Powderpuff plunders progress

Every year, CVHS offers a single game of flag football for girls; informally “Powder Puff”. Many years ago the name officially changed to “Ladies’ Flag Football,” which “reinforces sexist ideologies in adolescents at a young age, such as [that] girls can’t handle the roughness of sports; a woman’s job is to look pretty, not be athletic; and girls and women in sports are a joke” as the Arvada West High School newspaper The Westwind critiqued. 

For league football at CVHS, the team is supposedly open to any students interested. In the 2018-2019 school year, Leikela Lunt became the first and only girl on the varsity team and continued the following year. Along the same lines, the cheerleading team is open to any students interested, and there continue to be students of all genders on the teams.

Lunt joined the team to “show other girls that we are perfectly capable of the sport just as much as [boys] are.”

However, I believe designating this one-off game for girls tells students that girls don’t belong on the league football team; especially being a flag football game while the school team plays tackle football. 

Lunt said it makes sense that girls stick to flag football, because “more women are not brought up in football” due to societal norms. However, shouldn’t girls be afforded the same opportunities regardless of their upbringing? Yes, football is dangerous, and perhaps no one should be risking their safety for a sport, but if people are opting to play the sport they should have the choice to join the same opportunities. Along these lines, there is also a youth and adult flag football organization–American Flag Football League–changing the football scene to make it equitable and safer for anyone and everyone interested in football. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) decided this year to create a league of girls flag football beginning in the 2023 to 2024 school year. 

In talking to leadership students and leadership teacher Tommy Maloney, they have claimed that the Powder Puff game is just tradition–a last opportunity to have fun with friends before the school year ends. Tradition is often used to mask hegemonic sexism, so maybe we need to re-evaluate this, as we did with Mr. CV ( a competition between popular CVHS senior boys). 

Accompanying this game are the spirit boys–cheerleaders for the one-time players. Aside from the sexism of the Powder Puff game, the spirit boys used to make a mockery of the cheer team. Cheer is one of the most dangerous sports, resulting in more injuries than even football. Minimizing the sport, which is still woman-dominated, demeans the efforts of our students. Luckily this has mostly shifted in recent years, as the cheerleaders coach the boys and see them learn to appreciate the sport. It would be amazing to see more cheerleaders of all genders on the official school teams, but this puts people in boxes, saying this is their one chance to try the sport and enforces that boys don’t belong on the cheer team.

The regular-season football players also have the opportunity to coach the girls in the annual flag football game. While this provides the valuable experience of learning to teach fellow students, as Maloney said, I believe it places the boys on the football team above the girls, again implicitly saying that girls are not as equipped for the sport as the boys.

Outside of flag football, women are fighting against the separate-but-not-equal structures; CVHS girls’ teams are not afforded the same opportunities for support according to players on the soccer team, they are not equitably funded, and even the US Women’s National soccer team just fought for equal pay. The Equal Rights Amendment has not been federally ratified, and women and non-men continue to face systemic discrimination in a way that is only exacerbated by the CVHS girls’ flag football game. The historical and current misogyny makes it difficult to look past the fun of the game and instead forces me to focus on the perpetuation of sexist norms by the sport.

12 thoughts on “Powderpuff plunders progress

  • May 5, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    I meant “Women aren’t not brought up in football because of “societal norms”.

  • May 5, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    Women aren’t brought up in football because of “societal norms”. The fact is that men are genetically built to be more athletic than women. If you put a female football player into the NFL the result is gonna be pretty predictable. Instead of focusing on how all genders should be equal it would be better to focus on what people are good at.

  • May 5, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    This was a really well written article, I would like to say yes, the game seems to be rooted in misogyny but, it actually gives women more confidence in doing more male related sports. My friend did this powderpuff game and had a ton of fun saying how she can’t wait to do it next year encouraging her to play more male dominated sports even if it is just flag football. I agree that this game could use improving, everything needs improving but, this is just a fun school spirit game to help bring the school together.

  • May 5, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    A great article that I have read! I have been thinking whether or not there could be thoughts on sexism for the Ladies’ Flag Football game. While people have said that it could be sexist, I thought why can’t we just have a team for just flag football itself? There can possibly be a lot of controversy between the topic of having a flag football team that can include any gender, but excluding certain gender teams can make some people upset or angry based on gender.

  • May 5, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t agree

  • April 27, 2023 at 10:23 pm

    Hey!! I appreciated reading this article as it had a very unique take on a school event no one has really scrutinized before. I would like to offer a different opinion from the article: on the contrary, Ladies’ Flag Football event celebrates school spirit while uplifting women flag football players.

    Several weeks before the actual game, the Ladies’ Flag Football event had been gaining a lot of anticipatory hype and popularity at CVHS. Many of my friends were extremely excited to participate in this rare opportunity — no experience required. The gender exclusivity of this event promoted women in a way that a unisex flag football tradition would not have — it allowed women to have the full, uninterrupted spotlight without being overshadowed by men. This is not a slight against men or women; statistically, men have 36% more muscle mass than women (American Physiological Society), and are on average five inches taller compared to women. Adding men to the event, especially if the seasoned CVHS football players were allowed to play, would have taken the spotlight off of the female players. In addition, this would have greatly discouraged any new female students from trying the sport.

    In addition to providing more exposure for women’s sports, the Ladies’ Flag Football event is an opportunity for CVHS to break away from gender stereotypes. The boys cheerleading during the event is a lighthearted, fun detail. The football players coaching the female flag football players is a logical and fun team-building event that shows their willingness to help uplift other players (many of whom are not experienced in football, as they have not been exposed to it from a young age). Continuing along this trend, the school should also expand towards letting the cheerleaders coach the participating boys on their sport.

    Instead of viewing community-building events like Ladies’ Flag Football as sexist remnants of misogyny that our school carries from a society half a century ago, we should instead look at all the benefits that the flag football event offers women today. The women’s flag football event is a step towards further representation of women, and we should work on expanding events like these, not condemning them. Girls who play flag football for the first time at Powder Puff may become interested in the sport, and go on to join an official flag football team (or go for the CVHS football team!). However, without the exposure and hype that the CVHS community brings to events like these, a lot less girls will become interested in more traditionally masculine sports like football. Feminism is not just about standing up against sexism and traditions; it is also about preserving and expanding the futures and opportunities of women today.

  • April 27, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    Very well-written article! It’s important to acknowledge that traditions like these are rooted in misogyny. To anyone’s counterpoint that “powder puff”/“Ladies’ flag football” is fun and uplifting: people may enjoy traditions that are rooted in misogyny – it does not change the fact that those traditions are historically linked to the patriarchy. Educational institutions are inherently sites of exclusion, just look at the past. Everyone should have some awareness of that. Thanks for your insight, Rebecca!

  • April 27, 2023 at 11:24 am

    What? Isn’t adding women to a football game (A sport primarily played by men) just doing the opposite of sexism. By referencing the status quo it’s no longer the status quo…

  • April 27, 2023 at 11:16 am

    Great work Rebecca Ireland on calling out the systemic sexism and gender bias being sanctioned by your high school! We all have to name it if we are going to dismantle it, and you are doing a great job!!! One day soon we will have gender equality because of people like you! Keep fighting the good fight.

  • April 26, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    It would be nice to read a piece that honors the individuals that are playing the sport and the individuals supporting them. Being a feminist doesn’t mean living in the past and incessantly bashing history, traditions, communities, cultures, age, race, or gender. We live in a time of cancel culture and constant complaining. Let’s change the narrative and put the Pygmalion Effect to good use. How about we start seeing things in a positive light while providing an education? @Barbara you were great out there! I love your bravery and sportsmanship! And I loved how the freshman football team rallied to support you!

  • April 26, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    Great article!

  • April 26, 2023 at 11:45 am

    After reading the article “Powderpuff Plunders Progress,” I disagree with the author’s argument that the powderpuff football game is a harmful tradition that reinforces gender stereotypes and promotes exclusivity.

    Firstly, the powderpuff football game is a long-standing tradition in many high schools that brings students together to participate in a fun and friendly competition. It’s an opportunity for students to bond with their peers and show school spirit. The game is not meant to be taken seriously, but rather enjoyed as a lighthearted activity.

    Secondly, the author’s argument that the game reinforces gender stereotypes is misguided. The powderpuff game does not necessarily suggest that only females can participate in certain activities. Instead, it provides an opportunity for female students to demonstrate their skills and athleticism in a traditionally male-dominated sport.

    Thirdly, the author’s argument that the game promotes exclusivity is also flawed. While it’s true that only a select group of students can participate in the game, this is true for many other school activities, such as sports teams or school plays. Exclusivity is a natural part of any organized activity, and it should not be used as an argument against the powderpuff football game specifically.

    Overall, the powderpuff football game is a harmless tradition that promotes school spirit and provides an opportunity for female students to showcase their skills. While it’s important to consider the potential impact of certain school traditions, I believe that the powderpuff game should not be condemned as a harmful activity.

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