RADICAL CHEERLEADERS: Feminist Fun at Protests!
by Kirsten Anderberg 2004
Radical cheerleader squads are popping up all over America, from Massachusetts, to Arizona, from
New York City, to Seattle, as well as Canada. Radical Cheerleader squads come to political events and demonstrations, to cheer on protesters in solidarity. They stir up excitement, and help to make any political demonstration more colorful and fun. Leading leftist cheers, with black DIY pom-poms made from trash bags, in pig tails, and combat boots, Radical Cheerleaders serve several purposes. Their straightforward cheers educate their audience while focusing the energy, as their performances deescalate fear and tension at protests. When surrounded by angry riot police who will not smile or talk, but just keep beating their clubs into their palms, it can be quite a relief to all of a sudden find a silly, but radical, cheerleading squad in your midst.
Traditional cheerleaders may shudder at the sloppiness of moves, the disheveled DIY outfits, the dreadlocks and tattoos, and the anti-authoritarian cheers themselves, but by taking the cheerleader concept to an opposite extreme, Radical Cheerleaders have found an ideal satirical format. Traditionally, cheerleaders have been intertwined with the systems of authority, and were slaves to the status quo. The stereotypic cheerleader is characterized as a snobby consumer, that caters to her school, male sports teams, and popularity contests, in a passive sexually-objectified manner. So, for Radical Cheerleaders to steal the moves and mannerisms of cheerleaders, while twisting the messages to be feminist, strong, and angry, is humorous, indeed. One Radical Cheerleader sums it up well, “We might wear skirts and we might jump around, but with hairy armpits, and a whole new sound!” Or as Sonya, another radical cheerleader, says, "I shake my ass to smash the state, not to make you sal-i-vate."
Safety in silliness is wise. Street theater is very powerful. And it is an important job, this Radical Cheerleading. As Rob Brezsny says, “Screaming is good exercise.” And there is the old concept of several voices together being stronger than their separate parts. More than anything, the Radical Cheerleader spirit of levity is greatly needed at this point in our world crisis. We need to lighten up and laugh as we protest, and Radical Cheerleaders show us how to do that. Catchy slogans such as “No War, No Hate, No Cops, No State,” “Cheer Bad Things Away,” and “Pom Poms, Not Bombs” endear these women to our hearts! Memphis Radical Cheerleaders say “Radical Cheerleading is protest and performance. It’s activism with pom poms and middle fingers extended. It’s screaming FUCK CAPITALISM while doing a split.” Radical Cheerleaders are leading cheers like, “We're sexy, we're cute, we're radical to boot! We're angry, we're tough, and we have had enough!” If you do not have a local chapter of Radical Cheerleaders to join, you know where the need lies within your own community!