Barbie or the Beast?: A feminist view of Powder Puff football | Teen Ink

Barbie or the Beast?: A feminist view of Powder Puff football

June 1, 2010
By kread18 DIAMOND, Berkeley, California
kread18 DIAMOND, Berkeley, California
65 articles 0 photos 33 comments

“Powder Puff,” a popular American tradition in high school and collegiate athletics, has been an anticipated event every year at CHS. This annual game evokes a competitive spirit and a friendly rivalry between the junior and senior girls and creates enthusiasm in pre-game practices.

Judy Samasha, an athletic director in Connecticut who wished to increase women’s involvement in competitive sports, created these football games in 1972. Some say that the popularity of powder puff is positive, uplifting school spirit and providing a valid opportunity for girls to play football. Others see it differently.’s definition of “powder puff” leaves an impression of pettiness and weakness rather than fierceness and intensity. Words such as “inconsequential, trifling, and lightweight,” are only some of the given synonyms. Wikipedia describes it as a “stereotype image for soft, careless femininity.” labels it as “a term used to describe a sissy. Someone who talks a lot of stuff but never backs it up because they can't.”

This year’s CHS powder puff football game is taking on a “Barbie Bowl” spin. Barbie, the fashion doll that has become the American icon of cookie-cutter girls, perfect bodies, and blonde hair, inspires the attire of this year’s game. In the spirit of all things girly, seniors will be clad in purple jerseys, battling it out with junior girls wearing white. These jerseys, meant to bring a more official and unified element to the game, also seem to harbor a concentration on clothes and appearance rather than strategy. Some girls excitedly talk about how they will do their “Barbie” hair and make-up, barely acknowledging the idea that they have signed up for a football game, not a pageant.

Natalie Randolph, recently named head football coach at Coolidge High School in Northwest Washington, is a living contradiction to the predetermined conception of women athletes. She is currently the only woman coaching Varsity boy’s football in the United States. But Randolph’s accomplishment has been met with slander and skepticism rather than applause. At a press release last Friday, she stated, “I love football, no matter whose domain it is… If I let people dictate what I do, I wouldn’t be where I am.” The way Randolph sees it, “being female has nothing to do with it.”

Powder puff originally carried the important message that femininity does not have to shy away from mud puddles and contact sports. But must today’s society take that message and dress it up in pink to turn it into a joke? While being feminine does not mean defying all things pretty and glamorous, it doesn’t mean being confined to them either.

Powder puff football is about fun and entertainment, which is how it was always meant to be. But while having that fun, girls should be given the chance to prove that they can sink their hearts into something and give it their all. At CHS, before the game even starts, any trace of seriousness is lost and the meaning of football quickly goes downhill. According to Wanda Oates, a physical education teacher at Wilson High School in Washington who was forced out of a football coaching position after a single day, “"Football is the macho of all macho sports, and once we break that glass ceiling, there's no limit to what we can accomplish." This year, the junior and senior girls should play in a manner that demands respect, as they are more than capable of doing. To support these athletes in their rejection of machismo, the student body should attend the game and cheer on their classmates.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Dec. 10 2010 at 11:39 am
CourtneyHammett BRONZE, Spartanburg, South Carolina
1 article 7 photos 37 comments
I love this article so much. :) It's well-written and its message is strong. I agree completely; I hate that it carries that name at my school. But the Barbie thing brings it way past ridiculous.