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Editorials and Opinions

Powderpuff drops the ball on feminism

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

By Madeline Burrows and Floryn Honnet

As children we were both masters of the playground. To this day we hold records in the Zervas history books for our athletic prowess in limbo and stilt walking, as well as legitimate sports like soccer.

Kindergarteners feared the wrath of Floryn “The Assassinator Honnet as she stormed the football fields of the Zervas after school program while Maddy “The Wall/Mad-Dog Burrows was the unstoppable jail-guard of capture the flag games.

We took our positions seriously no matter the sport (limbo included) and faced fierce athletic competition from males and females alike. It was clear that our sex was irrelevant in our desire to play or our ability to dominate.

So why is it relevant now? We are referring to the annual Powderpuff game – where senior girls face junior girls in a flag football game. And while usually enthusiastic about attending South events (neither of us tried to skip the pep rally), we are not playing in the Powderpuff game because rather than it being a celebration of our talents, it is a mockery of female athleticism.

While there is some discussion around the overtly sexist title, there is little to no discussion about the sexism inherent to the tradition itself. Yes, the term “Powderpuff is sexist: it refers to the false idea that women generally prefer to apply make-up over competing in sports.

Changing the name to “girls’ football, however, is hardly the remedy. If this were serious girls’ football, then it would not be a one-day spectacle; it would be one game out of many played by a recognized and organized girls’ football team.

We have no doubt that this game is highly competitive nor do we claim that the female participants cannot have fun while playing in the event. But this is only more evidence to suggest that females have the ability and drive to play physical sports.

Some argue that the reason for there not being a girls’ football team is because of either a lack of ability or a lack of interest. In researching the history of Powderpuff at South, we came across a particularly offensive article written by former South student Jonah Leshin who defended the mockery of the game because “women are, in general, physically weaker than men and the best athletes “are men because of a “biological difference.

Really? Then why do South’s girls’ sports teams routinely have stronger seasons than boys’ teams? It isn’t because of weaker competition on the girls’ side. When put to a test, this theory failed; the girls’ soccer team has defeated the boys’ soccer team in the past. Yet the most celebrated – and attended’€event of female participation is not the girls’ soccer championship but Powderpuff.

Leshin also praised the game “because it gives junior and senior girls a chance to be in a role they wouldn’t normally be in, playing football. (We would like to personally thank South for giving us this special opportunity.)

Some defend Powderpuff as a harmless tradition. “Sure, it’s a little sexist and outdated, people say, “but it’s a tradition! There are plenty of traditions, however, that are now rightfully acknowledged as offensive despite their onetime popularity.

For instance, we now look at the racist tradition of white actors wearing “black face as being horrific and regrettable. Society now recognizes the racist nature of “black face because we recognize that the mockery of blacks is an expression of racism.

Powderpuff is a mockery of women’s athleticism and dignity and is an expression of sexism. As a community we seem to recognize the sexist nature of Powderpuff, and yet we continue to celebrate it. Why should we celebrate the tradition that girls have not historically had the opportunity to play football, or any sport for that matter?

Furthermore, Powderpuff exemplifies the stereotypical traits associated with women. Women are wrongfully deemed inherently “jealous and “catty – traits induced by the competition between junior and senior girls leading up to Powderpuff. Rather than intending to showcase women’s athletic achievements – of which there are many’€Powderpuff is a show, and women are the subjects of the entertainment.

We don’t write this article to criticize our female peers who participate in the Powderpuff game. Instead we aim to criticize the sexist traditions of our community, and hope to ignite discussion where it is desperately needed. Without sexism, the framework for Powderpuff wouldn’t exist. We can’t redefine this tradition on its own terms. Instead we need to create a new tradition that can unify our student population rather than drive us apart.

We propose a school-wide, all-inclusive capture the flag tournament. Needless to say, Burrows and Honnet will be first on the field.

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