Monday, December 3, 2012

MISS Monday December 3 2012 (Hannah, Denali, Jacqui, and Bri Husky Cheer 2010)

While trying this new Los Angeles experience, I wanted to “find myself” while keeping my heart at home. The mission statement for the MISS Movement organization had lingered in the back of my head the entire time. How can I use what I’ve learned to apply it to what we are trying to accomplish? What is the most efficient way to project the mission without making it about me? 

I want to make the organization about only what we are fighting for. Not about me and not about my partner Hannah. However, the only way I can get people to start speaking is to share stories of my own. When I had begun writing my pieces to help the girls who go through what I have, I tried to balance a personal relationship with the audience while educating them. 

In high school, I only remember having a one-class period sexual education class. This absolutely stumps me because every adult brings up the bad statistics of our region and question WHY? This doesn’t make sense. No one talks about this. I hear teachers, board members, and parents bitch about having to find a way to make this all stop. Um..... what? It’s because of the lack of education. Education in general, not organized high school education. 

When I heard stories spreading around town and heard comments about the so-called slut I mentioned in What Is Sexual Coercion?, I was furious. The types of things that rolled out of these guys’ mouths and the jokes they made about rape, girls, and being “manly” made my blood boil. I have dealt with them from the inside looking out but have never heard their comments from the outside looking in. At one point I found myself at a party watching them physically make a joke about rape. The weird thing is that I’ve known this joke for years but laughed at it up until this exact moment. 

Here’s where education rolls in. Let’s take a step back and look at the high school’s sports programs, how much effort is put into them, and the social norms of these teenagers. While in high school, I wanted to make my name recognized by something like my older brothers but we all know I couldn’t do it the way they did. I put all my effort into the cheer program working to make it turn around after being publicly embarrassed at my freshman year regionals in Barrow. KHS cheerleaders was the region’s joke and not even our own basketball teams supported us. 

My motivation was the wrestling program. They have already scored 10 regional banners and a couple state ones. They have almost an entire wall dedicated to their accomplishments and I had to be the gymnasium’s joke while I stood and stared at them every weekend all 4 years. I only remember missing one weekend for orthodontic appointments. For my last two years, I made it a point to not miss practice. The guy I dated in high school had done the same and received not only awards but gifts for doing what I had just done. Both years. He had his name placed on the statistics plate that hangs on the wall near the concession stands. The big “Welcome to Bush Brawl” sign hung where I had to get my concession stand tickets. I just couldn’t escape the fact that my hard work wasn’t acknowledged no matter where I went all high school. 

This is not to say these guys deserve respect and pride for these titles. I admire the hard work the wrestlers put themselves through and the dedication they put into the sport for their entire lives. However, I do not respect the way the sports programs are handled and judged. 

During my freshman year of college, I had emailed the cheer coach at the University of Idaho on my own and promised to work my hardest at making the team. She had emailed me back right away and told me I can begin going to practices for a while to learn how to be a flyer and how to do a back hand spring. These were the two main requirements for making the squad. I spent about a month committing to learning how to trust a guy throw me into the air and catch me by my ass. I worked on the strict techniques of how to do a cheer back hand spring (completely different from the wrestling back hand spring, by the way). 

“You did an amazing job at the other parts, though! It’s too bad we can’t keep you for that.” the coach told me while I got cut. I called my mom and cried like a big baby. It was not that I was bad at being a cheerleader, I just hadn’t ever received the right education. 

All throughout high school, when I’d make comments about the wrestlers having more, the same comebacks would occur over and over. People compared their 12 year experience to my 4 year half-assed Husky Cheer experience.

The team had the passion but the school didn’t give the resources, the recognition, or the support. I had made my statements throughout the years but was never recognized. We needed a BA coach who didn’t take no for an answer to really get the ball rolling. One that actually believed in us. This led us to attending our first cheer competition that was not the regional tournament, ever. The first place trophy was laughed at because our category didn’t have any competitors. What mattered was that we got our judgment scores a month before the state tournament and finally had the right constructive criticism from the experts. 

Cheerleading is far too often viewed completely wrong by the audience. We are supposed to be as perfect as we possibly can in order to win. Our success relies solely on what the judges want and expect while at the same time wow-ing the audience. 

Without an expert choreographer and these judgement scores, of course we were never going to see any improvements. Without seeing what the other teams outside of our region have to offer, of course we were never going to see any improvements. 

At the state tournament, we had placed 2nd in our category behind the grand champions of 2010 and won the state academic award. This was our 4th academic award. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a regional cheer tournament since the tournament was in Unalaska. Funding wasn’t available. The scores weren’t posted on ASAA’s website so we have no idea if we had potentially won Husky Cheer’s first regional award. 

When asking about the possibility of banners getting hung up the answers were obviously no. The reasonings were lack of funding but when we offered to fundraise, they said that means we will have to go back and do that for every other sport, too. The following year, our Lady Huskies had strongly placed 2nd at the state tournament and their banner is currently in the gym while everyone’s parading the phrase First In Lady Husky history. Excuse me? Am I not a lady? Are Denali Whiting, Hannah Atkinson and Brianna Triplett not ladies, too? Did the four of us not work our asses off since Sophomore year to win these titles?

Let's compare these girls to the wrestlers that we all admired so well they fought against. Think about it. Where are they now? The smartest decision I've ever made was to leave for college without strings attached. If I were to do what my boyfriend wanted to do, I can say with pure confidence that I would not be here today. I would be cheering him on from the sidelines while he made me feel unworthy. I finally had the nerve to seek answers the day I got home last week. He wasn't even aware of how hurt I had been. He did have the right morals to apologize and offer to help me, though. What about the rest of them? You've read about them already. So many times.

Are you still wondering why our region has a patriarchal problem? In high school, people want to fit in. To fit in, the girliest sport is an embarrassment to the town while the manliest sports are our pride and joy. The only difference is that our progress is kept behind the cafeteria doors and only our final product is displayed for the audience at the games. In any other sports, we watch the progress within each match or game so the success is a lot more obvious. 

Let’s step back into MISS specifics. After writing What Is Sexual Coercion?, we received a comment making suggestions on our approach to the organization stating that in order to make it work, we also need to involve men. My approach with this piece was targeted towards the women I am trying to empower with my own open dialogue to create my identity while still educating them on what is right or what is wrong. 

I felt beat up after reading this. My message was completely mistranslated by a male and I was told my approach was completely wrong. I stepped back from getting too personal until I realized that I’m placing myself right in the position I’ve been fighting against. I let myself and my actions be controlled by how a guy felt about how I felt. 

Rape is a huge problem in our region. But rape culture is even more dangerous. Rape culture is a culture in which sexual assault is normalized and accepted. Here though, not only is it accepted, there is a joke that was made up as a “wrestling move” where one guy gets on top of the other guy and physically rapes him. High school guys and girls are circled and laughing about it. 

I had just recently found out that this joke has made its way to the middle school. I found out that girls I don’t even recognize understood that rape is viewed as a joke to everyone. 

Since I’ve graduated high school, the Husky Cheer team has won 2 regional and state championship titles. The underclassmen cheerleaders I remember as a senior have gone out and began cheering in college. Elizabeth Ferguson is currently a freshman cheerleader at the Minnesota State University Moorhead.

This is still not to say the wrestlers are doing an awesome job. I just believe that this new generation has a completely different set of social norms than they had while the wrestling team was fighting to reach the “decade of dominance.” By the way, tshirts were purchased and worn that year but if you look closely they didn't do the math right. 

It is so very unknown to the parents, board members, and teachers. 
My opinion is that parents should not tell their children what sport they are supposed to be good at to keep the family reputation. This leads them to thinking that they are unworthy when they do not meet up to their expectations. My father had stopped bothering me about sports as soon as I began cheering because I didn’t have trouble believing in myself like I had with Volleyball, Basketball and Cross Country. All the sports I couldn’t find myself loving. I just had the right talent for them but hated these different perspectives. I didn’t put any effort into being serious. 

Once the parents begin believing in their children and letting them prove themselves, they will see what their full potential really is. 

When I went around to tell people about my mom’s community christmas tree event, people began complaining about how it starts at the same time the wrestling finals were. This tree is to help the community heal about losing their loved ones and people are worried about seeing who wins the matches when we already know who it is. That’s fucked up. 

I have stopped caring about what people think about what I write if it is true. The truth is what we need to hear in order to really fight our social issues. There are far too many women in the region who are rape victims that believe they are alone in the battle of healing. When, in reality, we’re just unaware of who’s been hurt because they are too afraid to say who’s done the wrong thing. 

Click here to watch a video of Hannah Denali Jacqui and Bri as senior cheerleaders 2010


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