There are science cheerleaders, who wear skimpy outfits and write cheers for science. Scicurious and Zuska blogged their problems with the science cheerleaders, and the posts are worth reading. Andrea Kuszewski blogged her support for science cheerleading, with many points that I find to be rather empty.
As usual, supporters of feminine drag try to boil down the problems with this (or other "sexy" events from women scientists/engineers/skeptics) to proving that women can be sexy AND smart. They say the value of being conventionally sexy and thinking is to prove that it can happen, it hurts stereotypes according to these folks. All the angry feminists seem to just hate sexuality or want to castrate everyone (as usual, amirite??!!).
This is puzzling when one considers what stereotypes are. Stereotypes are not rational conclusions that individuals draw or discredit in the face of evidence. They are socially constructed archetypes that are useful to people in power. Social constructions are ideas that are owned collectively by society, and that are not changed on the basis of individual assertions.
For instance, I have a piece of paper that everyone agrees represents one dollar of spending power. Nothing I do as an individual changes that, I can say that my dollar is really worth 100, but it won't change anything about how my socially constructed dollar is treated in society. Concepts of women and sexuality are not in the hands of individual women. They can assert that they are smart and sexy and therefore powerful, but it won't change how society in general treats them. The original problem of being stereotyped wasn't one based on seeing the lack of porn 2K compliant women in science, and a wealth of porn 2K compliant women in science won't fix it. When stereotypes about women are presented as being fixable by women the onus is put on us to end our own oppression, instead of on men to, you know, stop oppressing us. Stereotypes are a tool used to control other people, and as long as people focus on the stereotype of the day instead of the actual problem of power imbalance then nothing will really change, only tactics. The fact that the stereotypes of women benefit men isn't an issue in the discussion I linked to at all. They get to sit back and judge and pass around their verdict and it affects real womens lives. What smart women should (supposedly) do to fight this is to disprove the stereotype by pleasing those same men (by being sexy and buying stuff and shaving things and acting bubbly). Fuck that, I say. The behavior of asshole men is the problem, one that should be fixed by their cutting it the fuck out, not by women resembling the porn fantasies of their oppressors. I think that if more women were unconcerned with pleasing men, with what they think of women, that they might begin to learn that women aren't there to please them or fix their stupid piggish ideas. Its not our job- so why act like it is? Conforming to what men want doesn't bring that much benefit to individual women anyway (more on that later).
The article refers to people who have a problem with cheeerleading as people who have problem with women showing off their sexuality, trying to make us all seem like repressed prudes. It is a completely unfair way to dismiss the very real points of women like Scicurious and Zuska, and an attitude that I deal with often. I feel tempted to share my slut cred when that happens, but it has nothing to do with my history or me, it has to do with my arguments. Calling feminists prudes is extremely intellectually lazy, but goes on constantly. For people who trumpet the virtue of enjoying sexuality so much, they don't seem to have much respect for sexuality that differs from the mainstream (pornography). Cheerleading isn't sex, and it shouldn't be equated with sex (neither should porn or stripping or women or parts of women). It is as though a sexuality outside of trying to look like a sexbot for men is foreign to fun feminists. Outside of being completely hypocritical, this attitude also ignores gay people completely. It also reeks of white privilege- women of color who blog about sexuality will tell you how not fun it is to be sexualized. They can't choose NOT to be seen that way, while white people argue about if it is fun or not to put on the uniform and take it off at will.
The social construction of cheerleaders isn't represented well in Andrea's article either. I have no doubt at all that cheerleading is very difficult as a sport and requires a lot of talent and that the stated goal is to give support to the main players (a concept worthy of gender analysis by itself), but that doesn't change the function of cheerleaders in society or how they are treated. Many men treat cheerleaders like meat, or like models of femininity that other women are made to aspire to. The article I linked to actually equates it with sexuality, as though sexuality is a thing we can all point to and agree on instead of something that varies wildly and is extremely personal. Any genuine representation of sexuality would never be so narrow and uniform to begin with.
I mentioned cheerleaders as being essentially an advertisement for correct femininity- the implication is that there is some sort of reward, but there isn't. There are countless examples of how women in power get humiliated and derided in a gendered fashion for being too attractive or not attractive enough, but few examples work as well as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. One had hate porn made of her, one was derided for being unnattractive. There is not any way for women to look "correct", to look or act or speak in a way that causes others to take her seriously. I think women should look and act in a way that is unconcerned with men (unless there is a threat of violence or poverty involved with being unconcerned). Thats what I do. Resembling myself instead of a 2D representation of what "sexy" women are supposed to look like isn't "ignoring my sexuality", as Andrea asserts. Shaving and putting on cosmetics has nothing to do with being a woman or being sexy, it has to do with what we all read in a magazine or saw on television about it for our whole lives. If I had grown up somewhere else or at a different time it would probably involve a bunch of completely different weird and painful rituals. It keeps women busy and hungry and dependent for self worth, and it gives men a way to have power over any woman he encounters. He is the arbiter of her fuckability, and she is supposed to take it pretty seriously no matter how she is rated. It sells a lot of shit as well, which cements the usefulness of beauty stereotypes in our capitalist society. Being conventionally sexy takes a lot of time and money for most people, and there has to be some sort of reward at the end in order to make women want that. There isn't a real one- the ones we are all sold as young women are illusory.There isn't a appearance requirement for finding partners (or not) or having great sex. Wanting to have a bunch of sex isn't even what everyone wants to do with their time. We have been sold that idea, in such a powerful way that the majority of people who analyze the problem don't acknowledge the beliefs- they are supposed to be a given, a foundation that everyone can agree on.
Being smart and conventionally sexy is more about blending existing stereotypes than actually defying any of them, and it sure as fuck helps men more than women. They get more fuck meat to stare at and more reason to give women unwilling to conform more shit. If that is a solution, I want no part in it.