Does powderpuff empower female athletes or perpetuate stereotypes?

Medha Upadhyay

Powderpuff lets girls play football while the guys take a break and cheer them on. But there’s something very wrong with this picture. Girls don’t need the boys to step aside so that they can take their place on the field. And thinking that way is dangerously old-fashioned. Across the country, girls are just beginning to join their high school football teams, and here at Lynbrook, we’ve made it a lot more difficult for them by setting them off in their own, lower league. Girls who are good at football are encouraged to try out for Powderpuff. Why not encourage them to play on the Lynbrook team? Why set up an entire event for them to just play a recreational game? If they’re at a competitive level, they should be on the team, helping Lynbrook Football win.

We have girls who play football, and who play the sport well. Instead of sectioning them off into a lower league, we need to embrace them with open arms. By making a separate football event for girls, we’re demeaning their hard work, skill and talent. In truth, that’s what many female athletes spend their entire careers actively trying to avoid — being set off on account of their sex. When girls play football at Lynbrook, it’s a fun lunchtime activity to provide entertainment. And somehow, when boys play, it’s suddenly the pinnacle of homecoming? Don’t tell me that that isn’t the very definition of a double standard.

If anything, this event is a direct insult to Lynbrook’s fierce, bold female athletes. These girls spend hours in the gym, on the track or in the pool. Their accomplishments deserve as much appreciation as their male counterparts. After all, that’s what equality is about.

Even in traditional southern states such as Mississippi and Texas, high school girls are already gearing up and stepping onto the football field. Yet somehow, here in Silicon Valley, the most technologically advanced location in the country, and arguably the world, we are still caught up in outdated principles. And before you get started on the “dangers” of football, you should know that cheerleading is statistically proven to be one of the most dangerous high school sports, more so than football. 2.68 out of 100,000 cheerleaders suffer a serious injury, while 1.96 out of 100,000 football players experience such injuries.

Anyone knows that football is part of the classic high school experience. And someone came up with the bright idea of trying to include the other half of the population in this tradition as well. But what they didn’t realize was that girls don’t need to be set aside. It’s almost like they thought that girls would only get a chance to play if the boys let them, as if girls weren’t good enough to make the team and needed a pity party. I would shudder to imagine the anyone thinking that way. I’ll just keep telling myself that they’re misguided.

Any athlete will tell you the importance of belonging to a team. These girls deserve no less. They should be treated with respect, and most importantly, they need to feel like they’re part of a team — the Lynbrook team.  

Equality does not mean merely throwing together a crudely thought-out event so that girls can have a chance to attempt football. Equality means fostering an environment where everyone, no matter their gender, feels confident trying out for our sports teams. Equality is a scene where athletes are judged on their ability and talent and are not discriminated against because of their sex. That is equality, and we’ve lost sight of it somewhere along the way.

So do me a favor. You know that girl that everyone’s been bugging to sign up for Powderpuff? Go up to her, and tell her that she should try out for the football team next year.