Traditions are long-established ways of thinking and customs that are passed down from generation to generation; however, the ramifications of certain traditions in the United States have been ignored in order to continue celebrating a beloved custom. Not only do people willfully ignore the oppressive origins of a certain practice they celebrate, their continued participation ensures the perpetuation of an outdated belief of gender roles. This is also enforced through the institutionalization of these traditions in our society which makes it difficult to alter how they are practiced.
Despite the many strides that feminists all over America have taken to advocate for gender equity, there still has not been any acknowledgement that certain customs have inadvertently oppressed women and minorities. The fact that cheerleading is still prevalent in our society shows the ways in which people overlook the objectification of women for the sake of tradition. Cheerleading is considered to be sexist due to the extreme regulations associated with it: the cheerleaders are not allowed near alcohol, cannot attend parties, and cannot wear jewelry with their outfits, which are increasingly sexualized. In addition, cheerleaders have to deal with minimum-wage pay and participate in “jiggle-tests,” which are a test used to assess every inch of their bodies. Even though there is an acknowledgement of the sexism rooted in this custom, it still persists. It could be argued that cheerleading and sports complement each other and actually enhance the sports watching experience, but if that was the case women’s sports should also have the option to employ cheerleaders. In addition, since the outfits are decided without the input of the cheerleaders, it takes away a certain artistic expression that is associated with a sport-like dance. When there is a standardized and strict dress code, it can be oppressive to women from other cultures and religions, which prevent them from pursuing that sport.
Marriage is one of those customs that have become institutionalized in our society. It has many facets that are inherently sexist, from the idea that men should propose, to a father walking his daughter down the aisle. These traditions are based on the patriarchal systems that for thousands of years saw women as the property of men, and therefore established this practice of women sent off by men to men. The recent wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry has shown the backlash when the public found out that Markle’s father would not be walking her down the aisle, almost like stating that their marriage is illegitimate without her father there. The idea that Markle’s mother, her own family, would have to walk her down the aisle was criticized by many, but when it was announced that Prince Charles would replace her father, he was praised. Marriage has become so institutionalized that even a slight change to its process is met with pushback and criticism. Many people may not recognize that by vocalizing their support for Prince Charles to walk Markle down the aisle, they inadvertently perpetuate the notion that a man should give a woman away.
An argument defending these traditions claims that their historical background is not acknowledged in our current society, and these traditions should continue because it’s how it always has been. However, the acceptance of these practices by both women and men alike also accept their sexist and oppressive nature. It is important to address the oppressive nature of some customs in order to potentially change how they are integrated into our more accepting and tolerant society. If our society recognizes the historical significance of certain customs we participate in, we can alter them to allow for more inclusivity and empowerment. For example, cheerleading could loosen its regulations and give more creative freedom to its performers, moving toward creating equitable conditions for the women in the sport. There are many more customs that can be altered to be more inclusive, but the first step is recognizing why they are celebrated and then changing how we celebrate them in our own lives.