Boys Dress Up as Girls and Girls are Allowed to be Rough: High School Sports

Do you remember during football season in high school around homecoming time and everyone got excited for your school to play its rival team in the homecoming game? We couldn’t wait for the homecoming dance to dress up and to see who was going to be crowned homecoming queen and king? At your school during the homecoming football game, do you remember the powder puff football game that was played right before homecoming in which each grade level played the opposing grade level (freshman vs sophomores and juniors vs seniors)? I sure do! I remember that I was a picked to be linebacker… I played my position efficiently, but really, linebacker!? I always wondered how the “Powder Puff” football game originated. I also wondered, why on this occasion the girls were allowed to have their own football game, with some of the football players as coaches, and the remaining football players were allowed to dress like cheerleaders?

Throughout high school, especially within the sports realm, if you were a boy, you played “boy sports” and if you were a girl, you were supposed to played “girl sports”. I played basketball since I was about 8 years old and when I got to high school, our girls basketball team did extremely better than our boys’ basketball team in districts, regionals, and as well as states. Even with that accomplishment a trend continued to exist throughout high school, this translated all throughout the high school experience: the girly girls were voted and crowned prom queen, If you were a girl who played sports then you were considered manly or masculine, and if you didn’t fall in-between these two categories, then you were just considered the weird girl. But where do these gender identities and gender norms begin. Why are they so prevalent once adolescents hit high school?

In the text, Dude you’re a Fag, Chapter One has a section entitled, Rethinking Masculinity, Sexuality, and Bodies, it states, “Interviews with and observations of students at River High indicate that they recognize masculinity as an identity expressed through sexual discourses and practices that indicate dominance and control.”  The paragraph goes on to state that gender roles are reinforced everyday within high school. Boys are reinforced to be boys and act like boys, and girls are reinforced to be girls and act like girls. Continuing on the topic of homecoming, it was the girls who stayed back after school and decorated the gym for the dance, and if there were a boy who assisted in this activity, you were considered and labeled as gay.

Title XI passed in 1972 states, “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.” TitleXI Yet in high school we see this contradicting law dismissed and ignored on daily bases.

I remember my first year as a freshman in high school, there was a boy named Justin. Justin was not afraid to state that he was openly gay and that he loved to dance. Justin tried out for the dance squad, the step team, and the cheerleading squad. He was one of the best dancers I had seen up until that point in my life, so I just knew that Justin would make any one of the teams. He tried out for the junior varsity cheerleading squad, and was immediately turned down by the coach. He didn’t stop there though, he then tried out for the dance squad, but was turned down as well. Justin tried out for the step team, which was comprised of all African-American girls, and they accepted him with open arms. During the basketball season, after the step team had been practicing for months they finally performed. Not only were they booed, but people left the gym while they performed with Justin, as well as, parents contacted the principal stating that it was outrageous for a boy to be performing alongside girls. Was Justin wrong for participating in an activity outside of his gender role?

But back to my original story about the Powder Puff games, what makes this activity okay. This is the one time of the high school year in which boys are allowed to dress as women cheerleaders and that allows and welcomes girls to play the male dominated sport of football. “While under federal law, colleges are required to reveal how many women and men are playing on sports teams and how much money is being spent on athletic programs, public high schools are not required to reveal that information.” Lack Of Gender Equality Why were girls never encouraged to try out for football, baseball, or even soccer? And even if a girl were to cross those barriers and make it onto a sports team such as high school football, would she still be considered feminine? What struggles would she face while practicing and playing for such a team?

Who makes the rules and opens doors for gender roles to be crossed and open to both sides? Will there continue to be gender defined sports and activities throughout high school students lives? I guess we’ll have to wait until 2087 and hope that it’s okay for a girl to join the football team, to still be considered feminine and a girl, and not only be subjected to that one time in the school year where boys dress like cheerleaders and girls rough it up together on the high school football field.


-Jade Morton

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