiculously emotional-meaning laden term to refer strictly to sex (which, *scientists* will tell you, is more complicated than we generally credit anyway). It's referring mostly to gender. In which case, the idea that "womanhood" is a fundamental scientifically-definable property of some humans that is self-evident and immutable seems flawed, and very obviously so in the case of trans (and some intersex) individuals.

          • skeptifem says:

            becca (this might appear to the reply below me, sorry)

            You are still defining womanhood biologically. If you define it another way then there isn't a conflict with trans people (of any gender). What biologically makes someone a woman is irrelevant to what being a woman means in society. You cannot change what society has impressed upon you regarding your gender role- other people determine what that means for you.

  • FrauTech says:

    *sigh* Skeptifem's nailed my current situation. Conventionally attractive; you might be tolerated, given attention, encouraged, but never really taken seriously. Not conventionally attractive; ignored. Neither is a good option. I wish I didn't have to be an object at all. But Zuska's a, b and c are all what I would identify with, I hope I don't have to pick just one!

  • kurukurushoujo says:

    I'm completely on board with Nepenthe's latest comment: it always feels nice to be treated like nothing more than a damn marketing liability!

  • MadScientist says:

    I pity all those nerds who aren't good-looking enough to be scientists. That *is* what the campaign is about, isn't it? Only cheerleaders can be scientists?

    • Cara says:

      As long as they're beautiful FIRST. Because that's what matters. And never mind all that garbage about beauty being in the eye of the beholder or not being related to intelligence or integrity or any other trait.

      Why, a woman can be ANYTHING!! these days...as long as she's also compliant with the beauty standard and shakes her pom poms for the doodz while she's being it.

  • becca says:

    Well, Zuska, you may be right. I may have their intent all wrong. Yes, a lot of the talk is about getting girls interested in science.
    On other hand, they may suffer from mission-ambiguity (see genegeek for a take on that- http://www.labspaces.net/blog/971/Yet_another_post_about_cheering_for_science_rock_stars).

    They are performing at Philadelphia bars and on ESPN, not just at the USA science and engineering festival. Not a lot of little cheerleaders in those audiences. I don't think it's sound reasoning to assume we know who their target audience is- it sounds to me like there are multiple target audiences and multiple goals at work here. Particularly given Darlene's commendable efforts in promoting 'citizen science'.

    Look, defining them as *entirely* about promoting women in science makes it easier to judge them as 'at best' having a small positive effect, while reinforcing many negative cultural memes. Acknowledging the effort might *also* be aiming at simply raising the profile of science in the minds of the public makes it more complicated. They could easily have a huge positive impact there.
    I don't think saying that mitigates the legitimate feminist concerns brought up here and elsewhere. I think it more accurately describes the complicated reality.

    That said, it's important to note- you could probably just as easily have a huge positive impact in raising the profile of science in the minds of the public without all the accompanying cheerbaggage.