[an error occurred while processing this directive] Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Student Papers
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Male Cheerleading is a Sport!

Stefani Bluestein

Against popular belief, females were not the founders behind the sport of cheerleading; instead males who were so eager to cheer while watching sporting events created this sport. In the 1890's the first pep club was organized at Princeton University, and it was there where the first organized yell was recorded. The University of Minnesota organized cheerleading and the first school "fight song." Women didn't get introduced to cheerleading until the 1920s when gymnastics was slowly introduced to the sport. Cheerleading didn't become a predominantly woman sport until the 1950's. Today there are more then three thousand high school and college cheerleaders in the United States. 97% of all cheerleaders are female; however, approximately 50% of collegiate Cheerleaders are male. Although males were the founders of cheerleading they have different social and cultural costs and benefits than females involved in this sport today. There are many different stereotypes that males need to face; and these labels stem from the current day problem of homophobia.

When a man enters the world of cheerleading he is immediately labeled as being effeminate. These males are faced with the task of overcoming society's stereotypes of a male Barbie figure. Ken, Barbie's male counterpart is a muscular, preppy, and all American boy. These qualities often lead society to label those males that have these characteristics as gay. Many generalizations are made that gay men are not athletic and therefore would turn to cheerleading as their sport of interest. To many homophobic people cheerleading is therefore deemed as a sport for sissies. They claim that cheerleaders are there solely for looks and entertainment purposes outside of the actual sport event where they are performing. Another stereotype for cheerleading is that girls are cheerleaders to look cute and clap their hands in front of an audience. People forget that their routines require strength, skill, and coordination. The males in the squad often provide a tremendous source of strength when lifting and throwing their teammates in the air. The strength and coordination required by male cheerleaders is comparable to any male dominated sport, but this fact is often ignored by society. Additionally, our society is generally supportive of females who participate in sports that require the twirling of batons, marching, attractive uniforms, and the recitation of rhymes. However, as soon as a male is introduced into this environment there is thought to be a threat to his masculinity. This often deters males from being involved in activities that they wish to participate in. The fear of being chastised by society often leaves males to resort to sitting in the student section of the stands removed from the cheerleader's section.

Although there are many hardships and criticisms that come with breaking out of the social norm there are far more benefits than pitfalls. The males that do decide to be cheerleaders cannot imagine their lives without the rewards and satisfaction that follow the completion of a routine. They also gain back self-esteem and dignity due to their ability to withstand the harsh remarks and criticisms. "Any man can hold a cheerleader's hand but only the elite can hold her feet." Once friends of cheerleaders get over the initial stereotyping they are often envious of their peer's muscular and fit frame. After the crowd experiences a male cheerleader's performance the stereotypes fade and respect is gained. The guys on these teams can perform back springs, hand tucks, towering pyramids etc. while being 6'0 tall and weighing more than two hundred pounds. They spend hours training every day in preparation for tournaments and appearances on ESPN. While walking down the street they may be mistaken for a football player, but they throw and catch humans, not leather! Although other males may perceive them as effeminate and less of a man, females tend to flock around them. Instead of female cheerleaders feeling threatened by the role of male cheerleaders, they are often the ones to recruit them. Often times females do not seek other females for this position because it would destroy their image, so males are used instead. The female cheerleaders prize male cheerleaders because they provide them with strength needed to perform difficult stunts.

Society often labels an activity a sport if it is rugged, requires endurance, strength, and masculine qualities. Because cheerleading is a predominantly women sport and is characterized by attractive uniforms and cheers, society often shuns the idea of men participating in this activity. Often times the activity is not considered a sport and the males and females are not considered athletes. Both males and females have to fight to encourage others to perceive them as athletes. In 1997, only one all female division participated in the NCAA all-collegiate cheer and dance team national championships. This proves the point that despite the social and cultural costs involved, males are still eager to participate in the sport that they originally founded and feel many more benefits as well.

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