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Give Me a ‘C!’ for Controversy

December 15, 2010

Cheerleading calls to mind sports, energetic school spirit, gymnastic-like posing, bonding and pompoms. It is now, as it always has been, both a rousing and controversial school activity. In “Give Me a ‘C!’ for Controversy,” Sharon Jayson, of USA Today, gave some of the issues a closer look (Jayson). Her ethical appeal comes with the territory of being a journalist. Readers expect journalists to report truthfully and it is often helpful when they do so without partiality. It is in this capacity that Jayson establishes her credibility. As a writer, she is in a position to bring this issue to the living rooms of regular citizens. She reinforces her credibility by virtue of her journalistic integrity as well as providing supporting interviews affirming her neutrality.

From gender stereotyping to its validation as a sport, the seemingly wholesome activity of cheerleading is not without its supporters and its detractors. Parents, coaches, school administrators, state lawmakers and even some cheerleaders have shown concern that suggestive poses, provocative music and revealing cheerleading outfits potentially promote sexual innuendo and are, generally, inappropriate. “Every school should determine whether or not it is allowing sexist and inappropriate activities to occur under the guise of school activities,” states interviewee Donna Lopiano, executive director of the non-profit Women’s Sports Foundation. “What is the purpose of cheerleading? Is it to lead cheers or be sexually suggestive?” Logically this interviewee’s statements can jar a reader into action. As Jayson’s supporting interviews vary, but begin to ring similar, one can only surmise that the outrage of this issue is not limited in its audience.

Jayson quotes Texas Representative, Al Edwards, as saying: “I can’t describe what ‘sexy’ is to you or somebody else…but if you’re an adult, you know it when you see it.” He made the statement in 2005, as a sponsor for a bill that had been introduced in the State of Texas. The bill aimed to prohibit suggestive performances by cheerleaders, drill teams and dance teams. Jayson also interviewed Natalie Guice Adams, co-author of Cheerleader! An American Icon. Adams asserted that “sexuality entered the cheerleading domain with the 1972 debut of the transformed Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders…dressed in hot pants, white boots and cleavage-revealing tops.” She insisted that they were influential in changing cheerleading into a form of entertainment where cheerleaders would be seen as sex symbols. Adams is a former cheerleader and the mother of a high school cheerleader, lending further credibility to Jayson’s article. It also shows that cheerleading was consciously changed from innocent cheering into something more indicative of near perversion and exploitation.

Co broaden and round out her research, Sharon Jayson also interviewed 100 girls at a three-day National Cheerleaders Association summer camp about their thoughts on the subject. “Cheerleaders, I don’t feel, are too provocative,” says 17-year-old Chelsea Anderson, a high school cheerleader from Broward County, Florida. Chelsea went on to suggest that a Britney Spears performance is something that should be seen as “provocative.” She insists cheerleaders don’t try to get attention in “that way.” Clearly, some of the young cheerleaders are oblivious to the looming threat.

During camp, the girls practiced cheers, lunges, hand clasps and performed complex stunt techniques with excited school spirit. It’s easy to imagine that their enthusiasm for the activity is really as innocuous as it appears. Nevertheless, Jayson offers a more serious reality and contends that “acceptability is in the eye of the beholder.” What one person feels may be appropriate, another person may believe the opposite. For someone else in a different town or with more modest standards, cheerleading seems to have gotten increasingly sexualized over the years.

Increasingly, states battle back and forth to determine what uniform regulations and performance behaviors are “appropriate.” Some have even gone so far as to apply restrictions and reinforce them with proposed disciplinary actions. “We have found that cheerleader uniforms have become a little more revealing,” stated Susan Loomis of the National Federation of State High School Association. The federation was set to make its own rules.

Sharon Jayson, while remaining neutral, still shared the concerns of law makers and parents of cheerleaders. She uses the interviews of the teens, parents, experts and lawmakers to support her assertions as they pertain to cheerleading and today’s youth. She utilizes words, such as, “sexist and inappropriate” to assist her point of view regarding the latest cheerleading practices. These terms appeal to everyone with a shred of concern for gender equality and the protection of children. Jayson succeeded in bringing to light this issue, eliciting discussion and, likely, regulation by having used effective word choice to persuade the readers of the serious nature of the topic.

However credible Jayson is and notwithstanding the success of the article in eliciting citizens into action, she could have used more logical reasoning. The motivation of the lawmakers, parents and other outraged citizens seemed born of fear and concern for the young cheerleaders. Jayson did not provide any statistical data, concrete factual information, nor any assertions or consequences of the routine and dress of the cheerleaders. The aforementioned points could have helped to strengthen the hurried and perilous nature of the article in rousing the masses.

Works Cited
Jayson, Sharon. “USATODAY.com – Give Me a ‘C!’ for Controversy.” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World – USATODAY.com. 24 Aug. 2005. Web. 8 Oct. 2010. .

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