Radical Cheerleading: A New Means of Activist Expression
“Squad set?” yells Emily.
“YOU BET!” we respond.
She calls out the cheer and we begin. But this isn’t just any cheerleading squad yelling for their football team. We’re the DC Radical Cheerleaders and our chants have nothing to do with team spirit. We scream for stopping climate change, resisting capitalism’s domination, smashing the state, and liberating ourselves from patriarchy.
We don’t look like your typical cheerleaders either. We dress in full red and black. Instead of skirts and vests we wear leggings, t-shirts, dresses, and safety-pinned patches. We wear bandanas around our necks and write RC/DC proudly across our faces. And most of all, we are excited to cheer.
We assemble downtown on Saturday, September 15 to participate in A.N.S.W.E.R.’s March on Washington to end the war in Iraq. In solidarity with the many demonstrators, we circle up and begin to cheer. We begin with “George,” a crowd favorite that ridicules President Bush and the actions he carries out in the name of the “war on terror.”
Dub dub dub dub dubdubdubdubdubdub dubya bush
He says the war on terror
Will make the world fairer
But we know that he’s lying
‘Cuz we see innocents dying
Your civil liberties
He’ll take away
He’ll spy on you all night and day!
‘Cuz I’m a terrorist and you’re a terrorist
And she’s a terrorist and he’s a terrorist!
Its terror! AH! Its terror! AH!
But what is terror anyway?
Genetically modified food
The IMF, the World Bank
It’s all bad news!
Damn, them fascists are some heavy, heavy dudes.
Raise up your fist!
We know you are pissed
Fight the capitalists
Show ‘em what they can kiss! Uh!
Of course, no simple listing of these lines can do the cheer justice. Just imagine twenty women yelling, clapping, kicking, and moving. The energy, even on this hot afternoon, is contagious. Crowds gather around us as we cheer. They ask us who we are, because many of them have never seen a radical cheerleading squad perform before.
Conceived by three Florida sisters in 1996, the radical cheerleading movement has spread across the country and across the world. The first radical cheerbook, published as a zine in 1997, describes it as “activism with pom-poms and middle fingers extended. It’s screaming ‘fuck capitalism’ while doing a split.” It is a type of Guerilla Theater—attention grabbing and exciting. In the midst of a serious political demonstration, we energize people and provide entertainment. It’s a unique form of activism that’s empowering and fun.
Throughout the day we move through the crowd, performing many other cheers for our fellow protesters, including “Ugly” (about corporate greed), “Hot In Here” (against global warming, set to the tune of Nelly’s song Hot In Herre), and “369” (against the World Bank / IMF). Two other cheers, “Supersonic” and “Fraggle Rock,” are below. One of the highlights of the day was confronting the counter-protesters, the Gathering of Eagles. We were able do drown out their conservative chants with our radical cheers. We also took a break from cheering to dance along with the drum circle. Dancing is great for morale!
After a few hours of cheering and marching, the protest is over. We return to AU, tired but satisfied, and ready for the next action, rally, or demonstration where we can showcase our cheers.
Su-see ya later
The B is for our Bodies
The U is for Unique
The S is for Safe sex,
George you know the kids all freak!
The H for Human rights
And the M for My
The F for Feminism waving you buh-bye
Hey George Bush,
Can’t you see
That my body belongs to me!
(Set to the tune of the TV show’s opening song)
Take it to the streets
Revolution is so sweet
Something we expect
Is freedom and respect
So radicals of today
We need to find a better way
We need to have a say
Equality’s the way
So stomp and smash the state
It’s time for us to liberate
And Bush can go to hell
Rise up, resist, rebel
For more information on radical cheerleading, click these links: