December 11, 2013 – 5:09PM
Reporter at The Canberra Times
Fleta Page rejoiced at news of the potential demise of the Raiderettes, because you see, back in 1985, she really wanted to be a Swanette when she grew up.
I used to take red and white streamers to Sydney Swans games and dance around like the cheerleaders of the Geoffrey Edelsten Swans era.
Until cheerleading is just one option of a variety of visible opportunities for women’s involvement in sport, I’d like to see it disappeared from Australian sporting culture.
Sure, I was still a pre-schooler and enjoyed a bit of dancing (I still do when I know I can get away with my favoured cheesy dance moves), but when I got home, I would play footy and cricket with my brothers, attempt to skateboard and shun most girly things.
I still do that too.
The fact I wanted to be a Swannette is often met with surprise by those who know me and my sports-loving ways, but when it came to watching sport, they were the only women I saw represented.
There were no girls playing for the Swans, there were no girls playing the curtain raiser, there were no girls playing anything as far as I could see – just me at the park or in the hallway with my wonderfully inclusive big brothers.
Three decades on, and things have only marginally improved. In Aussie Rules, the Swanettes were axed (and I started watching the game instead), there are girls playing Auskick at half time, and this year a representative women’s game was played as the curtain raiser in round 14.
But Rugby League (a sport I followed until the death of the North Sydney Bears), which has had its fair share of issues when it comes to relations with women, still seems to think having dancers on the sideline in skimpy clothing for the perve factor for men is a legitimate way to involve women in their game.
I know the Raiderettes lead other professional lives; they are smart, athletic, talented and probably enjoy their jobs, getting to watch their team from right on the sidelines.
But until cheerleading is just one option of a variety of visible opportunities for women’s involvement in sport, I’d like to see it disappeared from Australian sporting culture.
In the US, cheerleading is huge, and I don’t begrudge that. Cheerleading can earn women – and men – university scholarships as well as jobs.
But those scholarships are also on offer for women playing numerous other sports, thanks to Title IX legislation which requires universities to offer the same athletic opportunities to women as they do for men.
As a result, you have women playing sport in America in nationally televised professional competitions.
They aren’t struggling to pay their rent and put themselves through university at the same time either.
So until women’s sporting leagues are commercially televised as a matter of routine in Australia – wearing athletically appropriate uniforms (looking at you LFL), I say there is no place for the Raiderettes.
The Canberra Times