Iowa State Cheerleader Perfectly Captures the Paradox of Being Mortified While Female

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Cheerleader Katherine Coker, pre-basketball to the face.
Cheerleader Katherine Coker, pre-basketball to the face.Photo: Jamie Squire

Among the never-ending expectations loaded on women is that, even in your worst moments, if anyone can see you you’ve got to keep up a winning façade, even if you’re screaming on the inside. What’s the point at which you can break down in full ugly-cry agony when everyone’s watching? What if you’ve taken a fast-moving basketball directly to the face on national television? Last night Iowa State cheerleader Katherine Coker was the perfect manifestation of the paradox of female embarrassment: No matter how vicious the hit, you’re expected to keep on smiling.

Cheering on Iowa State as they were handily dispatched by UVA in the Sweet Sixteen, Coker was inadvertently in the line of fire when a basketball, kicked by a member of her team, hit her squarely in the face as she sat on the baseline. She was completely laid out, and momentarily became the focus of the broadcast during one of college basketball’s biggest games.

But just because a surprise projectile has attempted to concuss you doesn’t mean you can stop trying to smile it off, especially if you’re an icon of pep. Cheer through the pain! Coker, through her tears, was still giving her pompoms a distraught little shake as she was escorted off the court (hopefully so she could full-throatedly bawl in peace).

While her ability to rebound is admirable, she should also be given free rein to cry it out. It’s your public embarrassment; you should cry if you want to. Coker later tweeted that she had come through her face-crunching ordeal, pleased that she’d got at least one good photo before the incident, and seems in general good spirits on her Twitter. Hats off to you, Katherine Croker, for showing grace under fire from basketballs.