Why We Need To Change The Stereotype Of The High School Cheerleader
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Why We Need To Change The Stereotype Of The High School Cheerleader

A perspective from your average All-American cheerleader.

Why We Need To Change The Stereotype Of The High School Cheerleader
Priddy Pictures

At a very young age, I begged my mom to sign me up for cheerleading. I grew up watching movies where the cheerleader had the perfect life, dated the football player and had a flawless shiny ponytail. Little girls are raised on the notion that the reason one becomes a cheerleader is to establish popularity. This image of what cheerleading was motivated me to join, but as the years went on, I quickly learned that this was not the case.

I cheered through elementary school and middle school, always looking up to the Varsity cheerleaders as if they were Olympic athletes. I still loved the idea of being cool and dating the quarterback. This was until the 12-year-old me got a reality check, when I was pushed across the hallway in my cheer uniform and told I was a bitch. Immediately, I realized that things were not like the movies. My peers did not like me because I was a cheerleader. True friends liked me for my personality, and the sport that was cheerleading was something that I loved to do. When I finally realized the difference between reality and the movies, I became a much better person.

Although I changed my perspective early on in life, society seemed to never change its outlook on the high school cheerleader. As I joined Varsity, I had so many new things to look forward to. Friday night lights, harder stunts, and nicer uniforms were just a few of the things a Varsity cheerleader could look forward to. Despite having intense practices with many miles ran and daily lifting, I still loved Varsity cheerleading. Never once did popularity or the boys on the football team motivate me to take part in the difficult practices and eventually become captain my senior year. I was motivated by the impact cheerleading made on my life and the lives of the members of the community.

Between games and practices, cheerleading also had many other events that took up my everyday life. We hosted youth clinics, participated in walks for charities and spent every Thursday night baking cookies for the football team. On top of all of this, the cheerleaders decorated lockers, made scrapbooks and painted signs for the players. None of us ever complained. In fact, many of us enjoyed the time spent bonding over crafts. Yet somehow, the community seemed to be able to find ways to complain about us.

Throughout my career as a cheerleader, I experienced an incredible amount of drama. Of course there was drama within the team, but nothing that was not expected from a group of 20 girls that spent every night together. Unfortunately, most of the drama came from the community. People always seemed to find a way to become incredibly angry with our squad. Parents raged over their daughters not making the squad and creating drama to the point where cheerleaders who earned their spot during tryouts were crying in front of the school-board.

My most memorable dramatic experience with cheerleading included something that we all thought would be harmless. My senior year, the girls and I participated in a fun photo shoot with a local photographer. The picture included each girl lined up with serious looks on our faces, pom poms in hand, and a background full of girls jumping and hitting motions. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined anyone would become offended by this photo, but I was proven wrong,

We were called "sluts" and "skanks" for this innocent picture. They said that our tank tops and “sexy” faces were a disgrace and an embarrassment. I felt so much shame. My shoulders showing caused such grief for parents whose children were not even on the squad. Many times I was almost brought to tears when I saw the poster hanging in public. I was body-shamed so horribly by the adults in my community who should have known better.

Among all of this slut-shaming and ridicule, no one ever seemed to care or even acknowledge all of the good that we had accomplished as a squad. No recognition was given for the money and time spent on the football team or on charities. We never asked for anything more than to spend our Friday nights dancing to the band when the team made a touchdown. I understand that the movies make us seem like something that we are not, but as adults we need to realize that this is not the reality. Many of us were honors students, performed in the marching band during halftime, starred in the musicals, and played other sports such as basketball. None of us cared about popularity or if guys were checking out our asses in our skirts during the games

So I am asking you all to please reevaluate your perspective of cheerleaders, because life is not a teen movie, despite how much we love to re-watch "Bring it On." If you are unable to do so, please do us all a favor and stop caring so much about what a group of 20 teenage girls is doing with their lives. The truth is, cheerleading gave me so many amazing things. I gained morals and values, I became a strong and healthy athlete and created lifelong friendships. In fact, my best friend throughout Varsity became my current college roommate. One day I hope my daughter will come to me asking to be a cheerleader, and I will gladly sign her up, for I know the truth behind this beautiful sport that shaped who I am.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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