The 1952 Baton Twirling Magazine That Dared to Address the 'Sissy' Question
Majorettes on Parade magazine
Date: April, 1952
Publisher: International Baton Twirling Foundation
Discovered at: Mission estate sale
The Cover Promises: Boots, spangles, and, for some reason, batons that fold out from the midriff of a majorette like legs from a card table.
"I've had a number of letters lately from boys who say that in their schools a set of prancing, dancing, mincing majorettes have coerced the male twirlers into joining the dance shenanigans. As a result, boys from rival schools shout 'sissie.'"
In the early 1950s, America reigned as the world's greatest manufacturer of pep, that non-renewable resource essential to the development of long-gone U.S. specialties like the can-do spirit, the old college try, and not feeling like your job is a prison.
Just one generation later, those days of peak pep production would be but a memory, as teens dedicated themselves to the development of cool, a once-verboten commodity that ate like an acid through civic boosterism and cheerleader bakesales.
In '52, though, cool was just starting corrode pep. Majorette boys were being shouted down as "sissie"s for daring to express their love of their high schools by gadding and flitting about. Majorettes on Parade's advice for these fellows?
"Boys should stay with the stricter military type of strutting and marching. Let's be men -- men."Such closemindedness defined the era and no doubt led to great confusion: How could men demonstrate pep and still hold to old-fashioned masculine ideals? One answer comes in this famous '60s photograph of a Connecticut lunkhead cheering on Yale:
Back in the fifties, Majorette girls, meanwhile, enjoyed more power than ever. Here's how well they were treated:
In short, for female majorettes, the world was all sunny smiles and inspiring leaps, as you can see in this photo of the first pep-powered space flight:
That easy confidence is present all throughout this issue of Majorettes on Parade, a magazine so certain of its readers attention that it allowed itself history's most shrugging headline:
The photo captions are likewise tossed off.
And so the magazine goes, part Triumph of the Will-style orchestrated nationalism and part photo essay of youthful smiles, sweaters, busts, and midriffs, all presented with that beaming fifties blitheness that suggests that nobody could admit that these images might hold for some readers some queasy sexual appeal.
One article is by a guy named Rod White. That name appearing in a baton magazine is about as likely as, say, a Pistol Black turning up in Guns & Ammo or a Dick Butkus in Playgirl.
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