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Give Me An F: Radical Cheerleading and Feminist Performance
by Jeanne Vacarro

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Radical Cheerleading is a feminist performance and protest—a kind of intervention in political demonstration ('serious') and a subversion of cheerleading ('anti-feminist'). By taking pieces of political protest and sport cheerleading—anarchist "cheers" and choreographed dance—Radical Cheerleading creates unexpected political strategies and bodily acts. The first Radical Cheerbook, published as an independent zine in 1997, introduces Radical Cheerleading as "activism with pom-poms and middle fingers extended. It's screaming fuck capitalism while doing a split." The first Radical Cheerleading squad formed in 1996 when the Floridian sisters Cara, Aimee and Colleen Jennings infused junior-high cheerleading skills with anarchist politics. Cheerleading brought a renewed feminist excitement to boring, male-dominated demonstrations. In 1997 the sisters began publishing Cheerbooks and performing publicly, and soon Radical Cheerleading squads formed across the United States and in a few international cities.

I joined a Radical Cheerleading squad in 1999, and while I learned to choreograph dance routines, write cheers, and even build a pyramid, I also experienced the squad as cultivating a queer sensibility and a feminist ethics. As my friend and sister cheerleader Mary Xmas says, "Cheerleading is not just a way to do something. It's a community. It's a place in the world you can fit into and feel like you're mirrored on all sides. It's a safe space to feel feminine and badass." Archiving Radical Cheerleading as a feminist practice, community, and affect is a passionate imperative for me. Through documentation of informal Radical Cheerleading archives—zines, photographs and cheers—and through interviews with Mary Xmas, I am tracing the history of the movement and creating an archive. Like Ann Cvetkovich,

I was driven by the compulsion to document that is, so frequently, I think engendered by the ephemerality of queer communities and counterpublics; alongside the fierce conviction of how meaningful and palpable these alternative lifeworlds can be lies the fear that they will remain invisible or lost (2003: 436).

In documenting the Radical Cheerleading movement, I have worked with primary documents, photographs, videos, websites, personal testimony and correspondence, and finally decided to present these findings as an interview. I am hoping to portray the depth of the connection I feel to the subject, as well as the 'informant,' and to create a compelling adventure for the reader.

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