The gender divide in cheerleading

The last boy cheerleader at BHS, Daniel Chu, on the varsity cheerleading team in 2006.

The last boy cheerleader at BHS, Daniel Chu, on the varsity cheerleading team in 2006.

When most students hear the word “cheerleaders,” the first image that comes to mind is a group of girls, all wearing identical red and white skirts, pumping up the crowd at a rally or football game. What they do not typically think of is a boy in the mix.

Currently, at BHS, both cheer teams are comprised of only girls, and it has been that way for ten years now, with the last boy cheerleader being Daniel Chu in 2006. Although rarely openly discussed, there is a clear gender segregation of sports with football on one end, as a “boy sport” and cheerleading on the other end, as a “girl sport.” Because of this, boys are implicitly discouraged from joining the cheer team and may grow up not wanting to try it. In one way, cheerleading is seen by many as a lesser sport compared to others because many believe it solely exists to support the football team. For that reason, most boys feel that the cheerleading team is not a respectable sport for boys to participate.

Ashley Kall, co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, said that “There's so much stigma to it being a girl’s sport which just supports guy teams, but it actually is a sport on its own, and it requires a lot of physical activity. I think people need to be aware of what we actually do because I think a lot of people just assume we don’t practice seriously, and just mess around. But we actually do a lot of hard work, and I think if people were to see that, the stigma might go away a little.”

One male student from Capuchino High School, Bruno Sousa, is a member of the cheerleading team this year and has been for the past two years. He was able to find a real passion for the sport.

“In cheerleading, I was actually really good, and people recognized me for it. So if I had never really taken that leap, I would have never realized what my potential for cheerleading would be, and I would have never have gotten the recognition that I have now.” Sousa said.

At BHS, we seem to have a sort of fixed mentality in relation to sports, especially cheerleading and football. Our natural way of thinking is to group certain genders to certain sports, and this way of thinking is very limiting, discouraging students from potentially finding a passion in a sport.

Sousa was able to find his passion for cheerleading, and when he joined the team, his contribution helped the team succeed in pulling off better stunts.

Kall even said that “[Having boys on the team] would definitely make our stunts look cooler--throwing people higher and such.”

But to Sousa, being a part of the cheerleading team was not just about making the stunts cooler, or making the team more successful. Joining the team was about doing something that he loved, and because of his ability to break away from the status quo, he was able to find something that he was not only happy to be a part of, but something that he was really good at too.

On the topic of a closed mindset, Sousa said, “I think that when you have a closed mindset, you kind of do what other people tell you to do, and you might not enjoy those things. But when you break off from that closed mindset, you might find something that you are really passionate about, and that you could succeed in.”

Having a closed mindset and feeling like you need to obey a societal rule, especially during high school, is a bad idea, resulting in a loss of a potential passion. Now is the time when students need to foster their interests and branch out, rather than conform to something that only serves to divide them. Break out of the status quo, and do not be afraid to try something unorthodox. If students are able to branch out, they will make the school, as well as their high school experience, better.

Posted on December 1, 2016 .