In my high school gym, there’s a huge wooden sign nailed onto the cement block walls over the orchestra’s section of the bleachers. The sign is painted in our school colors—white with gold and blue trim—and it’s always sparkling clean. “BHS SPARTANS FIGHT SONG!” it says in fat blue letters, and below are the two stanzas.
The beginning and middle lines of the fight song are standard—rah rah rah, yay for the mighty Spartans, go, fight, win, and all that. But here’s where I get mad. The very last lines of the song are these:
So fight, fellas, fight fight fight
To win this game!
I’m assuming this song was written some time in the 1940s or 1950s, when “fellas” was an oft-used slang word for “fellows”—meaning guys, men, boys. Essentially, males. Now, I can understand that things were different fifty years ago—I don’t even know if there were any girls’ varsity teams at my high school back then—but it’s 2006! We’ve got hundreds of female athletes at our school, and our girls’ varsity teams have won a staggering amount state and even national titles. So why aren’t the girls included in the fight song along with their male classmates? As serious, hardworking athletes, aren’t they worth enough to be included? And why, over a span of more than six decades, haven’t any students challenged this before?
I don’t play on any school sports teams, but I am involved in plenty of extracurriculars—for example, our student newspaper, for which I put in a lot of time and effort. I can only imagine how rotten it would feel if our principal came to talk to the staff one day and said, “I’m proud of you fellows!” Our principal would fundamentally be addressing all of us, using “fellows” as an all-inclusive phrase, but it would still feel wrong, exclusive and unfair.
No one actually bothers singing the fight song at my school, but there wouldn’t be a need to alter the words even if people did sing because the orchestra, which plays the fight song every year, doesn’t bother showing up for any girls’ sports events. And I’m sure my school shares this philosophy with every single other high school in the nation: cheerleaders must cheer only for the boys’ teams. Even though the girls’ varsity basketball team consistently makes it to the State Championships and our boys’ basketball team seldom wins a game, only the boys are granted the presence of cheerleaders and, with them, a gym full of roaring spectators.
It’s sexism, pure and simple, and I don’t want it at my school or anyone else’s. - Lilly