An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

For Beth and Courtney and Courtney and Andrea

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that several of my friends independently admitted to me that they had been obsessively listening to Katy Perry’s “Roar” and that it was quickly becoming a problem. For instance: one late Saturday afternoon Dane stumbled upstairs and I was like, are you just waking up now? And he explained that he’d gone dancing the night before and some “lion” song had come on and he couldn’t get it out of his head. That’s all he had to say. I knew exactly his dilemma: “Ohhh uh uh uh ohhh! Ohhh uh uh uh ohhh!”

Admit it. It’s a damn catchy song. It’s a damn good pop song, even. It’s empowering and the underlying message is: I am strong. I am talented. I do not have to sit by quietly and let anyone make decisions for me or despite me. I know exactly who I am and what I stand for. In fact, watch as I take over the world where “the world” is anything I choose to go after. This is a song that demands to be shouted and celebrated and sung through a megaphone out the sunroof of your car. Hopefully while someone else is driving. Although they probably won’t have their hands on the wheel because they will be performing a one-arm pushup during the chorus.

Leta has been asking that I play this song on the way to school in the morning, and now both of my kids know all the words. If you’ve read anything on this website you know that I’m going to be the first person to admit that parenthood is really hard. It’s frequently exhausting, often frustrating, and a daily grind on my dignity. I’ll also admit that I don’t talk enough about the amazing moments that accompany parenthood, and so here is one of those small rewards that offsets those other taxing parts: listening to my girls sing “Roar” in the backseat of the car. It gives me chills every single time, even though Marlo doesn’t really know the words and is just making up random sounds:

The best part? When she shouts, “Hup!” a second too late. Leta isn’t singing because she wanted Marlo to have the limelight. AND DID SHE.

So you can understand my disappointment when I saw the video for the first time.

I just… hmm… this is not at all the image I have in my head when I listen to this song, when I hear my girls singing it from the backseat. No no no no no NO NO NO. In fact, after watching this video I sat and thought about what a better video would entail. If I had the money and the means and the directorial chops to put together something worthy of this song, what would it be? Holy shit, why am I not thinking of more important things? HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG. The government is shut down and war and hunger and pain and death and SHUT UP.


I really should shut up, but I have to talk about the video I’d make. Because it’s important. Because here is this amazing pop song that my girls love, that’s safe for my girls to love, and it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase both the physical and emotional strength of girls, and that’s where high school cheerleading comes in.

Do what?


You heard me.

High school cheerleading.

No I wasn’t recently dropped on my head.

Wait. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t throw your pen angrily on the ground and stomp out of the room. Definitely don’t throw your phone because that’s expensive and not covered under the warranty and you promised you’d work on your temper.

I personally did not get along with the cheerleaders in high school. They were very pretty and charming and flexible and I was none of those things. But I respected their athleticism and their energy. Cheerleading in the South is its own sport, and those girls dedicated their lives to perfecting routines and flips and astounding physical feats. They traveled to competitions together, forging lifelong friendships and forgoing sleep. They sacrificed their weekends because of their love for each other and the sport they performed. Even though I never sat with those girls during lunch I knew even then that there was no better representation of team work and commitment.

Go, Bartlett Panthers!

This is the type of high school cheerleading I’m referring to:

You could probably say this about most team sports involving girls, yes, but high school cheerleading came to mind because they so often get waved off as something they are entirely not: ditzy, mean, air-headed, exclusionary. I’m sure there are cheerleaders out there who probably embody these very things, but the ones I knew, even though I desperately wanted to hate them, were the hardest working girls on campus. And that’s just it, there was no need to hate them. They were good at back flips, I was good at memorizing paragraphs of text. Different talents, different interests. That’s it. No need for an us against them mentality. There was a lot we could learn from each other.

I want a video that follows around a high school cheerleading team: their practice routines, the time they spend in the gym. Snapshots of them climbing into a van and dozing on each other’s shoulders as they travel hundreds of miles to a competition, a few of them studying for tests via flashlights in the backseat. The moments when they have to pick each other up off of the floor. The high-five after four successful back hand springs. The funny faces they make while passing time in the locker room. The perfect line of arms during a routine. The girl who broke her leg yelling encouragement from the sideline. The embraces, the ugly crying faces, the unbridled smiles and tears and joy after winning regionals, their arms around each other’s shoulders if they don’t. I want four and a half minutes of girls working with other girls, supporting other girls, empowering other girls, encouraging other girls to speak up, to scream, to jump as high as they can, to work on themselves. And I want it at the high school level. To show that it’s happening even at that age. And I want it focused on this group of girls who, as ironic as it sounds as I type this, are so often misunderstood.

There. I talked about it. And now I need to make sure my girls are learning it.

  • I love this song, but I also wanted to say a big THANK YOU for promoting the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on your site. I just noticed the banner ad, and it got me all choked up. My teammates and I walked 39.3 miles in SF this past weekend, my second walk with Stage 4 breast cancer. Hear me ROAR, indeed. Oh, and later this month Katy Perry is doing a benefit concert for the Young Survival Coalition, a group aimed at providing support for women diagnosed under age 40 like I was. So I think she’s a pretty badass pop star, whether she writes her own lyrics or not.


    Check out the Verrado High School video they made for Katy Perry’s GMA ROAR contest. It’s about cheerleading but with a special twist. What’s not conveyed in the video so much is that it’s a true story – the young girl in the video really is a cheerleader at this high school. Good stuff!

  • JJ

    What are the chances you would show a video from my hometown? Cool! But I hated the cheerleaders in high school. They lived in their little clique, slept around, and were pretty much bitches. And now they’re “friends” with me on Facebook? At least it gives me a chance to see how they’ve gotten fat. Little things…

  • Averil

    Love that song!

  • Cotton Gusset

    I was a cheerleader and it wasn’t that exciting, ever. My worst day at roller derby is way more bitchin’ than my most exciting day of cheerleading.

  • Beth Rich

    I’ve got goosebumps, imagining that video.

  • Andrea

    You couldn’t pay me to watch a documentary like that. The cheerleaders at my high school were award winning and unquestionably talented, but they were also the snobbiest, nastiest, most self-entitled group of girls I’ve ever seen. Their captain spent the better part of our elementary school years calling me the “N-word” (I’m 100% Italian), so the thought of having to watch something that made someone like her out to be any kind of decent human being kind of turns my stomach over.

  • Erica

    As a former Germantown Red Devil, I wholeheartedly concur that cheerleading is a real sport. I had friends on the squad and they used to train with the football players.

  • Sherryl Sanders

    My 4 y.o. son likes this song. And while I like your idea for the video better than the existing video, I have to say this is one music video that I am okay with him watching, which seems to be a rarity these days. And whether KP changed one word or contributed much more to the writing of the song, I can still get behind a song about self empowerment. Who cares if someone is making a profit off of it? Someone makes a profit off of EVERYTHING. So if the idea of capitalism bothers you so much, go be a homesteader. Otherwise, choose what you consume and move on.

  • Just Saying

    I don’t want to join the debate about empowerment for women (shouldn’t even be debatable) or cheerleading as a sport (which it totally is), I just want to comment on the kids’ singing. I love how Marlo perks up at the parts where she really knows the words well. It is very cute and reminds me so much of myself as a kid. Also, it’s very sweet how Leta is quietly helping her along. She seems like she is turning out the be a great big sister. You’ve got some very good girls there and I hope you not only feel proud of them, but proud of yourself for getting them there. I wish you the best.

  • Come on Dooce, I am sure there’s a sponsor out there who would be thrilled to help you put it together! I would love to see that video. But how about this, cover all girls high school sports. I played competitive softball from about ten to sixteen and we had the same thing. Teamwork, loyalty, tears and cheers and it turned me into the person I am today. Let’s see cheerleaders, basketball players, softball, theater troops, tennis, water polo, ALL women’s sports. We’d see the same amazing growth and power given to these young girl.

    OMG why aren’t you making this video RIGHT NOW. It would be fantastic. Please do this!

  • Hanni

    Your girls are adorable. Leta’s love for Marlo just bursts out of that video – what an awesome older sister! You’re a lucky woman, Heather…you have a wonderful family!

  • Sarah Close

    I actually really love this video. What’s disappointing about it? Katy starts off following around / serving some self-absorbed dude, only to discover that she was actually strong enough to take care of herself when he disappears. Not only can she take care of herself, she can do it on her own terms, making her own friends, and having a great time doing it. Maybe she’s half-naked, but since there are presumably no men on the island remaining, she’s half-naked for her own joy – so who cares? I guess I never heard this song as a “female empowerment anthem,” but as the story of an individual overcoming oppression and finding their own strength. I’ve got nothing against the cheer video, but this is fun and bouncy just like the song and I think it suits it better actually.

  • Lauren3

    Dude, great thoughts. I loves it when you wax philosophical. I watched the Leta/Marlo video during a commercial while my boyfriend and I were watching (i.e. screaming at) the news last night. He goes, “Whose kids are those?” I said, “Heather’s. You know, from The Internet.” He did know.

  • Zane

    Thank you for the cheerleaders! I was in the 1996 Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta and was so stoked that we had cheerleaders and silver pick-up trucks. So quintessentially southern.

  • TKD Mom

    Could we also add Girls in Martial Arts?!?! My 12 yr old daughter is testing for her Black Belt this month. She has done many a tournament where she had to spar against boys…and they learned to regret thinking she was cute and helpless. She has a yell that will stop a whole gym full of boys. and yeah Katy Perry ROCKS!!

  • Jen Wilson

    I hadn’t heard this song yet, but I’m going to play it for my girls when they’re off school. Though I’ll keep them away from that video (I agree with you 310% on what the video SHOULD be). My son (2) sure loves the song, though. He’s standing on the couch wiggling his butt and yelling at me, “MOM, DANCE! DANCE, MOM!”

  • Heather Armstrong

    Thank you. She is the most amazing big sister with. She’s so patient, and I could not be more proud of them both.

  • bugmenot3

    A daily grind on your dignity?

    Wow. That’s…. harsh. To your girls, I mean.

  • D

    That video will be made by the end of the year and shown through out high school auditoriums and gymnasiums by the many talented upcoming videographers for senior awards banquets. Such an inspiring song. I wonder whose concept the video was designed from.

  • Rachel Sea

    My friend’s 8 year old daughter is in cheerleading, and likes to show off her cheers and routines, and they are DISGUSTING. Almost none of them have anything to do with spirit, they are almost all about how cute, hot, or sexy the cheerleaders are, and they are 7-10 years old! I appreciate the athleticism, but the message this particular cheer team is getting is gross.

  • Cotton Gusset

    Sort of. Depends on the age, really. I remember getting puked and shat on a lot, which didn’t help my dignity, but much better now.

  • Tracie

    Paid my €1.29 for this song yesterday after listening to it here. Played it to my two BOYS (6&4) on the way home from school. They asked for it over and over again. Played it on repeat on the way in this morning ‘Mammy put on the RRROOOOAAARRR’ song!

    It’s a terrifically uplifting song; for boys or girls.


  • Janie T

    Same here. We are all for our daughter being athletic, and she has: field hockey, soccer, swimming (the one that stuck!) and now in HS, Marching Band (which is way more athletic than I knew). But in Middle School she wanted to be a cheerleader, so at first we said a tentative yes. She proved to be very good at it, learning the dance routines quickly. Unfortunately, the Coach turned out to be an a-hole, and after many tear inducing threats, we all agreed that our daughter should give it up and go back to field hockey. It hurt her, but my husband told her that we would rather have people cheering for HER than the reverse. I know our experience was the extreme, but I still don’t see where cheer leading is (across the board) a good experience for every girl. I know some of the girls who are cheerleaders at the HS now. It doesn’t seem any different than when I was in HS. And that’s not a good thing.

  • Janie T

    Agreed! I would love to see Marlo singing “Brave”! I think the lyrics might be easier to understand, too!

  • Lana

    This whole dialogue just cracked me right up!!!! HA!

  • willibaldoea

    What you’re looking for is Cheerleader Nation from Lifetime. It was on a few years ago and it was magnificent, if not for the theatrics of it all, for the way it exposed the heart behind the sport. I think that team – 4 time national champions at a one point – was from Kentucky.

  • Wanted to share the Brave video here for those who haven’t seen it. Because I love it and it makes me want to dance in public places.

  • Becki

    I realize that I am a few days late reading this, but I am still a little freaked out. I woke up this morning with “Roar” running nonstop through my head. Almost got it to stop, then sat down to read stuff. What do I see but a reference to the song. Thanks Dooce, I will be making odd sounds all day!!!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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