CHEERLEADER: An American Icon

Natalie Guice Adams, Author, Pamela Jean Bettis, Joint Author . Palgrave $24.95 (182p) ISBN 978-1-4039-6184-6

Cheerleading, for all its frivolous bouncing and squealing, is a serious matter. So argue Adams and Bettis in their study of the most abhorred and adored of American pastimes. These two professors (Adams is in education; Bettis, qualitative research) bring a refreshing perspective to the subject; on the one hand, they are academics and self-described feminists, and on the other, they admit to being a bit smitten with the whole ordeal (Adams was a cheerleader; Bettis tried out and was cut "for unknown reasons"). They aren't afraid of asking questions, the mother of them all being: why does postfeminist America still have 3.8 million people involved in the cheerleading world? Adams and Bettis recognize the importance of anecdote, using smalltown examples to illustrate big-time problems like desegregation and the eroticism of young girls. Their historical account—who knew cheerleading used to be a strictly male sport?—is sound and colorful. They falter, however, when dealing with current models of radical cheerleading like performance artists X-Cheerleaders, a group of New York City–based feminists who shout "No ifs ands or buts, we're the virgin sluts!" Adams and Bettis astonishingly miss the opportunity to look at the concept of subversion in depth, instead choosing to state the obvious: "Through their performance, the X-Cheerleaders make explicit the contradictions, constraints, and joys of girls' and women's lives in this society." The authors rightly treat their subject with the joyful frivolity of a "pony mount," but they should have dug a little deeper when it came time to land on the ground. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/29/2003
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 182 pages - 978-1-4039-6892-0
Ebook - 978-1-250-09824-5
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