Hands on Hips, Smiles on Lips! Gender, Race, and the Performance of Spirit in Cheerleading
Cheerleading has long been synonymous with “spirit” because of its traditional sideline role in supporting school sports programs. In recent decades, however, cheerleading has become more athletic and competitive - even a sport in its own right. This paper is an ethnographic exploration of the emotional dimensions of cheerleading in light of these changes. We argue that spirit is a regulating but also flexible concept that is deployed in order to manage and uphold ideologies of emotion, and that these ideologies are central to how cheerleading reproduces racialized gender difference. On the one hand, the performance guidelines for spirit stabilize the emotional dimensions of cheerleading in the face of the activity's shifting priorities. On the other hand, the performance framing encourages participants to distance themselves from cheerleading's emotional script, allowing them to abdicate responsibility for it. The ambiguity surrounding the performance of spirit - whether it should be read as "real" or "play" - facilitates this dynamic.
Laura Grindstaff and Emily West. "Hands on Hips, Smiles on Lips! Gender, Race, and the Performance of Spirit in Cheerleading" Text & Performance Quarterly 30.2 (2010): 143-162.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/emily_west/14