The oversexualisation of cheerleading.

Being a cheerleader for the past three years, I have noticed that cheerleading is trending towards a super-charged, sexed up image. Now I know that media representations of cheerleaders aren’t necessarily the best (think Bring it On), but I am talking about the sport as a whole. I love cheer — don’t get me wrong, I just find this super fascinating. And I miss cheer a ton…which is why I’m writing this.
CheerleadersLet’s talk about female uniforms. Remember when cheer uniforms used to be fully covered and granny-like with knee-length skirts and sweaters? Well, long gone are those days. Nowadays, it is quite the contrary. Firstly, a competitive cheer uniform usually consists of a long-sleeved top, mid-riff baring, mini skirt, and bloomers (shorts) which are worn underneath the skirt. I have no problem with this. But when I went down to Tacoma last weekend for a cheer competition, I was a little flabbergasted and how much the uniforms have changed within the past few years. I wish I had pictures to show you , but since when did the Vancouver All Stars (VAS) senior team start wearing booty shorts to compete in?! I admit (and I would probably prefer it as well) that shorts allow for better mobility and the annoyance of pulling down your skirt after a backhandspring is eliminated, but it almost seemed…hoochie or dance-team like (more on this later). Besides that, there was another team that featured black see-through long-sleeved tops. Not super racy or anything like that, but to me, it deepened the layer of sexualisation for me.
Dallas Cowboys CheerleadersHair and makeup. It’s a competition, I get it.  I don’t mind the curled hair and the ungodly amount of glitter that we have to wear for competition, but is it really necessary for the younger, elementary-aged girls to wear it?  Personally, I think it is reminiscent of child pageantry. Much like the show, Tiaras and Toddlers and the ever-so-famous Jon Benet Ramsay murder case, you have these crazily obsessed “cheer moms” who dazzle and glamourize their daughters with fake lashes, lipstick, and cans of hairspray. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a little wrong. It severely sexualizes these young girls — a pedophile’s fantasy.
HellcatsCheer vs. dance. Thanks to the uber-popular Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Hellcats (coincidentally filmed at my school), I think there is a general misconception about what cheer really is. I’m not going to go into the age-old debate regarding if cheer is really a sport (IT IS A SPORTFOR THE LAST TIME!!!), but will provide a new perspective on the topic. Cheer is becoming more and more confused with dance. I acknowledge the fact that there are many “Cheer & Dance” competitions in North America, but I think these two areas should not be combined. Yes, there is a required dance factor in cheer routines, but I absolutely think they should be kept separate.  Serious pet peeve of mine cus I ain’t no dancer.
Bring it On 2Choreography. Seems like every year, there is always a trend that a majority of cheer teams take part in. Last year was the infamous ponytail whip.  Utterly cheesy, I’m glad that my former cheer team never did that. In addition to whippin’ your hair back and forth, this year’s trend appears to be the boob shake. Yes. I witnessed atleast five to six teams incorporate that into their routine. An overtly sexualised dance move, it, yet again, adds another element of sexuality within the realm of cheerleading.  I know I’m a victim of shaking what my mama gave me at the club or in a Zumba class,  but I don’t know… I just feel so uncomfortable seeing young girls doing this.
GleeSo there ya have it. My two cents. Maybe it’s the Gender Studies minor in me/too many feminist courses and/or the fact that I’m getting old. It’s just amazing to me how much cheer has gravitated to sex. I know sex sells, but for pre-tweens? Yikes.

2 Comments on “The oversexualisation of cheerleading.”

  1. K. Pak says:

    Hmmm…interesting post about this topic…
    As a male cheerleader for almost a decade now I have seen cheerleading grow during this rapid movement in the extracurricular activity/sports world. Gone are the days of long pleated skirts which you could float in. This change is good though as the uniforms now match the required movement of stunting and tumbling of the highest level. The booty short trend has just recently started in the past 3-5 years. Not anything new but maybe new for the Canadian audience. It’s something different and meant for club level teams. Remember this is a business and the market for skirts is being saturated so the next thing comes along and that is booty short competition wear. Do I agree with it? hmmm…debatable but it is a trend and when one winning team does it then others will follow.

    Back to more of the topic of this blog and is cheerleading over sexualized?
    Maybe I’ve been in the game too long but I don’t think so. To the outsider it looks like females jumping around and showing skin but for those who understand anything about gymnastics,dance, and general weight lifting then they will see pass the glitz and glamour of the show and truly appreciate the skill involved in such a team sport.

    I like to compare it to someone going to watch a cirque show which I personally love watching. But there are the people that go ohhh and ahh…that looks hard and that’s really high and there are those who truly understand the hours of practice one puts in to perfect such a skill and what type of strain it puts on the body.

    Regarding makeup: it’s necessary for big competitions as judges are far away and for those who know about lighting and distance you need a lots of glitter and makeup to make sure they see your energy,smile and enthusiasm.

    Regarding cheer and dance: Yes there is dance involved and you’re right cheer is not dance and visa versa but they are in the same family of ‘show’ sport. That’s all on this point.

    Regarding choreography: The boob-shake is not a new move in cheerleading. It’s been used for years. It’s the dramatic factor for those who choose it for their routine but like anything in cheer there are fads and they will go out of style because everyone does it…and you know what…few years later people will bring it back. Just how it is also. Hard to keep new and fresh so have to keep mixing and matching different moves to keep the judges wowed.

    Sex does sell and younger ones just follow suit on what their older counterparts do and even the coaches decide this but in the end…it’s still cheerleading and the majority of points is given to skill on any score sheet. Is this activity which I love to do a sport? You might think I would jump to saying yes but I also am hesitant to say that. Cheerleading takes huge athletic ability but a sport in my opinion is an objective type of activity and anything that grades creativity is tough for me to throw in the fully sport category. None the less I love what I do and will keep doing it and keep supporting it to those who don’t know what it is all about.

    Hmmm…I’ve said a lot and I’ve said not much but thought this was an interesting article you put up and wanted to comment. Thanks! =)

    • I KNEW this would attract some attention! And I’m so glad you commented on it as well! Thank you for your insight, Kenny. I obviously have less experience than you and am speaking solely from a Canadian university stance so it really is great hearing another perspective. I still do enjoy watching and partaking in cheer — the sexualisation of the “sport” does fascinate me though. Can’t wait to see your team compete at Sea to Sky in April!!! Thanks again for your thoughtful comments!

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