Why all-women’s acts don’t win All-University Sing

By Shelby Peck | Copy Editor

There’s something about watching 90 fraternity brothers wearing gingerbread costumes while singing and dancing to a compilation of ‘90s pop that you really can’t explain.

But at Baylor, it somehow makes sense.

All-University Sing brings out a little bit of everyone’s inner theater kid, and audiences are continually amazed at how dedicated college men are to their seven minutes of Waco Hall fame.

I’m not saying they don’t deserve the praise. It’s no easy task to perfectly sync choreography, not to mention create an entire act that’s not only entertaining but also compelling and excellently executed.

What I am saying, however, is that maybe some of the praise all-men’s acts receive is because of expectations placed upon them. No one expects a 20-year-old male college student to whip out a near-perfect rendition of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra or dance to The Rolling Stones and make it look impressive.

These expectations for men create sky-high expectations for women, which I argue is part of why an all-women’s act hasn’t won Sing since 2016.

Sing is judged on five categories: entertainment value (30 points), musical quality (20 points), choreography (20 points), creativity (15 points) and theme development (15 points). While creativity and theme development don’t seem to be as easily influenced by who comprises the group taking the stage, entertainment value, musical quality and choreography — 70% of the scorecard — carry more discrepancies.

Starting with entertainment value, the largest component of judging, audiences just seem to like all-men’s acts more. They’re more entertained by watching college men fight giant green swamp monsters than by seeing college women follow their counts perfectly (which, to some extent, I understand — that was one act you had to be there for).

However, all-women’s acts are already placed at a disadvantage, just because it’s infinitely harder for them to carry out that “wow” or “shock” factor that is so much more attainable for all-men’s acts. The humor typically evoked by all-men’s acts simply wouldn’t bring the same results if attempted by an all-women’s act.

This leads me to choreography — 20% of the scorecard. It’s impressive when college men dance in perfect sync. But it’s equally impressive when college women do the same. The expectation that all women who participate in Sing have danced their whole lives must be thrown out the window. In most all-women’s acts, the front two rows are the lifelong dancers, while the rest of the members are learning intricate and challenging choreography all within six weeks.

And while some men’s acts hire a choreographer, women’s acts typically choreograph their acts in house, showcasing the depth of talents and personalities present within their organizations. Just because women aren’t stomping and creating complex choreography by introducing more sound doesn’t mean the moves they use aren’t impressive or worthy of the same admiration.

Regarding musical quality — 20% of the scorecard — women’s voices are more harshly compared to one another. When a man sings a solo in his act, it’s said to sound impressive because he has a good voice. Sure, there might be differences between male soloists, such as if one sings more in the blues than another, but overall, their voices are pretty easily admired.

Female soloists, however, are compared and critiqued more harshly. It takes much more for their voices to transcend “just good” and to truly stand out because of previous expectations that women should have good voices.

All of the acts that have won Sing since 2016 are impressive, and I’m not trying to undermine their success. Sing is a beloved tradition that strengthens bonds between members of any organization, giving students a break from schoolwork and the chance to build memories of the good ol’ days.

As we watch Sing next year, however, I challenge us to revisit our expectations. Ask yourself what is entertaining and what is excellent, and why you believe an act fits in either category (or both). I don’t think it’s a coincidence all six of the people’s choice awards from this year went to all-women’s acts.

For now, the winners should enjoy their spotlight, and all organizations should be proud of the dedication and hard work they gave their respective acts, regardless of the outcome.

And I hope that in 2025, we see girls get the gold.