Powderpuff Girls

Powderpuff : An insider view on the controversial girls’ football game


On Thursday, November 10th, the junior and senior Garfield girls faced off in the annual powder puff game at Mud Park. A popular high school tradition across the United States, powderpuff is the yearly football game between the school’s female upperclassmen, to encourage school spirit. This year’s powderpuff marked a continuation of Garfield’s return to traditional events after having a year off due to covid.

The game started out fairly tame, with the seniors scoring 3 touchdowns, but by the end, like most years, it had devolved into disorganized wrestling in the mud, as many had predicted. Some of the top performers were senior quarterback Sophia O’mahony, Eva Stepherson, and junior Mollie Mclaughlinn.

Garfield’s version of the game is notably different from most other school’s. In particular, Garfield’s powderpuff is not sanctioned by the school. It is entirely student run and loosely structured, and players may engage in some illicit activities. As a result, there are no concrete rules, few assigned positions, and a crowd-defined field boundary that gradually shrinks over the course of the game — not to mention that the entire park could fit into a single classroom.

At schools where powderpuff is authorized by administration, the game may be played on the school field or in their gym. There also may be more of a male role, with the men acting as cheerleaders and even performing a halftime show. At Garfield, anyone who is not playing is only allowed to be a spectator.   

Eva Stepherson, a player on the senior team, explained some of the preparation that goes into powderpuff at Garfield. The selection of the teams and who gets to play comes down to only one thing:  whether or not you’re up for it. There are no tryouts, no cuts, and no special requirements to play apart from being an upperclassmen. “Whoever says they want to play will get their playing time,” Stepherson said. She went on to express some of her thoughts on the preconceived notions surrounding powderpuff. She admitted that “a lot of people say it’s demeaning,” referring to the outfits players usually wear, but she assures that you don’t have to wear booty shorts to play. “You could wear a snowsuit,” Stepherson said. She also gave some insight into whether or not these traditions give off the wrong impression to the underclassmen. “It’s a way to bring all the classes together,” she said. While some people may say that it’s embarrassing or degrading, Stepherson loves the game. “For me, it’s powerful. After I played powderpuff… I felt so much stronger than I ever was.” 

Junior participant Katie Njegovan also weighed in on the event, acknowledging some of its problematic aspects. While she agreed that technically anyone is allowed to play, she also noted that “it’s definitely a bit about popularity”. “When you boil it down, it’s girls wrestling in a place literally called ‘Mud Park’, but you could also think of it as a very fun tradition of each class coming together”. Njegovan also talked about Powderpuff in previous years. For example, she said that in 2018, “It was very violent…the seniors absolutely beat up the juniors”.