“Wanna wear my jersey?”: Con

Abigail Salzhauer

For an institution that prides itself on being extremely inclusive, I have always found the football team’s jersey-giving an out of character tradition for our school. In a place where intellectualism is the main scale of rank, it is interesting to see how every fall the suburban school tradition of a girl wearing a football players’ jersey becomes another source of competition. The unnecessary pressure ultimately ends with many hurt feelings. While I do see how the tradition can promote spirit and pride in the school community, I do not think that we can discount its sexist and harmful undertones. This tradition forces girls to be the prop of the football team’s spirit.

When I was a freshman, it was “trendy” for girls to obsess over wanting to wear a jersey. Personally, I think that the tradition creates unnecessary drama and pressure among the younger girls at school who may think that receiving a jersey is a kind of social status symbol. Freshman year, I found myself listening to, and even involved in, unhealthy conversations about how much we thought receiving a jersey meant. I fell into the trap of hoping that someone would ask me to wear his jersey. The problem is that the tradition teaches girls to focus on the wrong thing: getting attention from guys rather than actually showing school spirit. Too many girls play into the sexism created by the tradition and become competitive over it even though they do not fully understand its implications. The pressure compels younger girls to evaluate each other based of off looks and popularity in regards to “who deserves a jersey.” This type of environment is not representative of who we are as a school. Ironically, a tradition which is supposed to promote school spirit ends up dividing friend groups and turning people against each other. Even further, the tradition allows girls to fall subject to a set of patriarchal standards that should have no place in our community.

Similarly, for the freshman boys, the jerseys are supposedly a source of fun, but in reality become a competition. The boys fret over who gives which girl their jersey and if she is the “right” girl to give it to. Even though the guys should not feel pressure to give it to a girl that they are interested in, this is not the case. I can imagine freshman boys being intimidated by seniors on the team telling them to use jerseys as a way to make a move. The idea of being rejected adds stress, especially for the guy who is told that a girl wearing his jersey means she is interested in him. In addition to this, some freshmen boys might feel pressure to give their jersey to girls that they are not friends with as a way to prove something to their friends or impress older boys on their team.

Further, this outdated tradition is grossly heteronormative. Hypothetically, if a member of the football team were gay and wanted to show his interest in another boy by giving him his jersey, he would have go beyond the tradition. We have to ask ourselves as a community, with this tradition in place, would he feel comfortable doing so after so many years of football players giving their jerseys to girls? While I don’t know how the football team or his friends might react, given the emphasis on football players giving their jersey to a girl, it is hard to imagine that gay team members would feel comfortable with the tradition.

From my experience, as my friends and I have gotten older, we have become less obsessed with wearing a jersey. The tradition in eleventh grade has become more about the football players giving their jerseys to friends instead of girls they are interested in. However, it remains harmful for underclassmen. This tradition is meant to be a fun way to show team spirit but causes problems when it becomes divisive and unhealthy for students.