The Debate about Cheerleaders: Why you and me are responsible.

(Editorial Note: The author does like attractive females. Actually according to his personal experience and research, he also finds that Feminist also like attractive females—and not just the lesbians. This blog post is not about the relative value of attractive females, or about what is socially considered attractive, or about Feminists.)

You know what has been bothering me: the Oilers’ stupid decision to have cheerleaders in Rexall Place. I can remember watching the ’06 playoff run with my little brother, and both of us making fun of the Hurricanes for having cheerleaders. It went something like this:

Me: “Stupid Americans, don’t they know anything about the history and tradition of hockey.”

The voice of reason: “No, it just in places like Carolina. They have zero hockey market down south and try every gimmick to get asses in the seats.”

Me: “But for the love of the little baby jesus, I am not watching football. That woman cannot even skate.”

The voice of reason: “Have another beer, the second period is about to start.”

What is worse, than the Oilers actually having cheerleaders, is the discussion about having cheerleaders. It seems that any discussion about the Oilers having cheerleaders is simplified (and polarized) into two discrete camps: those that think cheerleaders are good idea, who are categorized as the rational everyday fan; and those that think cheerleaders are a bad idea, who are caricatured as crazy Feminists. No one is talking about why the Oilers need cheerleaders, what they would add to experience of the game, and how they are part of the grand tradition of the game. To paraphrase the Dude: “Pat Laforge treats objects like women, man!” And I do not like this about my favorite team.

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Feminist scholarship has always held my attention, because I think that they have some really interesting thoughts about society. One of my personal favorite ideas of theirs is what is called the ‘relational self’. That the self is actually constructed by others rather the being an a priori; rather then thinking of a self as a self contained body that interacts with the world, the self is a product of these interactions or, more specifically, the self is a point of the intersections of these interactions. It is a concept that actually challenges the idea of the self-reliant man, the rugged individualist, and the solipsist atomist understanding of the self. For more information about this topic I would suggest the books Feminists Rethink the Self & Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self. They are a much better read then me, and vastly better informed.

Why do I bring this idea up? Because if the self is not an a priori ontological category then we have to rethink the relationship between this ontological subject and responsibility; in other words, if the self is constructed out of its interactions with others, then those others have some role to play in the responsibility of that self. Other thinkers have suggested this as well (including the Platformist Anarchists who talked about the idea of collective responsibility early as 1926: “The areas of revolutionary life, social and political, are above all profoundly collective by nature. Social revolutionary activity in these areas cannot be based on the personal responsibility of individual militants . . . the entire Union will be responsible for the political and revolutionary activity of each member; in the same way, each member will be responsible for the political and revolutionary activity of the Union as a whole”), but we should return to Feminist thought for the purpose of this blog post.

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Well, what does this have to do with the Oilers? If we take the idea of the relational self seriously, then it is hard to judge the responsibility of any individual player or management in isolation. The excellent work of assigning errors to the players (which Staples does, and this is not an attack on his work which I find extremely interesting) is problematic because it does not adequately explain who is responsible for that error. For example, Strudwick is the culprit of many, many errors but just because he gives the puck away (again) in the defensive zone does not account for the error of the forwards that did not get the puck deep on the last rush up the ice, who is on the ice with him, etc… Actually since hockey is a team sport, it is hard to even identify who made the mistake (the actual body committing the error) and, even if we could identify that body, how the interactions (and non-interactions) actually lead to that error. I know it seems illogical for a Horcoff, who is sitting on the bench, to be responsible for a Strudwick error but his lack of interaction (the fact SMac or Cogliano is on the ice) is equally part of the interactions that make up the self that is Strudwick, as is Studwicks decision or Cogliano’s play. I know it is hard to get your head around because it runs counter to the ideas we have hold about selves, bodies, and responsibilities.

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Well, going back to the topic of this blog post: cheerleaders. It is not just Pat Laforge that is responsible for the stupid decision to have cheerleaders in Rexall Place. Even more it is not his interactions with the entire Oiler brass that creates his self and should be held collectively responsible. It is more then that, it is the entire league for even allowing cheerleaders to become part of the ‘traditions’. Here is looking at you Bettman: man do I hate that man.

Even more, it is you and me that are responsible. Even if we dislike the idea. Our interactions, and non-interactions, allow Pat Laforge to create a self that allows him to make decisions for all of us. Maybe to a lesser degree then K-Lowe, Katz, the Dallas Stars, and Bettman, but still we are responsible.

Sorry about the rant, it is just pissing me off.

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OK E, fair enough.

I imagine or conceptualize a relational self as a point of intersections between human interactions structured by norms. They constitute the self materially as through bodies & sensory experience, as well as through the daily life interactions with others. The self is constructed, both physically and mentally, through the care of others. Physically these interactions would included a mother or father providing food and shelter (some would include love) for a child; your friends hospitality when you travel to the city they live; people holding the door for you (out of a variety of reasons), etc . . . Mentally these interactions would included learning from others or working out problems as a group—whether in school, on the job, with your family, or strangers; providing emotional support in various circumstances; etc . . .

By norms I mean accepted patterns of behaviour, regardless if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ forms. These patterns of behaviour, or practices, always have a social form of power behind them. That contraction and transgression of norms carries a consequence: whether this is social exclusion (and its existing forms of institutional control), or other forms of discrimination. This gets into a discussion of ‘abnorms’ but I really rather talk about norms. I think what is a norm can be extremely fluid or fairly static, but they are always slightly changing. It is these patterns of norms that structure the material interactions of the self.

Here is story about norms I what to have about sports. I went with my two brothers and my dad to an Eskimos game. My older brother doesn’t know anything about sports and pretends he does. My little brother and I don’t stand up during the national anthem: me because my political beliefs and my brother for being pissed at the gov’t treatment of his, his ex-wifes, my parents unions (plus of the treatment of Canada’s poor, etc…) and he is normally in a bad mood and today he has encouragement. We end up sitting on the edge no drinking section about 15 rows up from the field on the 5-yard line or so. That was my fault, I did not double check to make sure I could enjoy beer and watch the game: it was raining, but I had coffee with Jameson, cream, and maple syrup in mine and my father’s bag. During the first quarter, after being pissed because we disrespected the country and being cheered up by the coffee, while watching the game he said something very relevant: “Can you get these cheerleaders out of the way, I am trying to watch the quarter back!” My brother and I turn to the field to see Ricky Ray pinned in his own end, and a line of cheerleaders doing scissor kicks in the air between us and the play. We all end up laughing, especially my father—and I am sure there was some yelling at the cheerleaders. Then we discussed why we thought they still had cheerleaders. These are the norms I want to associate with sports.

I know most people reading this might not consider all of these normal interactions with people around them on a regular basis. But they are structured by the norms of family, masculinity, and fraternity. We interaction with each other and these interactions part of the structure (rhizome or network, if you will but I don’t) that allow us to construct, or be constructed, as ourselves. A hockey club of the Oilers is a symbol of a norm that helps make up my identity, and now that symbol is associated with a variation of the norm I disagree with.

4 comments:

OntologicOil said...

Excellent, intelligent, well-thought out and reasonably argued.

I agreed completely with "Cheerleaders are Stupid" and "I hate Bettman", and intend to go back and read everything in-between after the game. Or maybe tomorrow.

B.C.B. said...

Thanks, OntologicOil (damn that is a great Handle). Your comments reminded me why I like being 'marked' sometimes: I am just imagining them written in red pen with a B+ circled at the end.

Hope to see you around.

E said...

terrific post.

but i want to prod you a bit further: what, specifically, is the process by which we are all complicit in the production of this relational identity? even if i just accept from the beginning the premise that the self is socially produced and not autonomous, there are still any number of contending dynamics in any society, or organizational culture in the case of the oilers, that can act on the self and it's decisions. the argument becomes more persuasive if you explain the particular dynamics that produce this particular relational self.

B.C.B. said...

OK E, fair enough.

I imagine or conceptualize a relational self as a point of intersections between human interactions structured by norms. They constitute the self materially as through bodies & sensory experience, as well as through the daily life interactions with others. The self is constructed, both physically and mentally, through the care of others. Physically these interactions would included a mother or father providing food and shelter (some would include love) for a child; your friends hospitality when you travel to the city they live; people holding the door for you (out of a variety of reasons), etc . . . Mentally these interactions would included learning from others or working out problems as a group—whether in school, on the job, with your family, or strangers; providing emotional support in various circumstances; etc . . .

By norms I mean accepted patterns of behaviour, regardless if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ forms. These patterns of behaviour, or practices, always have a social form of power behind them. That contraction and transgression of norms carries a consequence: whether this is social exclusion (and its existing forms of institutional control), or other forms of discrimination. This gets into a discussion of ‘abnorms’ but I really rather talk about norms. I think what is a norm can be extremely fluid or fairly static, but they are always slightly changing. It is these patterns of norms that structure the material interactions of the self.

Here is story about norms I what to have about sports. I went with my two brothers and my dad to an Eskimos game. My older brother doesn’t know anything about sports and pretends he does. My little brother and I don’t stand up during the national anthem: me because my political beliefs and my brother for being pissed at the gov’t treatment of his, his ex-wifes, my parents unions (plus of the treatment of Canada’s poor, etc…) and he is normally in a bad mood and today he has encouragement. We end up sitting on the edge no drinking section about 15 rows up from the field on the 5-yard line or so. That was my fault, I did not double check to make sure I could enjoy beer and watch the game: it was raining, but I had coffee with Jameson, cream, and maple syrup in mine and my father’s bag. During the first quarter, after being pissed because we disrespected the country and being cheered up by the coffee, while watching the game he said something very relevant: “Can you get these cheerleaders out of the way, I am trying to watch the quarter back!” My brother and I turn to the field to see Ricky Ray pinned in his own end, and a line of cheerleaders doing scissor kicks in the air between us and the play. We all end up laughing, especially my father—and I am sure there was some yelling at the cheerleaders. Then we discussed why we thought they still had cheerleaders. These are the norms I want to associate with sports.

I know most people reading this might not consider all of these normal interactions with people around them on a regular basis. But they are structured by the norms of family, masculinity, and fraternity. We interaction with each other and these interactions part of the structure (rhizome or network, if you will but I don’t) that allow us to construct, or be constructed, as ourselves. A hockey club of the Oilers is a symbol of a norm that helps make up my identity, and now that symbol is associated with a variation of the norm I disagree with.