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.
Let’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.
Hair 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.
Cheer 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.
Choreography. 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.
So 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.