Saturday, March 17, 2012

Backstage at Science Cheerleader

Greetings, readers! I've been rather busy in my "free" time lately. The Science Cheerleaders' second appearance at the USA Science & Engineering Festival is about a month away, and the details are voluminous: who's coming, what are the ladies' degrees, what days are they performing, and more--all that stuff needs to be tracked, and that's what I'm more or less responsible for doing as their Event Manager.

The job has become more complex over the past two years, primarily because the sheer number of Science Cheerleaders has grown so dramatically. In October 2010, when they first performed, 11 ladies took the stage, backed up by a fearless staff of four (Darlene, me, Laura, and John). As of this writing, we have over 20 SciCheers performing at USASEF and 170 professional SciCheers in our database, spanning nearly dozens of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) disciplines and most of the NFL--with the NBA arm of the cheerleaders growing as well. The writing staff has grown, though not necessarily the event staff, so if you come to the USASEF and I look a little sleepy, just give me a nudge.

Regardless of the size of our staff, the Science Cheerleaders are appearing in more and more places (with more to come), and are making a great impact wherever they go. What's really great to see is the enthusiasm of the cheerleaders themselves after attending these events. They want to do more, which is great, because they ARE the message, and if the message is upbeat, the organizational work is worth it.


The Science Cheerleaders have been able to tap into the three 3-4 million girls and young women in the U.S. who are now pursuing cheerleading in some capacity. Science Cheerleader is subversive in a way: Darlene is trying to turn cheerleaders into "geeks"--or, more precisely, STEM-minded citizens.

And yes, the SciCheers will attract other audiences as well, including boys and men, but so what? But here's another subversive aspect of Darlene's vision: it forces males--and others--to think twice about their stereotypes and assumptions. Why are you treating a cheerleader--or any woman, for that matter--like she's an idiot? Why not act like a gentleman and assume you're talking to another thinking creature? Because the odds are pretty good, inside cheerleading and out, that you are.


So okay, I've got one of the coolest geek jobs imaginable: "Living the dream," as one of my fellow geeks calls it. But the point is not (solely) to hang around with bright, beautiful women. There are multiple messages and multiple strategies going on here, and I'm still learning about them as I go about my merry way, arranging spreadsheets and event itineraries. The Science Cheerleaders are about more than a group of pretty faces.

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