VIEWPOINT: Powder Puff football is a misogynistic spectacle

April 25, 2022

VIEWPOINT: Powder Puff football is a misogynistic spectacle

Everybody who experiences the world as a woman is no stranger to the casual misogyny in our day to day lives, but how much of it has truly been normalized to the point of unconsciousness?  Specifically in the realm of sports, women are consistently demeaned and minimized. Sadly, this is extremely apparent in the Powder Puff game.

To fully unpack the stigma attached to the Powder Puff game, we should start with the name. The term Powder Puff originated from a tool women used in the 1940’s for their makeup to apply the powder to set the foundation of the face. The connotations of this word creates a more dainty and feeble idea of the game that some may consider “girly”. Football is arguably one of the most violent sports, yet women are still being diminished to fragility while playing it.

The belittlement does not stop there. The rules are also changed to accommodate the belief that women are not capable of the difficulty or danger involved in tackle football. The mere alteration from tackle, which all other high school football games are, to flag football sets a precedent that women are incapable of the aggression of tackle football.This is untrue. 

I played tackle football for three years. Buena has girls on its own tackle football team. There are also local adult women’s tackle leagues in Ventura. Women have consistently proven to be capable of playing this sport, so why do people continue to pretend that they can not?

These names are an example of the hyper feminization and sexualization of women in Powder Puff football games

I have witnessed first-hand the genuine effect that the sexist roots of Powder Puff have on the students of Buena. I have overheard plenty of conversations around campus that highlight the misogynistic lens that so many students have been taught to view this game through. One of which included a student being skeptical of whether or not the girl playing quarterback could even throw a football. I would argue that if this game was being played by men, nobody would be questioning their capability to play a position that they were chosen to play.

This game even goes as far as to make fun of women by basking in the hilarity and embarrassment of men behaving like us. Along with having girls play football, the game involves boys dress up and take on an exaggerated, and often humorous, role of cheerleaders. The problem here lies not in men being cheerleaders, but in the circumstance in which they choose to do that and how they choose to portray the  feminine stereotypes. This is typically done with intentionally ridiculous uniforms, over-use of sexual dance moves, and mock flirting with men in the crowd.

The purpose of Powder Puff is to laugh at the idea of what it would be like if gender roles were reversed, which not only instills said outdated roles, but also diminishes women in the process. Because women’s role in this game is to play a serious game and prove their ability in a difficult and “masculine” sport. While men’s is to ridicule the position that women have been confined into.

Both are viewed as humorous but for different reasons. This game highlights that society thinks women could never be men and that any attempt at it is frivolous and laughable, and men would never stoop so low as to behave like women for anything other than the punchline of a joke.

The makeup product being referenced in the name Powder Puff (creative commons)

This is not to say that the entire tradition of Powder Puff should be discontinued. Admittedly, the game is beloved at high schools all over the U.S. and has given thousands of girls opportunities to try something new. However, it is far more important to understand the implications of the things that we, as a student body, participate in and decide whether or not we want to perpetuate those ideals. 

It is necessary for the Powder Puff game to be altered to adapt to society’s updated views of gender roles and to create a more welcoming space for women in sports. To do this, the simplest and most obvious revision would be to change the name. This is football, and the name should reflect that instead of old-fashioned sexist beliefs about women’s interests and capabilities. 

To take it even a step further, the singular Powder Puff game should be changed to a season of flag football available for anyone, regardless of their gender, to play as an alternative to tackle football. Only having a handful of practices and one game does not give girls an opportunity to showcase their ability to learn and play football. They barely have time to learn the rule book before they are thrusted onto a field and expected to prove themselves to a crowd that has already decided not to take them seriously. By creating this separate opportunity plenty of people would be getting the same opportunity to enjoy playing football without the negative connotations of Powder Puff.

The tradition of Powder Puff games was created in the 1940’s as women began filling in to play football games while men were gone fighting World War II. Generations later, it became a high school homecoming tradition and over time became what we know it as today. The problem is that as equality progressed and changed, the game did not adapt to those changes. It is time to change that.

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Comments (12)

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  • E

    EmilyNov 9, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I completely agree. Awesome job!

  • K

    kitJun 8, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    Sometimes, you just can leave some traditions alone. Let schools decide, and remember, teens view are different vs. adults. It is not ability, it is just for fun/fund raising, and in between other sports and exams. I personally rather remove the requirement of MUM flowers for homecoming.. those are rising in cost beyond the price of a filet mignon. At least the powderpuff games is optional, for kicks, and up to students and coaches to handle. Let them be teens the one and only time they can be.. i think a better issue would be why school official will respond to accepting donated handheld metal detectors for each high school teacher… why would a school not accept them if they are free? It can be something and won’t cause much delay. My own travels-Other countries use handhelds for everyone going into mall entrances and varied areas of airports. Sydney airport does a light pat down looking for taped drugs or bomb material near bra and just below pant waist and hem.. these subjects are better to be discussed than a student GAME! Play ball folk!

  • B

    buena studentJun 7, 2022 at 1:42 pm


  • M

    Ms. LMay 2, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Yes Madysen! You are my SHERO! I can’t wait to read more of your writing!

  • M

    Ms. SchreinerApr 29, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    So proud of you Maddie, keep up the great writing!

  • B

    Buena StudentApr 27, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    This article has some valid points especially those about the mockery of the cheerleaders at Buena. But many that myself and other buena students I have discussed this article with disagree with and believe the arguments made to lack evidence and reason. A major point of the article is that the reason powderpuff rules have been changed is because the creators believe “that women are incapable of aggression of tackle football” I agree with writer that women are not incapable of these things. But the reasoning behind this statement is flawed. Powder Puff is not a flag football game because it is beloved women are weak but because of the law. In order to play tackle football at buena there are certain requirements students must meet in order to play by law. And these laws are put in place for the protection of the players. Players must have weeks of practice in helmets and pads in order to play. A requirement that Powder Puff does not meet only practicing 8 times. Making a tackle football format impossible. The writer also claims that this one game format does not give women enough time to fully learn or experience the game. So the writer suggested that a full season flag football team at buena should be created. This is contradictory to the writers previous point that it is insulting that Powder Puff is a flag football format because people believe women to be too fragile. Also to start an entire new team and season is no easy undertaking. It would require thousands of dollars and hours from volunteers and coaches. Who are not paid nearly enough. Another issue is interest. The writer’s belief that there is not enough opportunity to experience football for women is also flawed. Buena offers a football team open to all. Everyone has an opportunity to play if they wish. Now an argument could be made that a girls tackle football team should be created. While this is not a bad idea there is one major issue. Interest. Currently there are only 2 female players out of the entire 3 mixed football teams. Close to no women show interest in playing football for buena. And those who are, are not nearly enough to start a program at Buena.

  • B

    Buena StudentApr 27, 2022 at 11:48 am

    While I understand the reasoning for writing this article many of your points are based off false information. For example, you claim that the reason tackling is not allowed is not because it is believed that women are too fragile but because of laws. In order to be able to play tackle football you must wear pads and a helmet. And to wear these during a game it is required to practice in this gear for weeks. To start a flag football season would require thousands of dollars and hours from volunteers and coaches who are not paid nearly enough. One of the reasons you claim that a mixed flag football team is required is to give women a chance to learn an experience football. But the fact is we have a mixed football team right here at buena for those who want to learn and play. There could be a potential for separate teams but there is close to no interest from women to play football with only 2 being on all 3 teams. Without a show of interest the funds for a flag football team can not be spent and therefore can not start. It is very similar to why there is no boys volleyball at Balboa. Because there is not enough interest shown. That case is full exclusion while Buena football is open to anyone. I understand the the comment from the student questioning wether the female QB could even throw a football is uncalled for similar comments have been said about the buena QBs. Along with QBs from other schools which I myself have heard. Another thing you called misogynistic was the mocking of cheerleaders by the men during the game and over sexualized dancing. I agree with this and understand why it is insulting, but there is a reason this is done. And that is because the performances by the buena cheer team are extremely sexualized. So that is what is imitated. I do not believe that the powderpuff game should be canceled.

  • M

    Mr. GianelliApr 26, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Excellent article! I would just say that high school football is a huge year round commitment that conflicts with the year round club season of most girls sports and a lot of those coaches are not willing to “share.” It happens with boys sports too and that makes it really hard to be multi sport athlete in this day and age.
    Having only a few practices and one game does give the female student-athletes from other sports an opportunity to play football that they might not take if the commitment was bigger. Basketball, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball, etc all require different skill sets and it’s great to see those skills translate in different ways in the “Girls Flag Football Spring Game.” I’m a fan of the game itself but agree with many of the points you made that turn it into misogynistic powder puffery.

  • J

    Julie M.Apr 26, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Super impressed with this article! It is smart and well written with thoughtful solutions for change. So happy to see this type of journalism among young reporters. Keep up the great work!

  • B

    Bobby HawleyApr 26, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    I’m very impressed with the sincer view you maintained through out your article,
    I also agree with you that the true talent and abilities of wemon could only be correctly assessed by more than a one game season. And while I honestly believe in general Men are stronger than wemon
    Physically, there are many wemon with equal abilities and would seriously challenge the superiority of most men in a real and personal manor. And as for changing the name. I would say no…. don’t change the name…show honor to the wemon of the past that you know had to deal with all that harassment and heckling.
    But change the image of the name. Make the name mean
    Wemons football in your face.
    With a polite and serious slogan like
    ” COME PLAY “

  • N

    NatalieApr 25, 2022 at 11:22 pm

    Great article Mady! I hope you’re doing well!
    Grandma and Papa would be so proud of you!

  • K

    KApr 25, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    Great article! Very well written and informative