Should Girls aim to be Cheerleaders or just…Leaders?


Today I came across a recent article about cheerleading in The Guardian (prominent UK newspaper).

While the author tries her best to sing the praises of an exciting emerging new “sport” for girls, most of the comments left at the bottom of the article seem not to agree with her, and I think this has a lot to do with many people’s resentment towards a foreign imported tradition which seems to perpetrate the stereotype of girls as nothing more than attractive ornaments cheering for the boys (added of course to the fact that cheerleading – as a tradition – has little to do with this country):


As an Italian, I have always considered UK as a country very proud of its own traditions and not keen on importing foreign customs, but judging from what I’m seeing in the last few years I have to say that there is an ever growing influence of US culture which completely dispel my myth: from primary and secondary schools introducing the practice of proms as end-year celebrations (feeding relative anxieties to “look nice” or “find the boy to go with” or “who is going to be the queen”, not to mention the commercial expenditures associated with it!), to the current wide spreading of new afterschool clubs offering cheerleading classes, I see that the influence is now becoming fairly noticeable.

Anyway, I was curious to find out a bit more about this growing trend and another article from the 2010 archives of the Guardian came to help:
While I do not personally have any problem with foreign traditions being introduced and shared between countries (after all I am a traveller and find in cosmopolitanism a very stimulating way to live!) some of the comments at the bottom of this article seems to be even more livid towards the influence of US culture: again, the criticism towards cheerleading refer mostly to the prevalent connotation of the activity as a “training of cheering girls-ornaments for the boys”.

To tell the truth I would not have any problem if cheerleading was promoted and popular among both sexes, but as it stands, the activity is becoming more an exclusive girls’ endeavour here in UK just as it is in US, and with this I do feel less comfortable!

Do we need another influence towards the “dancing bimbos cheering for the boys” in this era of constant bombardment, where most of the images seen by girls are already reinforcing this type of feminine stereotype? Or at least if there could be more balance …let’s say more emphasis on sports and skills for a change instead of sparkly clothes and popularity!

So, I am not sure I am excited as many young girls are, regarding this new trend and I wonder if we could improve in taking the best we can from US traditions, that’s all…


8 thoughts on “Should Girls aim to be Cheerleaders or just…Leaders?

  1. To be cheerleaders is a great activity that both sexes can enjoy just like ballet and gymnastics. I think it has something to do with tradition and culture, but it has something to do with passion too. I have seen girls who dominated manly sports and they simply proved how women can perform at their best on the things that they love.
    I hope girls will not feel discouraged if they don’t become cheerleaders but they should start discovering the activities and sports that they can be excellent at.

  2. Cheerleading seems to be trending to a more gender split sport from what I’ve seen in the US. Though I think that if a girl wants to pursue a sport, there are worst ones to strive towards.
    In Canada, there aren’t too many schools that follow the ‘dancing bimbos’ tradition to cheer on the boy. The girls play all the same sports as the boys, have their own leagues and push hard towards their own goals.
    What I’d like to see more gender inclusive sports where both sexes can compete. Or where a woman could be the coach of a mens team.

  3. I think sports as athletic and disciplined as cheerleading or pole-dancing are great activities for women and can be empowering. The trouble with them is the culture or judgement surrounding them. The sports demand massive physical exertion and a lot of skill. Competitors should be able to celebrate that without judgement, and if that means it is predominantly a girl sport and marketed that way there’s no use being ashamed of it. A sport like rugby which to the outsider seems hyper-macho and perfectly suited to men actually has a relatively large female participation and there’s even a gay rugby world cup. If there is a boom in cheerleading now, then given time there will be boys participating in cheerleading (or a rebranded version of it) too.

    It would seem like a backward step to purposefully not compete in these activities just because of some malformed preconceptions. It’s about the right to do them and enjoy them as a human first, girl second. Some people might claim that the gay pride parades exacerbate gay stereotypes and promote in-your-face “fabulousness.” But if you see that as a negative and think of it as special treatment because everyone is unique, not just homosexuals, then society will be happy to march on, blissfully unaware that people are being treated unfairly. The point of awareness is to make something heard and stop it from ever being ignored, even if it’s something that most people already know. I think that this applies here – don’t avoid “girl” sports just because men label them that way. Do what you enjoy and keep fighting the fight to change perceptions.

  4. I have seen some boys/men in cheerleading, especially at the competitive level. But it seems that in a lot of smaller schools, it is a female-only activity. When I went to high school, in addition to the cheerleading squad which mostly focused on football games and pep rallies, there was also a “yell leaders” squad of girls who cheered at wrestling matches. I would like to see cheer squads be more diverse rather than girls-cheering-for-boys focused–hopefully they are moving in that direction!

  5. I am interested in the thoughts of teaching the boys strong values in what is important in a girl. Yes, many girls aspire to be cheerleaders but so do the boys aspire to be “worthy” of a cheerleading girl. I try to let my son know that the cheerleading girls can also have great personalities and are intelligent, just as the (for lack of a better word) book worms are also beautiful.

  6. It doesn’t really matter to me if cheerleading is consider a sport or not. Sport is just a word. But to be honest, if cheerleading was equally marketed at boys (to cheer women teams for example), then there would be more balance and I personally think it’s a good activity in itself, requiring great skills of athleticism and coordination. Imagine having a boys cheering a team of girls: that would show girls that there is really equality. The problem is that we live in a society where constantly we need to differentiate “girls things” from “boys things”, it’s so stupid, everyone is an individual. In fact you can be a boy and be very into girls things, but then you are bullied if you show what you really like so most boys follow the trend even when naturally they feel attracted by lots of different acticities. Any mother would confirm that every child is different from the start. My son for example is not the typical aggressive or competitive type, he’s very sensitive and artistic and he had quite an interest for decorating and customising things: not a boys thing? it doesn’t matter, he will be great and have a happy life as long as I remind him that what really matter is to follow your creativity and passion. Marketing and media always emphasise the differences instead of focusing on similarities, we are all human beings and gender is just one little characteristic which shouldn’t define our life, behaviour, interests & loves!!

  7. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cheerleading as a sport/activity, but I do agree that it seems to have the unfortunate effect of glorifying women as pretty ornaments who are there to support the boys. But, this might just be a side effect of the way women are viewed in our culture.

    I’ve had close friends who were cheerleaders, and they were hard core. Amazing gymnasts, went to tons of long practices, and pulled off some awesome stunts. So I definitely don’t think it’s a bad goal for girls to want to be cheerleaders, but I do think they should consider WHY they want to be cheerleaders…I probably wouldn’t want my daughters to cheer, but that’s mostly because of the high rate of injuries.

  8. Yes, please – if you are going to bring a US tradition to another country, don’t make it cheer-leading. 😉 I’m sure that cheer-leading has positive and negative aspects like most everything else. But I like to think that unless the child really wants to do it, there are probably better sports out there equally hard/dangerous/engaging (example: gymnastic!) from which the girls can be rewarded better (through competition or Olimpionic aspiration) and without the negative connotation of ‘pretty ornaments cheering for the boys’! Alternatively, like you said, let’s make the activity as popular for the boys cheering the girls: then I would probably not have a problem with it.

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