Puff vs. Tuff: The sexist tradition of sports at Tigard


Katarina Ilić

Two students of opposite genders fight over a volleyball.

By Katarina Ilić, Staff Writer

     “Powderpuff” vs. “Powdertuff”. Soft vs. Strong. Weak vs. Powerful. All of these words relate to each other. Each phrase is rewarding to one party but degrading to another. 

     Every sports season Tigard posts a colorful image with the title in bubbly, bright fonts: “Powderpuff!” or “Powdertuff!” Below it is a description explaining who is allowed to participate. Traditionally, Powderpuff is a football game for people who identify as female or nonbinary, and Powdertuff is a volleyball game for people who identify as male or nonbinary. 

     Societally, humans have decided that sexes are separated during games. The logic behind it is normally to have people with similar body types playing against each other. However, they normally do this by separating it into just women’s body types and men’s body types, ignoring the fact that not every woman and not every man is built the same. But when these teams are separated, they have a more generic name placed on them: “Mens” or “Womens”. The Powder games, however, do the complete opposite.

     Becoming popular in the 20th century, Powderpuff has been a popular activity during the Tigard High school years. However, as a school that preaches inclusivity and reprimands discrimination, this activity is the definition of sexism.

     It all starts with the name, as stated above. An activity that is only allowed for women and nonbinary identifiers is described with the word “puff”, something that is traditionally soft and delicate. The activity for men and nonbinary identifiers, however, has the word “tough” in it, automatically labeling them as the “stronger” individuals.

     Tigard leadership has not shied away in the past from removing activities they find to be discriminatory. This past school year, they removed a spirit day titled “Mathletes vs. Athletes” where students were supposed to dress up as the activity they associated themselves with.

     “We got rid of mathletes vs. athletes because we do not believe it represents the students within the school,” leadership vice president Bella Jett said. “[It also] limits and creates stereotypes.”

     Puff vs.Tuff does the same thing, and yet leadership continues to bring it back. The activity limits specific genders to certain activities. Why can’t women play football? Why can’t men play volleyball? Why is it when women do play football it is labeled with a word that goes hand in hand with the descriptor “weak”, but when men play volleyball it is labeled as “strong”?

     It’s also tradition that during the “Powderpuff” games that men take the role of cheerleaders. This is to, once again, give boys an experience that they “don’t normally have”. But why don’t they? Why aren’t men allowed to be cheerleaders? What is stopping them from doing so, other than generations of sexism and misogyny? Normally at these games as well, I see the men who participate joking around while doing cheers, doing fake pyramids and immediately toppling over; making a mockery of an activity many students pride themselves in. Many people dedicate hours of their lives to this one activity, and to have a group of boys mock their entire group in the span of 15 minutes must be very humiliating and irritating for multiple cheerleaders. 

     The Powder games should be a time for students to come together and participate in sports they normally wouldn’t, carefree, no matter their gender. The solution is simple: don’t separate students from sports based on their gender. Take away the “puff” and “tuff” and make them one. Have every gender play together for once. If the idea of making each gender compete together for one day is too much for society to handle, then at least remove the sexist descriptors from the name.