Yesterday morning I heard about a trial just starting in neighboring Connecticut. The issue under contention: cheerleading. Specifically, should cheerleading, of the competitive, dancing/tumbling/throwing people in the air variety (video w/ annoying music) that you’ve probably seen on ESPN, count as a varsity sport?
For a primer, I suggest you listen to this segment of the Brian Lehrer show (about 14 minutes long), where BL interviews Neena Chaudhry, a lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center who has been handling Title IX cases for years. You might also read this story.
The long and short of it: Quinnipiac University wants to deem cheerleading a varsity sport, thus making the number of women who participate in it “count” towards their Title IX numbers, and ditch their women’s volleyball team, which it already tried to do last year.
Many of the comments I’ve seen in response to this story are really problematic, often taking shots at the athleticism of cheerleaders or volleyball players; that is, attacking women for being wussy and pitting them against each other, rather than discussing what this means on a larger scale, or keeping the focus on the Athletics Department at Quinnipiac, which seems to have juked the numbers of male and female athletes to stay “compliant” with Title IX in the past, and may be primarily interested in the fact that cheerleading is a much less expensive program to run.
I know our readers can do better. There are a lot of questions here, including:
- Should cheerleading qualify as a “sport” by objective standards?
- Are women better served by having Title IX money go to support more female athletes, regardless of their game, or by having it routed towards (or away from) certain fields of endeavor?
- Is cheerleading problematic as a sport, given its roots in YAY BOYZ auxiliary cutesy-tootsyness and its continued dedication to a certain kind of female display?
- Cheerleading is really dangerous. Should girls and women be coached away from it?
- Or should they be coached toward it, since it’s another place where many can learn about discipline and healthy competition and come to appreciate their bodies as remarkable things?
- And does making cheerleading a co-ed sport make the answers to these questions any different?
Have any of our readers participated in cheerleading? I’d be particularly interested to hear from them. I was on my high school’s dance team (yeah yeah yeah), and we did not qualify as a sport, even though we had a “season,” and went to competitions and stuff in addition to performing at home games. Cheerleading–of the “GOOOOOOOOOOOO TIGERS!!!” variety–was a varsity sport at my school, however. That doesn’t seem fair either.
*scratches head* Readers? BRING IT ON.
P.S. It just so happens that TODAY is the 38th anniversary of Title IX’s signing into law. How’d I miss that?