Friday, March 28, 2008
These articles are dedicated to my best friend Kate.

She doesn't believe that cheerleaders or dancers are athletes.

I love her and would never sit in judgment of her personal choice in sports, but after she quietly admitted her opinion, laughing nervously as she saw the instant, white-hot flash of anger run across my silent face, I've been thinking a lot about the issue.

For the record: Kate is a talented runner - extremely driven, thoroughly competitive, and has completed multiple marathons. I'm hugely proud of her achievements. I'm not angry with her opinion (or her, for that matter) - she's entitled to her own thoughts, and it is certainly not the first time I've heard somebody echo this sentiment.

The issue, in general, is what I'm really trying to get at, I suppose.

I am tired of defending my former life as an athlete - the 3-4 hours spent in the gym every day (or in the equally-as-demanding studio - or both), the restrictive dieting, the threat of weigh-ins and measuring sessions, the constant pressure to move well, smile, and look good while doing it all - oh, and don't forget - sweat is really unattractive, so try not to do that either. And let us not forget the constant, unspoken introspection that leaves each dancer internally pitting themselves against every other dancer in the room - are my thighs too muscular? Do I look manly in this tank top? If the coach notices that I'm limping, do you think she'll pull me from this weekend's game? Why IN THE HELL can't I remember to pivot on 4 instead of 3, DAMMIT! FOCUS!

No one expects swimmers or marathon runners to look good, do they? Of course not. The right shade of lipstick has no place in the world of the stereotypical "athlete," and I'm always horrified at how quickly dancers and cheerleaders get labelled "fluff," or "bimbos," and *SNAP* just like that, they're instantly dismissed away into the never-neverland of auxiliary sport groups. Yet, the first person to get criticized is a larger or curvier cheerleader - and not because she doesn't look "athletic" enough. Argh. I'm off the topic.

What is it going to take for people to JUST GET IT, ALREADY?! I find it incredibly difficult to try and enlighten people without inadvertantly proselytizing (which I admit is totally obnoxious) - but when I stumble upon articles like the ones above, I can't help but pass them along. The whole debate confounds me, it really, truly does.