I just wrote yet another check to my daughter's high school. Honestly, given that it's a public school, they do seem to get us coming and going. This time, it wasn't for a field trip, or PTA dues or PSAT registration. Instead, it was for a tank top and sweatpants. The official, de rigeur — and also default — uniform for the annual "powder puff football" game.
I say "default" because, until last year, the girls wore sweatpants and sports bras.
Our new principal in all his (often hotly contested) wisdom, recently declared a ban on the bras. And, while I'm no fan of censorship and find most dress codes to be misogynistic and an impotent form of slut-shaming, I had to agree with him. Kind of. Sort of. Which has made me not-too-popular with my teen daughter and her friends.
Parents had complained about the revealing outfits. Apparently, some girls were self-conscious about their bodies and didn't attend. Others drastically dieted, no doubt fueling any existing body image and eating disorders. Anything that keeps a girl from starving herself or putting her finger down her throat is ok by me. Plus, it's a school event, and since baring midriffs is against policy anyway, it probably isn't appropriate.
"But, it's tradition ..." everyone whined. And I mean everyone.
If, like me, you grew up in a big city or some other place bereft of this storied tradition, let me fill you in on the sacred ritual of "powder puff football."
Typically, it takes place as a warm-up, a morale booster, a week or so before the big Thanksgiving game. The teams are girls (in our school, senior girls play while junior girls cheer — thus the need for sports bras). And the game is supposed to be the kinder, gentler version: touch football. Official rules state: It is not meant to be a physical, pushing and pounding game. Just like boys football, right? Not! So essentially, "powder puff" provides the best of both worlds. Competition with a soft side.
Oooh, look! The girls are playing football! Isn't that so cute!
Am I the only one who finds the concept condescending? (Then again, I have an issue with cheerleaders too. But, we'll save that for another post.)
Title IX became a law in 1972. "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." This portion of the United States Education Amendments is supposed to assure that girls get the same opportunities as boys. Although not specifically cited, athletics became a major focus in how this law was interpreted. In other words, they should have equal access to organized sports, coaches, teams, equipment and facilities.
Champions of Title IX can point to definitive progress in the growth of sports programs for women. In 2006, a study revealed that the number of women in high school sports had increased by 900%, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%.
Yet, the "powder puff" lives on. In our town, at least. For now. In fairness, some schools have retired the event. I hope our town will do so soon.
My daughter will be there — in her tank top — and she'll cheer on the girls from her school. But, I hope she realizes that this silly show is just that, silly. Meanwhile, she herself is an athlete. My daughter harnesses the power of a 1,000-pound animal. She rides him in tough competition, jumping fences and logs, hedges, ditches and water obstacles. She is a serious equestrienne. She is strong. She is fearless.
She doesn't own a powder puff.
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