I’m just hopping from one controversy to the next, aren’t I? In actuality, I think Texas Monthly is the only one who thinks this particular story is a “controversy.” This week, Texas A&M held elections for various student body offices, including yell leader. At first, there was a run-off between four candidates for senior yell leader, but after a re-tally of the votes yesterday, they were 800 off. Those 800 votes allowed for a majority win for two male students, a Corps member and a non-reg (non-Corps member). It seems as if a female yell leader won’t be happening at A&M this year, after all. Nevertheless, I wanted to share a few thoughts.
I should go ahead and lay all my biases on the table before I get started. One should know her author.
THINGS I SHOULD PROBABLY DISCLOSE BEFORE I GET ALL FIRED UP ABOUT A FEMALE YELL LEADER AT A&M
1. I am a hard-core Aggie. I’m a purist. Traditions should not be watered down, but lived to their full potential.
2. I’ve only left one A&M game early. That would be the one where my future-husband, then-major-crush was lip-locked with another girl just a few rows ahead of me at the football game. The score was 73-0. Ouch.
3. I refuse to call the 40 acres in Austin anything other than t.u.
4. I still wear a maroon bra on game day. (TMI?)
5. My sophomore year I had the honor of meeting Col. Berryhill. As in, the first yell leader to host Midnight Yell Practice. He was still a lady-killer in his 90s. Every girl in the room wanted to be around him. He was an incredible man.
6. I design the current Association of Former Yell Leaders bi-annual newsletter. They were my very first client and they hold a special place in my heart.
7. Oh, and I married a yell leader. In the spirit of full disclosure, we were dating BEFORE he even ran for junior yell leader. While some may say girls just want to ogle over muscled guys in white outfits, I was more smitten with the pretty blue eyes and kind heart. I picked a winner before A&M did…
Ok, now that you know me a little better, let’s dive into this craziness called an election. If you’re not from A&M or understand the Aggie culture, you may look at this story and think, “What’s the big deal?”
There have always been guys as yell leaders at A&M. Back in the day, there were only four guys, but after the war, they instituted the “veteran” yell leader and he eventually became the third senior. Yell practice officially began in 1931. The yell leaders are probably the most recognizable A&M ambassador on campus. Not only do they lead yells at every major sporting event (men’s/women’s basketball, football, soccer and volleyball), but they also attend a crazy amount of functions on behalf of A&M. Trust me, I was the dateless one at a lot of Chi Omega date parties while Scott was off doing yell leader stuff. Having been around yell leaders, both current and former, for nearly 20 years I can tell you this: the tradition at A&M is sacred. It’s never been about equality, as in we “must” have a female yell leader or A&M is totally whacked.
More and more I hear this common phrase, “women must be equal to men.” I say to that, “We are.” Equal doesn’t always mean the same. I share this with my kids all the time when they complain about things being unfair. It’s then I remind them that being fair doesn’t mean the same to everyone. In fact, if life were fair we’d all be living in a hut in Africa. We’ve come under this false notion that for every thing a man does, so should a woman. I disagree. Men and women were created inherently different for a reason, yet we are still whole. Not one is better than the other. It’s that dichotomy that leads me to think that the tradition began at an all-male military institution. It is like no other. A&M is unique and our all-male yell leaders further differentiate us from every other school in the nation. Our yell leaders aren’t on an athletic or dance scholarship, they don’t do intricate lifts and cheers, they aren’t looking to make a professional career or win any awards. We are not like other places, so to compare our yell leaders and the tradition to a cheerleading squad is like comparing apples to oranges. You can’t. I get so tired of everything being a women’s rights issue. Can’t we just leave some things to the boys, ladies?
I think the thing I love and cherish most about the yell leaders is they are a reminder of A&M’s humble roots. In ‘ol Army days, College Station really was just a rail station with a small state university aimed at educating the common man. The men that attended back then didn’t have options. They were at an all-male military institution. Serving their country was not optional. They were men of valor and honor and integrity. The yell leaders really embody that spirit, still today. Every fall, the Association of Former Yell Leaders hosts a reunion. I can tell you that standing in their presence is an honor (and very funny – have you ever been in a room full of that many extroverts who “all have a story?!”) As a self-proclaimed champion of female equality, I have never once been offended or infuriated that women do not share the yell leader stage with the boys. I would consider myself a die-hard Aggie, yet I’ve never felt compelled to show that spirit by running for yell leader. There were plenty of other ways to show my school spirit in Aggieland.
What girl in her right mind would wear white after Labor Day only to be thrown in Fish Pond after the game?! For me, this just isn’t the hill for us girls to die on.
Rough tuff, real stuff, TEXAS A&M!