“I get the feeling of becoming a Billy Elliot – I dance, he dances; his dad don’t like him to dance, my dad don’t like me to dance.” – 9 year old Harvey Pratt, member of the all boy cheerleading troupe.
Earlier this month, the BBC ran a great story about an all boy cheerleading club from a “tough housing estate” in Yorkshire, England. About 40 boys make up the Dazl Diamonds, who range in age from 3-15 years old. According to founder and head coach, Ian Rodley, Dazl Diamonds is one of four other all-boy teams in the world today.
Cheerleading seems to have had a tremendously positive impact on these boys’ lives in terms of confidence, happiness, and performance at school. Predictably, most have struggled with acceptance from classmates and family. The article highlights the pressure placed on children to conform to traditional gender role stereotypes. Many of our ideas about appropriate gender roles can be traced back to the gender socialization we experienced as children and adolescents.
From birth, children are barraged with gendered expectations about “correct” and “incorrect” behaviors. Nothing is off limits from the style of their clothes to the color of their rooms. Boys are encouraged to be tough, competitive and to excel at sports. Girls are encouraged to downplay their aggressive tendencies and focus on relationships and compromise. Transgeder children? Few in our society even recognize they exist.
It takes courage for anyone, especially children, to break away from the norms, even slightly. The pressure on the children who don’t easily conform can be immense. Imagine adding pink pompoms to the equation. The good news is that these boys have the support of their parents, coaches and their adoring fans.
Much of my day is spent in an elementary school working with children. Daily, I witness the difficulties faced by boys who don’t happen to enjoy football, or girls who do, which took me back to my own experiences as a kid on the playground. Overall, not much has changed, but the small bit that has makes a world of difference for some individuals. It’s good to hear positive stories like this one out of England. You can find the Dazl Diamonds on Facebook or on their website.
(This post marks the first post, of hopefully many, authored by a MAC member besides myself. Once he decides how he wishes to identify himself on here, we’ll set him up with his own gravatar and publication privileges!)