Jana Says

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Tag Archive: opinions

Gimme an S-T-O-P

Disclaimer: Today, we rant. This is a long, imageless post about an issue that’s been bothering me for awhile. For those without the patience to trudge through it, the summary is this: I’m sick of the malicious bitchy dense cheerleader trope, why I’m tired of it, and why I think it needs to disappear. 

I recently read some great articles about a particular movie trope, the manic pixie dream girl. The originator of the name has renounced the creation of the term, stating that it’s been misinterpreted to represent all women in movies who are quirky, cheerful and exist solely to liven up the lives of their male love interest. But the fact remains that those characters exist, whether we like it or not. Movie and TV execs aren’t going to let the trope fade away because it’s great entertainment. 

I have much to say about that topic but today’s post isn’t about that. It’s about another trope that’s existed in entertainment for as long as I can remember and, contrary to the manic pixie dream girl, this one is as mean spirited and cruel as the characters it inhibits. And that trope is the one of shallow vindictive dumb cheerleader. 

I’m not a TV or movie historian, and while I love watching shows and movies, I don’t know enough to tell you when the stereotype originated but I can tell you it’s been around since I can remember. It never bothered me before but now, as an adult and the parent of a cheerleader, I’m more tuned in to how they’re portrayed. 

And that portrayal is just disgusting. 

To start, there’s the group dynamic. Like other groups of friends on TV or in movies, there’s always stock characters. For this one, there’s always a beautiful, bitchy head cheerleader and her almost as pretty flunkies who are absolutely incapable of thinking for themselves and do everything they’re told to do, except for the one who’s definitely brainy but only useful to help formulate diabolical plans. Anyone who dares to speak out or disobey the captain is ostracized until she has to pull some horribly evil prank on someone the head cheerleader likes even less which she does because hurting someone else is better than being isolated. And make sure you’re not friends with anyone outside the squad! That’s cause for an automatic black ball. 

Next, they’re almost always mean. Downright cruel. They’re master manipulators, specifically the cheerleader in charge, always able to get the adults to believe them as the victim, when in actuality, they’re the ones pulling vicious pranks, breaking up relationships, excluding others, and bringing classmates to tears. And, in congruence with that, they’re completely superficial, rude, and demeaning. Yes, in most cases, they ultimately get theirs in the end, but the next episode, it’s back to the same old bullshit. 

Not only are they mean but almost every single one of them, save for the head cheerleader, is cartoonishly dumb. As in, can’t count to 10 or tie her shoes or differentiate between right and left. She’s incapable of doing well in school or even thinking for herself, which is why she so desperately needs the head cheerleader to tell her what to do and why she’s so susceptible, like adults, to being manipulated. There’s no depth to her AT ALL, she’s completely shallow, and has absolutely no goals for herself. She’s shown as content being a flunky except for the one very special episode where she realizes what head cheerleader is doing to her and seeks solace in the really not so bad “regular” kids. 

And this may be me being a bit nitpicky, but honestly, why are they always, ALWAYS in their uniforms? Do people think that cheerleaders honestly walk around all the time in those polyester shirts and skirts? That they are so in love with the fact that they’re cheerleaders that they can’t ever wear anything else? That they have nothing else going for them so they have to perpetually show off being a cheerleader? 

(This is where I’d like to write about body image and the perception that cheerleading is not a sport but those two topics are each a post of their own so I’m going to say this–do not use what you see at NFL games or on TV as a barometer. The “cheering” that the NFL or TV cheerleaders do is not at all indicative of actual competitive cheerleading nor is their appearance. I have been to my fair share of cheer competitions the last few years and I can tell you, the body types run the gamut. Which is awesome.)

You might be wondering why I let this bother me so much. It’s just entertainment, after all. And it’s a valid point. But as the mother of a young cheerleader, I find this portrayal damaging not only to my child’s self-esteem but also her peer’s perception of her and her perception of herself. 

I don’t want her thinking she’s better than anyone who doesn’t cheer. Because she’s not. Cheerleading is an activity, it’s not a personality or social status or intelligence barometer or achievement or anything other than a sport. It doesn’t make her above (or below, because, let’s face it, there are plenty of negative things said about cheerleaders) anyone. Being a cheerleader doesn’t give her a free pass to bully, manipulate, and ridicule. Watching these shows, she might start to feel like wearing a bow and skirt means she’s entitled to say or do things other kids aren’t.  And if she sees it enough, she might start to believe there’s a truth to it. 

The same with intelligence. When I was in Disney, cheerleading Worlds were taking place. We struck up a conversation with one of the girls and her mother and, while I forget what the girl said, it prompted her mother to question it and the girl to reply  “I’m not supposed to be smart. I’m a cheerleader.” Joke or not, I can’t imagine where she got that from. Based on my experience, cheerleaders are no more or less intelligent than anyone else but you’d never know it if you used these shows (and movies and books. Let’s not forget about them) as your frame of reference. Why must they be shown as vapid idiots who can’t form a coherent sentence? Okay, I get that it’s for comedic relief, but it’s so prevalent that there comes a point it stops being funny.

We’ve reached that point.

Now, I will admit there’s a certain arrogance that some cheerleaders carry around. But it’s no different than the arrogance displayed by other athletes or members of other clubs. Kids are allowed, and we should encourage them, to be proud of whatever they choose to do whether it’s drama or band or soccer or FFA or cheerleading. That pride helps build self-confidence. My child should never tell me that she feels like when she watches the shows she likes that they’re are making fun of her. 

Because she did tell me that. And it broke my heart.

If we’re trying to teach a culture of tolerance and acceptance, wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop portraying cheerleaders as shallow moronic vindictive assholes and instead start creating characters who have depth, are intelligent and compassionate? Wouldn’t it make sense to stop picking on or creating characters who are stereotypes simply because it’s easy? 

This trope is just as cruel and awful as the way cheerleaders are shown treating others. It’s damaging, it’s ugly, and it needs to change. Because the more these shows, which have more influence than most parents (myself included) would like to admit, perpetuate that stereotype, the harder it will be to make them go away. 

/rant

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P.S. I could have written this post about a number of stereotypes that get under my skin but I chose cheerleading because it’s personal. Let me be clear that I understand that many of the characters are hyperbole since it makes good TV. But it seriously wouldn’t hurt to dial it down a bit.

Despite what you think, you’re a good mom

Last week, I was standing in my front yard with my dogs when our neighbor’s dog wandered over to us. It was cold and I didn’t know how long she’d been outside so I picked her up (she knows me. We dogsit for her) and brought her home. Because it was only two houses down and I had no intention of going inside for a visit, I left the child inside, by herself for the whole 5 minutes I was gone. While talking to my neighbor, I let him know that the child was home by herself and I needed get back and also that “I’m a terrible mother for leaving her alone”.

That last comment has stuck with me since then. 

Because the truth of it is, I’m not a terrible mother. 

And neither are you. 

Despite what all the blogs and Pinterest and news stories and Facebook groups would have you believe. 

Motherhood has become this horrible competition filled with unattainable, arbitrary standards that leave even the most seemingly perfect mother filled with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and also sometimes rage. I suppose there’s always been some sort of competition among mothers, and some animosity between working mothers and stay at home mothers, but with social media (or perhaps just our current societal culture), it’s become an all out war. 

It’s ridiculous. 

I’m over it. 

So I’m going to break some things down for you and clear up some all too common misconceptions we moms believe about ourselves. 

  • Whether you use cloth diapers or disposable, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you cook from scratch every night or feed your kids takeout, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether your kids go to public school or private school or are homeschooled, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you bottle fed or breast fed, you are a good mother
  • Whether you have a Pinterest worthy home or it’s in desperate need of a cleaning, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you bake and do crafts and have endless ways to keep your children occupied or you let them watch TV, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you have 10 kids or 1, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you work part-time, full-time, have a nanny or stay home, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you lost the baby weight immediately or you’ve hung on to a few extra pounds, you are a good mother.
  • Whether you look perfectly put together or have worn the same yoga pants for so many days in a row the elastic is starting to give, you are a good mother. 
  • Whether you’re strict or laid back, you are a good mother. 

 
I could go on. I won’t because the list would be more extensive than anyone would probably care to read so for the sake of brevity and also making you not hate me, I’ll stop there. 

Almost. 

Now. With that said, let me break down for you what makes a bad mother so that when you go to think you’re not enough, you can say “hey, self. Remember that list you read on that random blog post that detailed the qualities of a shitty parent? You don’t do that and while you’re frustrated and maybe not the best you can be today, you’re still a damn good mom!”

A bad parent (read: not you) does this:

  • Neglects her children, emotionally, physically, medically, educationally
  • Abuses her children, physically, emotionally
  • Consistently endangers her children’s safety (ex., bringing them on a drug deal)

 
Do you do any of that? I’m 100% confident you do not. 

Which means, contrary to what the internet might tell you, you’re doing just fine as a parent. 

Being a mom is so much more than how we look, what we feed our kids, and how beautiful our home is. 

Being a mom is about how you make your kids feel. 

And if they’re happy (most of the time because let’s face it, kids can be moody little shits), you’re doing just fine.

So give yourself a big hug and a Stuart Smalley affirmation and tell yourself you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and damn it, you’re a good mother. Hell, you’re a great mother. The best one your kids have got.

 

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On getting rid of perfection

How to Fold the Perfect Fitted Sheet

How to Make the Perfect Cookie

How to Scramble Eggs Perfectly

How to Host the Perfect Party

How to Write the Perfect Blog Post

How to Craft the Perfect Blog Title

These are examples of actual pins that have come across my Pinterest feed. Often. As in every day. And quite frankly, I can’t handle the word “perfect” any more. 

I’m not sure when the pressure to be perfect set in. I’m even less sure as to when everyone started thinking that they had the solution on how to be perfect. Because I don’t even know what perfect means. It’s such a subjective word. What’s perfect for you isn’t perfect for me and vice versa. So how are so many people all of a sudden authorities on being perfect? How can they tell me what to do? 

And why is it so important to be perfect? Why can’t it be good enough just to be good enough? Just to try your best? 

I don’t know about you, but when I see that word, perfect, I don’t see something to strive for. I don’t see success and hard work and a beautiful, awe inspiring end result.

I see pressure. 

I see a standard I can’t achieve.

I see never having self-acceptance, never being satisfied, and never being happy.

I don’t like living like that. It’s too hard. It’s too emotionally draining.

So I’m done with perfect. And you should be, too. 

Because perfection isn’t that important.

No, what’s important is trying your hardest to get through. To do what you can within your limits and your standards. 

The standards you set for yourself. No matter how high or low they might be to someone else. 

Because when you strive for perfection as set by societal normal or blogger edicts or Buzzfeed decrees, it begets depression, intimidation, sadness, and frustration. 

But when you strive to do your best according to your morals, values, and goals, even if it results in imperfection according to everyone else, you get satisfaction, happiness, productivity, and gratitude. 

I’m aiming for those. Because I’d rather be happy with burned cookies than be sad with perfect ones.

Life is what happens inside the imperfections. 

And I’m completely fine with that.

imperfect

 

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Thursday randomness: Jamberry, Meghan Trainor, and more

I wanted to have a well thought out, useful post for you guys today. That dream died when I realized just how many pictures I needed for the post that of course I didn’t have since it involves food and I’m the worst at taking pictures of my food because I’m too focused on wanting to eat than remembering to take pictures. So maybe we’ll table that for next week. 

Instead, you get another round of random Thursday brain dump. 

You’re welcome.

  • I have a cold. Again. Second one in a month. I’m pretty sure this isn’t fair and I’m really tired of sneezing and blowing my nose. 
  • I have more blog post ideas than I can keep track of but I’m hesitant to share some of them because sharing my weight loss stuff and book writing process makes me nervous because that’s just so personal. (You’re probably thinking that this sounds insane since I share all about my depression but for some reason, that’s not as sensitive of a topic).
  • To know me is to know that pop music makes me queasy. But damn you, Taylor Swift and Meghan Trainor for making me not only enjoy but like some of it. And then Meghan went and sang with Jimmy Fallon and she’s just too adorable for words.

    • I need to ramp up my work on the blog’s Facebook page (have you liked it yet? Go ahead. I’ll wait) but I keep not doing it. I don’t know why. Am I lazy? Am I forgetful? Do I not care enough? Probably a little bit of everything.
    • Sons of Anarchy is killing me. It’s a hell of a final season. And this past week’s episode? STUNNED. I’m not giving any spoilers but if you’re watching it, please let me know so we can discuss.
    • Working through NaNoWriMo this month is making me realize two things: I’m not nearly as disciplined as I need to be and I really need people to read my book when I’m done so I can get feedback for editing. But I’m too afraid to ask people to read it because I fear their comments. #ihaveproblems
    • Jamberry, yes or no? I haven’t bought any, ever, and I feel like everyone’s allrichard simmons
    • I have approximately zero Christmas and Hanukkah shopping done. My daughter’s birthday is in December and I always wind up focusing on that instead and the holidays always fall by the wayside which leaves me scrambling. It’s starting to stress me out.
    • On voting: First, it bothers me that I don’t get a sticker when I vote. I mean, I’d do it anyway, and on Tuesday I drove 30 minutes to vote because I still haven’t changed my address on my license and couldn’t vote in my area, but damn it, I want a sticker like everyone else gets. Get your shit together, Delaware. Second, I find it a bit annoying when people don’t vote because a) it’s not that hard; b) it’s not that time consuming if you don’t have to drive out of your way; and c) for so long, so many people couldn’t vote. Why wouldn’t you exercise your right now that you can? Voting and jury duty are a few of the primary ways normal citizens, non-politicians and lawyers, can participate in our democratic process. I get that they’re an inconvenience but seriously, don’t complain about our government and our justice system if you do nothing to try to make them better. /rant
    • There are so many pretty things I want from Etsy. People are so creative and I love the idea of supporting small businesses than buying more crap from big box stores. 
    • “What am I, your fucking sandwich welfare? I think you should establish a good line of credit”. This is probably my favorite scene from Good Will Hunting (which is back on Netflix, by the way. Hooray!)

 Thanks for sticking around! See you tomorrow for Friday Favorites!

 

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Linking up for Stuff and Things

Hodgespodges

Redefining Mother of the Year

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I’m 98% confident I’ll never win mother of the year. 

I’ve covered a bunch of those reasons why in other posts (you can read those here and here and here), and if I had to add anything to those, it’d be that I’m too lazy and possibly unmotivated to work on the ridiculously high expectations that are put on mothers and because of that, I’ll never work my way onto the nominations list unless I get a whole lot of write in votes or maybe they change the nomination process to allow for mediocrity in which case, I’m all for that and it’s probably my only hope.

But the chance of that happening is pretty unlikely. Which is fine because if I were to win, it definitely would lower the bar for future winners and maybe ruin the award but then maybe even more people would have an opportunity so maybe it’s a good thing. 

So let’s start a campaign. Jana for Mother of the Year. I’m filling campaign manager positions if you’re looking for something to do. The pay is low and I can’t provide benefits but I have a whole package of Mr. Sketch scented markers for you to use for my campaign posters and that’s way better than money.

Kidding aside, the thing that gets to me about this whole mother of the year mindset is that I don’t really know who qualifies. 

I mean, sure, there are candidates. The moms who seem to have it all together, if their Facebook pages and blogs are truly indicative of their lives. Or celebrities who…well, let’s not get into that right now because it’s a soapbox issue for me. But if I’m being honest, when I see those impossibly perfect women, celebrity or not, with their enviable lives, I can’t help but wondering what they’re hiding. Seriously. There has to be something. 

That kind of perfection has to be stressful. How do they cope? Because if I held myself to those ridiculously high standards, I’d develop a dangerously bad habit like a drug addiction or something else equally self-destructive that would put me front and center of an episode of Intervention

But when I see those women, I do find myself wondering how they do manage to do everything and do it perfectly and look good while they do it, too. If I had half that drive and dedication to…well, anything, I’d be unstoppable. But I get distracted by Netflix or a good book or napping so I’ve got a long way to go. 

However. 

I’ve learned, from my interactions with many different kinds of mothers, that, like so many other things, it’s all about perspective. To some women, the fact that I bake my daughter’s birthday cake or cupcakes every year, the fact that we plan family activities, the fact that I volunteer every so often with her class or cheer squad, the fact that I have hobbies, the fact that I cook most nights, and the fact that I sometimes eek out a creative craft or two means that I am one of those overachieving moms. The mom who would win mother of the year.

Which I find hilarious because if you know me, you know to never put “Jana” and “overachiever” in the same sentence. You’d be more likely to to put “barely has her shit together” and “what the hell is she doing” in the same sentence. 

But it leads to me to this. 

perfect mother

Our measuring stick for what qualifies as a good parent or Mother Of The Year or whatever you want to call it needs to change. Because good parenting lives in the mundane. It lives in the small moments that we don’t share on Facebook or Instagram.

It lives when a mother gets up early on a Saturday to take her child to see a sunrise simply because the child wants to.

It lives when a mother does everything she can to make sure her kids know every day how much she loves them, even when she fights her own demons just to get out of bed. 

It lives when a mother walks out of work every day, forgets about work, and focuses on herself and her family.

It lives when a mother attends recitals, games, and concerts because she knows that just showing up means everything to her kids.

It lives when a mother learns from her mistakes and works her ass off to do better the next time.

Being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with how clean your house is, how delicious your chocolate chip cookies are, how many Pinterest worthy crafts you complete, or how many coordinated outfits you can plan for your family portraits. It has everything to do with how you treat your children, what you teach your children, the memories you create for your children, and how you make them feel. 

To paraphrase a great friend, it’s in the legacy we leave.

So, remember, no matter how bad of a parent you think you are because you’re not measuring up to ridiculous, arbitrary standards, you’re not. 

You are a good parent.

We’re all parents of the year. 

Because we’re doing the best we can. 

And that’s the best thing we can give to our kids.

P.S. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better parent. But don’t stress yourself out if you don’t live up to all of those “10 habits of perfectly happy moms” and “120 ways to be a more a patient mother” posts. Take away from them what you need to and move on. No one will ever be all of those. It’s impossible. And if someone tells you she is, she’s a fucking liar.

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