Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To Be Heard

Over the weekend I met up with a friend of mine who I cheered with in college.  She now works for University of Michigan’s athletic department, specifically, the football team.  Spending time with her reminded me of the time I received a prank phone call from the lead singer of Anberlin offering me a coaching position for the University of Michigan’s cheer team.  This was before I had a cell phone, and just after I had woken up from a nap.  Stephen had me going for a good several minutes thinking it was some sort of legit job offer before coming clean that it was just him.   

I know I probably shouldn’t mention cheerleading.  (Please note - that was long ago – today I play guitar and snowboard.)  But cheerleading is a significant part of my past – nearly 14 years of being on teams, instructing at summer camps, and coaching.  And through it, especially in coaching, I know I’ve touched the lives of many.  Yes, even cheerleading can be a redemptive activity.  And for the record, in Michigan, we call it a sport, recognized as such by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
But in college, I wasn’t supposed to be able to cheer.  I was much too tall for the coed team.  At 5’8” there was hecka no way I stood a chance of being selected for the team.  They look for girls around 5 feet tall who can easily be tossed up in the air – I was too big. 

So spring, my freshmen year of college, I decided to give it a go at the dance team instead.  I was doing extremely well and made it to the final round of tryouts, but pulled from the process when I realized I REALLY wanted to be cheering instead.  So I called up U of M’s athletic department and told them I was interested in starting an all-girls team.  And they said – no thank you and you can’t.  I was devastated and cried, I think.  My friend Emily and I then prayed about it another means to cheering came to me – why not start an NFL team?!  So I called up the Detroit Lions, and expressed my interest in starting a team for them.  Their response was more of the same.  “No thank you.  We’re all set.”
So I pondered some more and did some research.  In doing so, I discovered that you can start ANY organization on campus as long as you have 5 signatures.  So I recruited a few friends who know nothing of cheerleading to sign off for me, and then proceeded to hang up sign all over campus and hold tryouts in the CCRB.  I was determined, I would cheer through my college years – and I did.  And the team is still going strong today, and even started competing.

I suppose history of the team I started is why I wasn’t all that opposed when I learned a few weeks ago that women are now permitted to “tryout” for combat.   My dad, on the other hand, was outraged.  But I get how frustrating it is to be told “no” just because your genetics made you a certain way.  And the Christian tradition I experienced in college was awful when it came to not allowing women to embrace the gifts God has given them. 
I chatted further with the guy from down the shore on the combat matter and he pointed out the dangers for women if/when they are captured.  That’s all he needed to say to sway me in the other direction.  Good point – I hadn’t considered all the rape that is likely to take place.  I also caught an interview with a gal who had attempted the training program for combat and had failed.  She shared, “The fact of the matter is, we aren’t all created equal.”  What she meant is that our bodies are designed differently.  She went on to explain how her body was negatively impacted far more than the men’s.  Okay, so there are some limitations to what a gal can physically do – just like men can’t give birth.

But when it comes to having a voice and speaking, contrary to Christian tradition throughout the ages, I feel strongly that the voice of women ought to be heard. 

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