The N.Y. Times has an interesting article by Winnie Hu on movements to have cheerleaders cheer equally for boys and girls teams. The legal theory is that girls’ sports, deprived of cheerleaders, are receiving less support from their schools than boys’ sports receive. The unsurprising reality in many cases is that the equal cheering makes no one happy — including the players on the girls’ teams that receive the cheers.
Will the next move be equal cheering for the coed academic teams? I did receive a varsity letter in high school — for my participation on the math team. Our team coach was able to convince the administration that we needed to be treated equally with the sports teams. You will not be surprised to hear that I put the big orange “M” in the bottom of the dresser instead of sewing it onto a jacket.
I can just imagine what math team might have been like if we had cheerleaders: “Calculate the area, hooray, hooray; pi-r-squared, that’s the way.” That would have been enough to get me to quit the math team, although thinking with all of the cheering going on might have created some additional challenge. Plus, I suppose that I might have gotten to know some of the cheerleaders on the bus rides to competitions. This could have made a great ’80s movie.
On the merits of the curernt dispute, my own view is that having (almost exclusively) girls cheering the boys does not send the right messages about our idealized views of sex roles. But it probably doesn’t make things much worse either, and the new interpretation seems like a stretch of Title IX. My preferred solution would be to turn cheerleading into a sport in its own right, if there remains enough demand for it, with squads competing against each other while not disturbing other athletic contests. Some will say that to cheer, you need something to cheer. But I saw “Bring It On,” so I know better.