“WOMEN SHOULD TRY CHEERLEADING AND BALLET SAYS SPORTS MINISTER” screamed the headline RT'd across Twitter with a healthy dose of ‘ugh's and ‘blurgh's, and the battle-cry of the terminally outraged: “Wow. Just Wow.”
Was I the only feminist who clicked the link, read the quote and thought “Well, she's phrased it horribly, but there's sort of a reasonable point in there?” (Trust me, it's rare I think this while reading an interview with a Tory minister. *raises fist like Wolfie Smith*)
Are the people revolted by the idea of ballet and cheerleading missing the point? What I'm saying is, did Emmeline Pankhurst really chain herself to that horse in the days of yore, just so women could tell other women that the thing they enjoy doing is ‘bad feminism'?
No One Is Saying Girls HAVE To Do Ballet and Cheerleading
Here's the quote from Helen Grant in full (pretty much):
“Some girls may well not like doing very traditional hockey, tennis or athletics, others might. So for those who don't want to, how about considering maybe gym, ballet, cheerleading?... You don't have to feel unfeminine …”
Now, I should say first I'm not out to defend Helen Grant – her phrasing was rubbish, and the idea that girls are opting of sport because they don't look feminine is ridic. (And there's no space to discuss the fact that the coalition have sold off one school sports field every three weeks since coming to power, ahem)
But the idea that kids might be inspired to try sports by the Olympics and Paralympics, by dance movies, by pop videos and Kirsten Dunst… that's quite good, isn't it? As long as girls are ALSO offered the option of Judo and Kickboxing and Murderball, and boys are offered Cheerleading and Ballet, then surely that's quite groovy?
It's Ok To Like Ballet and Cheerleading, No Really It Is, Calm Down
Maybe you do love ballet and cheerleading. Maybe the only time you stop pirouetting and pom-pomming is to watch your Bring It On and Black Swan DVDs. It must have been infuriating for serious athletes (cheerleading is officially the most dangerous sport in America, after all) seeing their beloved sports mocked with the smug, ugh, eye-rolling judgment of the Twitchfork mob.
There's nothing wrong with pink and frilly, in itself. You know how I know this? Because if a BOY liked something pink and frilly, you'd be totally cool about it. You'd think it was pretty awesome. “Oh wow, Dave's kid Tristram, he goes to school in a coconut bra and says he wants to be Malibu Barbie when he grows up, couldn't you just EAT him?” (Did I just blow your mind, there?)
Pink Lego, aimed at girls, is gross because it implies that Lego wasn't aimed at girls before. But pink in itself is literally just a colour. One that a hundred years ago was the colour ‘for boys'. (Ka-bloom, that's your mind blowing again. I'll give you a minute.)
Apropos of nothing, let's remember the Vogueing kid. The Vogueing kid is awesome. And he's wearing pink and dancing. LIKE A BALLERINA.
Moving About Is A Good Thing For Kids
I say this as a person who ‘had a period' every week for five years at school, like some anemic medical marvel. I hated PE. Crusty aertex, cold showers, nudity shame… and this was all before the sports themselves. Hockey just seemed like a chilly, humiliating system for delivering chunks of grit to your bloodied shins (though I respect your right to enjoy hockey, hockey-loving sisters…)
But when I was a kid, I danced. I Stonked, I Supermanned at school discos. I knew every finger flex of Madonna's Vogue (aha!) video. Later, I bounced in Doc Martens around indie discos where the floors crunched with Bacardi Breezer bottles and Marly Light butts. With no money for taxis and a bus that came once a fortnight, my friends and I walked everywhere, miles and miles of cardio-vascular. Some Glastonbury weekends I wouldn't sit down for 3 days solid. (Not just ‘cause of the toilets.)
Did I consider any of these things ‘exercise'? Blurgh, no. Maybe if my Somerset comp had offered Voga – a combination of vogueing and yoga - I wouldn't have seen the PE hour as the opportunity to sit in the changing room eating Frazzles and drawing comic books.
But kids now (I nearly put ‘kids today', Christ) don't walk everywhere. They barely move. It's estimated 14-20% of kids aged two to fifteen are obese – the way to get them moving is not to tell them that certain sports are lame and girly. Get them engaged in something they love. Christ, give ‘em ‘twerking' classes if it'll trick them into moving their fat arses. Won't somebody think of the children?