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Metropolis / So Socal

Yippie Yippees

November 25, 2001|Laurie Pike

Between bands at the downtown nightclub the Smell, eight women in red-and-white shirts and pleated plaid miniskirts stand facing the audience of rock fans. Instead of microphones, they carry pom-poms, and rather than sing, they cheer:

"Rule your bodies,

C'mon, get riled!

If you can't trust us with a choice

How can you trust us with a child?

It's pro choice

Or no choice

We must stand and unite

And fight, fight, fight!"

Angry rejects from Laker Girl tryouts? No, they're L.A.'s Radical Cheerleaders, the local chapter of a national grass-roots group bringing a pep-rally mentality to leftist street activism. Formed in 1996 by two Florida women, Radical Cheerleaders now has chapters in more than a dozen cities.

Along with the pro-choice doggerel, the L.A. squad also sis-boom-bahs about smashing capitalism and celebrating diverse sexual preferences. "None of us were cheerleaders in high school," says "Cocoa," whose squad name is emblazoned across the back of her shirt. Cocoa and her squad mates (including "Tank," "Megatron," and "Dixie") haven't done any flying gymnastics at the handful of benefits where they've appeared since forming in May, but audiences haven't seemed disappointed. "Most people think of activists as angry people waving signs," Cocoa says. "But this incorporates dance, and it's fun."

It's also a 21st century, postfeminist twist on an activity scorned by traditional feminists as putting women in ornamental roles on the sidelines of men's athletic events. Perhaps as subversive as their cheers is the Radical Cheerleaders' democratic membership policy; there are no tryouts for this squad. Anyone can join--including men--provided they wear a plaid skirt.

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