Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Competitive" Cheerleading Violates Title IX in Sooo Many Ways

Everyone knows a sham and scam. For years certain colleges have sought to turn cheerleading squads into competitive "teams" to rescue the  schools from serious Title IX issues. When Quinnipiac College cut women's volleyball and replaced it with cheer squads, the courts yelled NO. Seriously, cut volleyball and expand cheerleading!!!!  Think about it.

The desire to shift to cheerleader squads could save money, avoid expanding the number of women's teams and keep government scrutiny at bay. A desire to turn cheerleading into a recognized NCAA sport has rumbled around in the south for years for cultural and economic reasons.The recent court decision states that cheerleading squads do not meet NCAA or reasonable competitive standards to qualify as Title IX counters. This is clear, but the decision should be applauded for another reason. Pretending cheerleading squads qualify as competitive sport violates the entire cultural intent of Title IX.

First, competitive cheerleading keeps the social order intact. Attractive, self-selected, somewhat athletic cliques jump, leap, cheer and get tossed around by larger males. High school reality and myth reinforce a very strong hierarchy of pseudo social values about who counts and who does not or what it means to be a desired or successful girl. The alluring and revealing outfits emphasize traditional notions of value and status so much so that the sexuality and traditional femininity override the athleticism. Just think Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union and fellow travelers in Bring it On  (now in its fourth iteration) and you get the picture. Better yet just look at this picture from deadspin of college cheerleaders practicing outside their hotel reveals a chief attribute of cheerleading.


Second, cheerleaders stand on the side cheering on the largely male dominated teams. Its origins signify the hierarchy of women supporting men's sports, women's customary place. The whole culture of cheerleading and competitions resembles the culture of beauty queen pageants. The path feels similar to gymnastics except gymnastics grows from deep roots and is far more rigorous, disciplined, demanding, rule bound and does not replicate what values should determine who is at the top of the social hierarchy.

Third, moving cheerleading into a competitive center transposes the stunning emergence of powerful athletic women dominating and claiming sports as their own as in basketball, softball, soccer, lacrosse or running. The growth of women's sports has accompanied and amplified a growth in conceptions of what women can be. Cheerleading would displace this expansion with an activity that simply reinforces traditional valuations of women around narrow notions of beauty, body shape, strength and their relation to men. It feels eminently safe much as early women's college swimming did because it grew from images of Esther Williams and ideals of beauty, not competitive athleticism (thanks to Courtney Beyer for this insight).

The battles over Title IX will not go away. They are going to get worse with the reality of 60 percent female undergraduate populations. They will get worse as long as football dominates the budgets and numbers of scholarships and as long as football and men's basketball generate so much money.

These battles, however, are not  just about numbers and budget; they are about culture and women's possibilities.

17 comments:

  1. hear hear! thanks for this post, Pat! (from Molly)

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  2. i'm a national level gymnast, but have done cheerleading once or twice.. and i have to say that cheerleading has very much evoled from what it was from the beginning, just like gymnastics. and many colleges now have two cheerleading teams, spirit and competitive. just because cheerleading originated from pep rallying and getting the crowd to be supportive, doesn't mean the cheerleading now is like that too. of course there are high school cheerleading teams who do that. but there are also allstar teams who compete and go for worlds. just like gymnastics who were actually another word for clowns last time, but now we have gained alot of respect everywhere. and given time, i think cheerleading would also come to achieve the same status as gymnastics.

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  3. I absolutely disagree. As a former Division I collegiate athlete (Volleyball) and current sports law attorney, I know firsthand what "sport" is and what it means for women to be afforded the opportunity and access to participation at the collegiate level. I think that the reason Biediger v. Quinnipiac went down the way it did has more to do with dated, parochial views of women, sports, and cheer than actual NCAA and OCR regulation of sport.

    When sports like squash, equestrian, and bowling may be granted "emerging sport" status by the NCAA...why can't competitive cheer? I find the "dumbing down" of a much evolved sport offensive to the women who have moved away from the sidelines and created a place in athletics through very rigorous and competitive cheer.

    I'm all for it. I think society and a male dominated perspective of what sport actually is...is hurting more than helping the advancement of women in sports. Biediger v. Quinnipiac is an example of just that.

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  4. CHEERLEADING AINT WAT EVERY1 THINKS IT IS... SO MANY PEOPLE TALK CRAP BOUT IT WELL GO WATCH A REAL TEAM COMPETE I CHEERED FOR SEBRING HIGH SCHOOL AND WEVE WON STATE 3 YEARS IN A ROW.. AND FOR YALL THAT THINK CHEERING AINT A SPORT... HAHAHA YALL ARE STUPID I WOULD LOVE TO SEE SOME OF YALL DO THE STUFF US CHEERLEADERS DO AND THE SAME FOR GYMNAST... GYMNASTICS IS AS MUCH AS A SPORT AS CHEERLEADING AND FOOTBALL...

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  5. And just look at what the wonderful world of High School Cheerleading has done for the previous writers literary skills. Put a little more emphasis on your education or you will be exactly what this post is all about.

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  6. I was also a high school state champion in competitive cheerleading, and I now am a competitive cheerleader at the University of Illinois. To imply that cheerleaders don’t focus on their education is a stereotypical over-generalization, seeing as many of my teammates and I are honors students at a Big Ten university.

    As for the argument that competitive cheerleading, “violates the entire cultural intent of Title IX” is based on a lack of understanding on what competitive cheerleading actually is. As a competitive cheerleader I do not cheer for any other sports. So to suggest that I am placing myself under the archaic hierarchy below men is the farthest thing from the truth. There are no larger men tossing us around either, we are strictly an all girl team. In no way does, “traditional femininity override the athleticism” of my team. We are a group of strong women who rigorously train year round in order to tumble and stunt at an elite level. Athleticism is the focus on our team, because we are athletes.

    Perhaps proper research on actual competitive cheerleading, as opposed to using caricatures like “Bring it On”, for your support would have resulted in a legitimate argument. As for your understanding of what the sport of cheerleading actually is about: it is outdated, stereotypical and offensive to athletes like myself.

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  7. The argument that competitive cheerleading is not a sport is a total absurdity. It involves great skill, stamina, strength, coordination, and team work. These are all the hallmarks of a team sport.

    For many years I coached softball and some of my players engaged in cheerleading during the off season. None of my players ever got injured playing softball. But some complained of injuries doing cheerleading. If this wasn't a sport but was just a dance like a tango or a strip tease, my athletes would never have suffered any form of injury while in this activity.

    Clearly cheerleading is a sport. Competitive cheerleading is even more so.

    As for the idea that competitive cheerleading is a violation of Title IX that is an even bigger joke on the part of the writer of this essay. I lobbied for passage of Title IX over 40 years ago. At that time those of us who labored for its passage envisioned this law as a means of promoting opportunities in sport for EVERYONE regardless of gender. This included opportunities for women to coach, for the promotion of sports such as synchronized swimming, archery, men's field hockey, and even mountain climbing. None of us ever thought of limiting the definition of ''sport'' to only one set of standards. Since the term 'sport' was not limited in those days, it should not be limited today.

    I respectfully suggest that the writer of this essay keep a more open mind. He should accept the fact that competitive cheerleading is a legitimate sport and that Title IX was created to open opportunities for everyone.

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  8. I think Mr. Dobel is still very bitter because none of the cheerleaders at his High School would go out with him. Only an idiot would think that cheerleaders are not athletes or that cheerleading is not a sport.

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    1. Yes, that's the only reasonable explanation...because HS cheerleaders are so picky about who they date.

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  9. I'm a male cheerleader and I can tell you this right now, you talking about competitive cheerleading is comparable to an elementary student explaining the laws of physics to a room of physicist; cute, but idiotic. Your personal view of cheerleading is extremely archaic. Why don't you find out about the topic of what you're talking about BEFORE you start talking about it. Ugh, ignorance.

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  10. hahaha the hierarchy of women supporting men... go back to the 1800's and get a life. women have rights now in case you havent heard :)

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  11. I'm sorry but anything that requires me to wear a shimmering midriff baring outfit, glue on eyelashes, spray tan, & dust myself in glitter should not be considered a sport. When you guys start taking yourselves seriously as athletes so will we.

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    1. That's showmanship and style which stems from the origins of the sport but do not, today, make it the most important aspects of said sport. Cheerleading is like rhythmic gymnastics, a bit more stylish and artsy than other gymnastic events.

      As someone said above, there are 2 schools of cheerleading right now, spirit and competitive. Parkour (free) runners could probably learn some moves from these competitive and skilled young women. Also, big business likes cheerleading less regulated so the can sell them the fancy uniforms.

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    2. Are you not aware that athletes at the ancient Olympic games competed in the nude, coated with oil to enhance their visual appearance? Display of the body has been a part of competitive athletics from the beginning, so if you are suggesting that cheerleading does not qualify as a sport purely due to the attire, then I assume you are also happy to classify the original Olympics as non-sporting events?

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  13. A legitimate sport and that Title IX was created to open opportunities for everyone.best pc games

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