I recently read an article by Colleen Kimsey entitled “Wouldn’t it be great if Mills had a real mascot?” It’s hard to imagine anything more real than a cyclone. Grapefruit-sized hail maybe, or the sun going supernova, but there’s still the costume to think about. The Mills College mascot is, of course, a cyclone. The author’s argument against the mascot is this: Cyclones do not assemble Mills College; they do not frequent the Bay Area; they are implicitly masculine and aggressive; the students of the young women’s seminary were not addressed as cyclones. She points out that Mills is a “community of thoughtful, academic women who aren’t in the world to lay waste, but to rebuild it as a better and more just society.” She says: “There is nothing about a cyclone that represents Mills.”
I’m not a Mills student, but I think there is a good deal about a cyclone that represents the College and makes it a very apt mascot. To me a cyclone is powerful, energetic, awe-inspiring and without a doubt, unapologetically itself. Those are certainly qualities that I see in Mills women, especially in the student athletes, with whom I spend a great deal of time. The unabashed dynamism of life is particularly vibrant in an athlete, someone who has learned to connect with and trust the underlying consciousness of his or her body. And so there it unfolds, week after week on the soccer pitch, in the pool, on the tennis courts or out on Briones reservoir, in the gym or running cross country. I see it in the risks, the courage, the commitment, the health, the injury, the tears and frustration, the joy and elation. It’s all out in the open: raw, unrefined spirit: spontaneous, powerful, beautiful.
And in my opinion the “thoughtful academic women of Mills” are indeed “laying waste to the world,” at least to its thinking, its prejudices, and its conditioning. Change requires struggle and Mills women are not passively standing on the sidewalk saying look here, look there, to “rebuild the world as a better and more just society.” They are taking their convictions and their conscious integrity on the road and creatively stepping into oncoming traffic.
As a caricature I think there’s only so much you can ask of a sports mascot. They’re goofy, playful, lighthearted, and fun — not meant to be a shinning beacon of enduring wisdom and courage. A lion may be the noble king of the jungle, but as a fuzzy, life-sized puppet dancing along the sidelines waving pom-poms, his credibility goes straight into the toilet. But it’s better that way; trust me, there’s a lot to be said about the joy of laughing at oneself. However, as a symbol a cyclone is many things to many people: dangerous, frightening, destructive, male, aggressive, sublime, enduring, captivating, and mysterious. In the end it’s all a matter of perspective. Over time one realizes that with perspective, imagination and humor there is very little in life that does not evoke character. Even “the ferocity of gale force winds” can illuminate potential and make your heart glow. Go cyclones!