By Tim Lima
Andover Townsman, Mass.
It’s a tradition some feel is outdated, unjust and inappropriate.
Others, however, see it as a harmless gesture meant to build school spirit and unity.
The high school cheerleaders having been making cupcakes and other baked goods for members of the football team for years, if not generations.
But recently, a controversy was stirred up — like batter in a mixing bowl — that has led to people in town, including some cheerleaders themselves — to challenge the tradition as sexist and chauvinistic.
Earlier this month, a letter appeared in the Andover Townsman from the older sister of two cheerleaders challenging the custom.
Maggie Kobelski, a senior at Phillips Academy, denounced the cupcake baking done by her sisters, who are both varsity cheerleaders.
“The reason for my annoyance is that the practice perpetuates chauvinistic principles that declare that a woman’s role is to bake for and nourish a man while he does the physical work,” she wrote. “I understand the need for tradition, but some traditions are dangerous; they provide an excuse to continue practices that someone would likely shut down if one attempted to start them today.”
The letter has prompted a debate in town on social media and the Townsman website where 308 votes were cast to an online poll, showing 81 percent were against the tradition.
An expert in gender studies says the practice makes girls and women feel inferior to men. The coach of the cheerleading team says the tradition should continue as it promotes team spirit.
Many parents seem to feel otherwise. One mother said she ends up doing the baking while her daughters do their homework.
Maggie Kobelski’s mother, Jamie Kobelski, said that she and her two Andover High School varsity cheerleading daughters, Abby and Lizzie, all agree with Maggie that the practice is antiquated.