Cheerleaders, where ARE you?!!?!?
I grew up in a "vocabulary words" family. I get that. I am no stranger to people older than me who rolled their eyes when my fifteen-year-old-self blurted the word "oblivious" into a conversation (and really, what synonym is there for oblivious? I challenge you to find one. I couldn't think of any other word.) But. I don't use phrases like "hegemonic ideology" EVER. Even in a classroom setting. Even, I imagine, in a Senate hearing.
So, back to the stupid qualitative analysis class. What was I saying? Oh, yes. How the &^%$#@* minutiae and self-importance of graduate study is really, completely and totally irritating to me. Our assignment is to conduct a "mini-field" study. We are to consider ourselves not so much "qualitative researchers" but "ethnographers." Right. Okay, got it. Self has been considered ethnographer. Our born-again ethnographer selves are supposed to observe a "group" that is different from any group with which we are already familiar or associated. So here's where it gets either completely Bacon-bit-stuck-under-your-fingernail annoying, or just hilarious (depending.) I am in this class (for once) with doc students from all other programs within my college. No other health/human sexuality folks. They are all in reasonable fields, like counseling, or teaching or something else I can't remember. We go around the class and explain which group we plan to observe and our "research" question. Gak! All the other doc students seem about 20 years more mature than me (even the over-achieving little doc-student-brats who are 23) and say things like, "I'm going to observe my partner's support group for Albinos with self-image problems and my research question is, 'Do Albinos have feelings just like everybody else?'" or whatever and everyone else goes "Ooooh" quietly and reverently and our instructor nods wisely like this is truly a research question that has stumped scientists since the beginning of time.
Then it's me. Suddenly, I remember this article about the comedic genius that is Molly Shannon. She was explaining how she came up with the recurring skit, "The Courtney Love Show" on SNL. Every week, they are supposed to come into their meeting with Loren and pitch their skit ideas. Molly was completely out of ideas and walked into the meeting empty handed. They went around the table pitching ideas and when Loren got to her she just blurted out, Tourrette's-like, "Courtney Love Show?" and to her surprise, Loren was very impressed and said, "Great, go for it."
I pull a Molly Shannon and start yammering on about the &^% cheerleaders. "Well, since I study human sexuality and am interested in women's health issues (true), I thought who better to study than the dance team or the cheerleaders?" Assenting nods all around. "My research question" - and this folks, is where I TRULY pull something out of my ass because as I'm saying it, even I have no idea what's coming next - "is if, when women talk about their romantic and sexual relationships, which of course, they inevitably do, what types of advice do they give each other? Do they say things like, 'You'd better get that checked - looks like it could be genital warts to me' or do they say more supportive things like, 'I'm sure you didn't catch anything. He was super-cute and looked like he was clean!'" Then, I get an "Ooooh, wow, nice" and more assenting nods.
And that folks, is why I sometimes think graduate school is so completely ridiculous. Sure, I think I will enjoy the project and I have no doubt the cheerleaders are just lovely, and I will learn something about the qualitative process and isn't that really the point, blah, blah, blah, but. Is anything I learn about the communication patterns of cheerleaders really going to contribute anything to science? Does anyone (besides me and maybe the cheerleaders) really care about this issue? Is it even an issue since I just made it up?
The punchline is . . . I cannot get in touch with the cheerleaders. I have been trying for two weeks and running into all sorts of dead ends. They are a cagey group, those women of the cheer. Honestly, I think it would be easier for me to get Captain Kangaroo's home phone number (unless he's dead, in which case it would be really, extremely difficult.)