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Vienna's male cheerleaders seek to redefine masculinity

Leonhard Foeger and Francois Murphy


Vienna  /  Sun, December 30, 2018  /  08:02 pm
Vienna's male cheerleaders seek to redefine masculinity

Members of the Fearleaders cheerleading team perform on stage in the city hall of Vienna, Austria November 23, 2018. Picture taken November 23, 2018. (Reuters /Leonhard Foeger)

Vienna's female roller derby team have a halftime show most spectators won't forget: a cheerleading squad of a different kind.

Armed with blue sweatbands, comically tight shorts and a soundtrack heavy on 80s kitsch, the all-male Fearleaders deliver performances that are camp, acrobatic and crowd-pleasingly funny during the roller-skating competition, but their message is serious.

"We really would like to make people think – how is a man supposed to behave? How is a man supposed to dance?" one of the Fearleaders, Romed Felderer, a 33-year-old social worker, said in an interview.

The group's website adds: "Fearleading for us means taking fear away. Especially from men. Fear of not being strong enough, not behaving manly enough, not performing masculine enough. We want to get rid of sexual repression, gender inequality, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia ... and many other fears."

Read also: North Korea’s female cheering squad: Who are they?

The amateur group was created in 2013 by friends who were mainly students at the time. It has grown to around 29 members, roughly half of whom currently perform.

The Fearleaders also publish a calendar that funds their operations, which include traveling to away matches against other European sides.

Despite their modest means and being tied to a sport with a limited audience, the group are ambitious about broadening their appeal.

"It would be lovely to be invited to the Ellen Show," said Andreas Mayer, a 39-year-old academic, referring to the U.S. talk show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

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