It doesn't take a communication scholar (or any scholar for that matter) to notice the strong gender separation in the sport of football. I find the disparities highlighted at the football game because of the lack of a female equivalent to football really doesn't exist. Instead, females participate in the football game in the form of marching band members, the audience, and the USC song girls (our version of cheerleaders). The audience has the power of gaze and observation over the performing male bodies. The athleticism of the male is the activity to be cheered and booed when performance is outstanding or below expectations.
Though the audience in a sense has this gaze and some power, the ultimate power over the mood of the game relies on the performance of the masculine bodies on the field. Though the center of attention, they hold the power over the narrative of the game day.
The marching band embodies a skillful performance, precision, and musicality which reminds me of the Ancient Greek chorus that interrupts the action for some crowd appeal, break from the continuing action, and engagement with the audience. The mixed genders that make up the marching band show a skilled performance of expertise with instruments, hands, and foot coordination as opposed to expertise of physical force and dexterity. The feminine role is exemplified as a member of the team, an important, integral part of the marching band and its cohesive performance. Though the drum major is traditionally male at USC (doning the Trojan uniform and leading the marching band as would an army general), the band itself is composed of all types of people who come together, unified for a common goal.
Although the song girls are a USC tradition, I find their performances over the games I've been to a sad reinforcement of gender stereotypes that portrays the female as the unskilled observer whose only purpose is to perform the sexualized dance routine in the breaks between football plays. I do not wish to offend members of the USC family who enjoy this tradition, but I find the un-coordinated hair-flipping and hip-shaking a detriment to the capabilities of women and creates a stark contrast between the abilities of the male bodies and the sexuality of the female bodies. The male body in the game is only a success if it performs physically in terms of strength, agility, and operationalized by scoring touchdowns and running yards. The female body, on the edge of the performance arena, is only a success if it can serve as the sexualized object of the audience and football player's gaze. A step out of line, a missed tackle, an out of place hip twirl, a weak head flip all create standards of excellence that the male and female performers can meet. The clear differences are between the amount of skill for each activity, the measurement of success or physical prowess, and the power struggle that occurs between performance and audience.
I understand the history of male performers and female cheerleaders is a historic one, but I still feel that the traditional "cheerleader" shows more skill and prowess than do all of the song girls combined. Physical athleticism is achieved through advanced cheerleading techniques, formations, and gymnastic abilities.
The format and engagement of the athletic body may not ever change, but I think that engaging the more athletic abilities of females at sporting events can help to minimize gender disparities and the differences between athletic performances and the expectations of the body.