Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Peanut butter and jelly. Laurel and Hardy. Cheech and Chong. Gin and tonic. Sonny and Cher. Bert and Ernie. Mel Gibson and Jews. No doubt these partnerships work, right? They make sense. They even have a cadence we recognize. If you heard these during a meditative moment at an ashram in Puna, you’d probably just smile it off, cross your legs and feel even more enlightened than you did before breakfast.
But, science and cheerleading? What the equanimous fuck?
And yet, believe it or not, there is a group of cheerleaders who are cheerleading to champion the cause of science as scientist-type people who cheerlead to say “Hey, girls, you can cheerlead your way to a degree in macrobiology because that’s what all successful scientists do. Cheerlead.”
Let us ponder for a moment the complex juxtaposition of this unusual partnership.
You were a cheerleader. Maybe you cheered for your team, the Smalltown Mammals, or something, in high school. You liked doing it so you practiced hard and got a part-time gig cheerleading for the Washington Wankers on the weekends. They liked you so much that you hit the top cheerleading spot, passing jiggle tests to be objectified without even getting paid.
So, well done, Tracey, you’re a cheerleader! You’ve reached the top of your game! Top! Of! Your! Game! Rah. Rah. Rah.
And then one day, Julie, as you’re painting paw prints on your face, you think, “Fuck. This. I should be more concerned with a career that has meaning. A career that can utilize the brain I was born with. A career that can help me feel more like I did something, contributed to the world, made a difference.” You know the stuff. And so, you drag your toned-ass back to college and a get a degree in something worth having a degree in – microbiology, medicine, aerospace engineering.
You spend the next 5 years working your perky tits off to become a doctor, proud and empowered, a strong and vibrant woman who is breathing female energy into a field that desperately needs it. You’re a solid member of your community, looked up to by all.
Well done, Sonia.
But, on your days off, you’ve decided to squeeze your now not-so-perfect-10 body into a tight stupid-blue polyester costume and waggle pompoms at young girls to show them that they can also be … scientists?
The premise that you can’t promote the idea that women can go into STEM professions without wearing hotpants and garish make-up is preposterous at best, degrading without a doubt, and gruesome at worst. Surely, these scientist cheerleaders – as smart as they are, somewhere – can see that if you can’t discuss science without dressing up in cheap red lipstick and bad nylons. we are, to put it mildly, fucked.
So, imagine us standing at the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering booth at the DC Science Expo discussing how you can quickly prevent uterine hemorrhage in a birthing mother or the importance of amino acids and how they work or the molecular structure of brain cells, only to be drowned out by the inane barking and shrieking at dog-whistle-level frequencies of a bunch of deluded women. Let’s not beat around the bush, this is the pinnacle of pathetic. While the children were building molecule models, some fathers stood in a ring around the “group inspiring young girls”.
Let’s be clear who these science cheerleaders are really for, because science doesn’t need a cheerleader. If they think they’re promoting science, they’re wrong – they’re promoting cheerleading.
Here’s a thought: promote the idea of girls joining science leagues; talk to them about forming a robotics team to compete in the local and national championships; ask them what fields within science and technology make them passionate and then help them to explore that world.
Someone should be telling these girls that it’s not their job to shake their asses for a team. Even if that team is science.
Someone should tell them If they’re going to cheer for anyone, they should cheer for themselves.