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By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
I'm a great admirer of people who are willing to wage pointless battles against immovable social forces, so let me speak on behalf of the varsity cheerleading squad at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
An October 5th story in the New York Daily News reported that the cheerleaders rebelled against wearing the midriff-bearing, provocative uniforms chosen by the school board for the athletic season. Apparently, the teenagers felt uncomfortable at the prospect of revealing too much skin while performing the various jumps, round-offs, and (quiet now) mounts required of the spirit team. At a meeting with the school board, the cheerleader's displayed how unforgivingly the uniforms exposed their bodies and explained that it made them feel vulnerable. "I am embarrassed to stand up here dressed like this," said senior Ariana Mesaros. "It really hurts our self-esteem." The school board eventually decided that while it wouldn't replace the uniforms, it would provide black body suits for the cheerleaders to wear underneath.
A victory for the cheerleaders, to be sure, but I wonder if they realize that this is just one battle in a long, long war. Apparently the varsity squad at Central High didn't get the memo that every other girl in America got, the one that mandates that all girls — cheerleaders especially — are expected to look like strippers when seen in public. It doesn't matter if the girls are underage, or completely intimidated, or unsophisticated — if you are between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine, you better get that underwire bra pronto.
I've been going to high school football games for a few years now, and it's gotten to the point where I'm scared to lower my eyes from the football field to the cheerleaders on the track. Sometimes the uniforms are shockingly tiny, and I have to wonder if other parents in the stands get as creeped out as I do. Even glancing at the cheerleaders from a distance makes me feel like a disgusting pedophile.
And frankly, I feel the same unease almost every time I go to Jefferson Pointe. Last week I saw a girl who couldn't have been more than 13 wearing, I swear, knee-high boots and a bustier. Tons of make-up, straightened hair, bleached teeth. Images of Jodie Foster from Taxi Driver flashed through my mind, though it should be noted that the 2010 "young hooker" ensemble looked a lot more expensive than Jodie's thrift store look in the movie. Thanks to Mom and Dad for that, I'm sure.
I know standards for decency and appropriateness vary from person to person and community to community, but can't everyone agree that teenage girls shouldn't have to look like Vegas prostitutes in order to be accepted? It doesn't seem like an outlandish request to me, yet I always get screamed down by friends when arguing the point. Who are you to dictate morals? Who are you to tell people what's acceptable? I recognize that my point of view is subjective and that others probably have more progressive attitudes about fashion — sluttishness being in the eye of the beholder, and all that — yet I can't help feeling that it's a terrible thing to have young girls objectified so blatantly.
And to be honest, I'm a little weary of the "hooker look" on the over-18 crowd as well. I'm writing this a few days after Halloween and I'm still pissed at the hordes of sorority girls who have forever killed my favorite holiday by dressing up in identical "sexy Whatever" costumes. You know: sexy nurse, sexy bumblebee, sexy corpse, sexy pirate, sexy meth-head, sexy policewoman. Besides the absolute lack of imagination and creativity, the costumes make me crazy because they don't even succeed on a prurient level, like they were intended. Fishnets, garters, push-up bras, and fire-red lipstick don't automatically translate into sexiness; sometimes they just look boring. There's got to be something else going on, some playfulness or personality or exuberance from the person inside to make it work. Seeing a ton of skin on Halloween is getting as predictable as seeing frost on the ground in November, and it's about as boring as being at a strip club. In fact, I'd argue that the "sexy Whatever" costumes are anti-erotic, for most of the girls don't realize the difference between eroticism and tawdriness. It's like the difference between Helen Mirren and every woman on any MTV reality show.
I have a friend who runs a call center for a large marketing company, and she told me the biggest human resource problem she has is enforcing a dress code for the twenty-something girls who predominate her work force. Some of the outfits worn to work are so blatantly inappropriate and offensive that often the girls are sent home immediately to change clothes. The kicker is, my friend told me, that the girls are always aghast to discover that their style of dress is being criticized or considered unprofessional. They find nothing wrong with plunging necklines, tiny skirts, and long leather boots being worn on the job
I know it's typical for an older guy like me to kick the shit out of the younger generation for the way they dress, and I'm sure it's easy to dismiss my ravings as just an old bitterman's sense of irrelevance. But I think it’s obvious something’s going on here. I don't think it's any secret that the exponential growth and popularity of available pornography in a computer age has made everything a little tackier, especially in prevailing attitudes about how to dress in public. Maybe styles will change, but it looks like "Skank" will become the "little black dress" for 2011.