Radical cheerleading is a form of cheerleading performed at demonstrations that combines elements of non-violent direct action and street theater. It originated in 1996 in Miami, Florida, and there are now many radical cheerleading squads in the United States as well as Canada and Europe. Radical cheerleaders reappropriate the aesthetics of cheerleading, sometimes in an ironic fashion, and use cheers that promote feminism and left-wing causes. Radical cheerleaders subvert gender norms through costuming and may be male, transgender or non-gender identified. Feminist magazine director Lisa Jervis places radical cheerleading within a tradition of playful feminist comment on popular culture.
Radical cheerleaders often perform at demonstrations and will lead protest chants. They also often perform at feminist and other radical festivals and events. Radical cheerleading is used at demonstrations to promote a radical message in a media-friendly, people-friendly way. It is also used to support the actions of other activists who put themselves at physical risk and to denounce infiltrators and opponents. Radical cheerleaders may also perform on stage at music venues, to bring political issues (as well as entertainment) to an unsuspecting crowd. Chicago's Lickity Split cheerleaders frequently used this tactic.
One of the most notable radical cheerleading appearances was at the March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC on April 25, 2004. The cheerleaders had their own feeder march and bloc within the larger march with over 2,000 participants. The group's purpose was to raise awareness about the lack of access low-income women have to abortion clinics.
Radical cheerleaders are often anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist. Their cheers are usually written from scratch or by rewriting the words of popular and historic songs. Radical cheerleaders dress in diverse ways but often wear a combination of red or pink and black.
Some radical cheerleaders make pom-poms using garbage bags by folding them in half, tying off one side with a rubber band and then cutting strips from the other end.
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- Mary Christmas, one of the founding members of New York City's Radical Cheerleaders
- Raging Grannies
- Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
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